Being a family and friends carer
A family and friends carer is a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister or family friend who is looking after a child who cannot be cared for by their birth parents.
As a carer, you are providing a vital role to a child who cannot live with their parents, giving them love, support and a sense of belonging.
You may have become a carer in a crisis without any notice and may also have been deeply affected by the events which have led to the child coming to live with you.
The following information includes some key facts and support services that are available to you.
You can also take a look at our advice about your options, entitlements and the financial assistance that may be available to you.
As well as the help you can receive from your local authority you may also want to find out about a local support group. These groups are a valuable way of helping carers access practical and emotional support when it is needed.
If a child comes to live with you at the request of the local authority then the child is ‘looked after’. In this case you must be approved as a foster carer.
All foster carers are entitled to an allowance to meet the costs of caring for the child as well as a wide range of services and support for the child.
Children who came to stay with you without the local authority being involved are not ‘looked after’. In this case, you do not have to be approved as a foster carer.
Whether or not you are a foster carer, you can receive support from your local authority (under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989) for the child you care for as a ‘child in need’ to help a child to be cared for in their wider families. This includes financial support and guidance or counselling for those children with emotional or behavioural difficulties.
All local authorities must have a published policy on what services and support are available to meet the needs of all children in family and friends care, whether or not they are ‘looked after’ children.
Support for family and friends carers
Family Rights Group
Family Rights Group provides advice to families whose children are involved with local authority children’s services. They have published guides to various arrangements under which family members can care for a child.
Kinship (the working name for Grandparents Plus)
Kinship is the leading kinship care charity in England and Wales – offering support to all kinship carers.
Coram Children’s Legal Centre
Coram Children’s Legal Centre provides information and advice on all legal issues relating to children and young people.
Grandparents Legal Centre
Grandparents Legal Centre can help grandparents with specialist legal advice including local authority responsibilities and other issues affecting kinship carers.
Buttle UK is a charity that offers support to kinship carers through grant programmes for children and young people.
Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT)
PACT provides practical and emotional support to prisoners and to their children and families.
You may wish to make a longer-term commitment to the child in your care. You can apply for a child arrangements order (formally a residence order) or a special guardianship order, this will give you parental responsibility and the child would no longer be looked after if they were previously.
Relatives caring for a child in these long-term arrangements are entitled to child benefit and any other benefits available to parents subject to the usual eligibility criteria.
If you have a special guardianship order you may also apply to be assessed for special guardianship support.
In some cases, a local authority may pay a financial allowance to a person with a residence order or special guardianship order.
If you are considering this type of long-term arrangement you should check with your local authority as to what support you will receive and, where possible, with an independent advice service before you decide whether this type of arrangement is suitable for you.