What is Kinship care?

Kinship care is when an individual cares for a child who is no longer able to live with their parents. The carer will be either related to the child (through blood, marriage or civil partnership) or will be a person with whom the child has had a pre-existing relationship. How the child came to be in the kinship arrangement determines the type of placement and will also impact upon the responsibilities of the local authority. The term "kinship care" includes both informal kinship care and formal kinship care.

Informal kinship care is a private arrangement where the child lives with family or friends without any active involvement of the social work service and the child is not considered legally to be a "looked after child". Many informal care arrangements with relatives are unknown to the local authority. In some instances, the child may have social work involvement under section 22 of the Child (Scotland) Act 1995 as a "child in need".

Formal kinship care is where a child has legal status as a "looked after child" and is placed by or with the involvement of the Local Authority with relatives or people known to them. A Children's Hearing or court order may also place children in formal kinship care.

The Kinship Collaborative

The Kinship Collaborative is a Scottish working group that was established in November 2020 following a pledge in the 2020-2021 Programme for Government to support kinship carers and to ensure that there is consistency in delivery of support across Scotland. The group also explores government policy and legislation and identifies the changes that are required to facilitate improvement. These findings will be reported to the Children and Families Leadership Group.

The group has several purposes and at the heart of many is 'The Promise'. This is Scotland's promise to young people that they will "grow up loved, safe and respected and by 2030, that promise must be kept". The purposes of the Kinship Collaborative are:

  • To ensure children and young people living in kinship families in Scotland grow up feeling loved, safe and respected in line with The Promise;
  • To develop a network which together delivers both national and local improvements for kinship families, including making recommendations for policy development and championing permanence for children and young people in kinship care;
  • To consider, prioritise and take forward practical solutions which will support improved experiences for children and young people living in kinship families through an agreed programme of work. This must improve lived experience without further complicating the current kinship system;
  • To share, develop and improve knowledge and practice for social work practitioners and Community Planning Partners working with kinship families across Scotland; and,
  • To develop opportunities which exist across public services which may aid the knowledge and skills of kinship carers.

Kinship care is a developing area in Social Work and Family Law practice. It is hoped that through the work of The Kinship Collaborative and associated policies, nationwide improvement for children and families that fulfils 'The Promise' can be achieved.


Olivia Brown