It is a fundamental human right of every child to be raised by their parents and of every parent to raise their child, provided it is safe. Where this is not possible, there is strong evidence that children are more likely to thrive within their wider family network than within the care system.
Care proceedings have risen substantially in recent years. Children taken into the care system are regularly separated from siblings and often face multiple, temporary placements. The focus of family justice reforms is on speeding up court decisions and the adoption process. Yet there is a severe shortage of foster carers and adopters. Moreover, every child taken into care is extremely costly in terms of the public purse.
Family Rights Group believes that considerably more could be done to prevent children from needing to be taken into care in the first place. We know from our advice service that parents are struggling to get the early help they need to stop problems escalating into a crisis. For example, the closure of refuge places and impact of welfare reforms means some mothers are unable to leave violent relationships. Funding constraints mean our advice service is unable to directly advise everyone who tries to contact us. Yet an independent evaluation found that every £1 invested in our advice and advocacy services saved the public purse £10 in care costs avoided.
There are 300,000 children in the UK raised by family and friends carers, normally grandparents or older siblings. These children have suffered similar adversities to those in the care system, yet the support they receive (or lack of it) bears little if any relationship to their needs. We also know that more could be done to enable children who cannot live with their parents, to be safely raised by a family member who knows and loves them.
The work of Family Rights Group includes…
- Offering a free and confidential telephone advice service and website providing legal and practical advice to families involved with social care services
- Supporting family and friends carers who are raising a relative or friend’s child, establishing local support groups for these carers and seeking to ensure they can get the support they need from children’s services and other agencies
- Promoting family group conferences as an effective family-led decision making process which provides safe solutions to child welfare concerns
- Advocating for parents whose children are subject to child protection inquiries or at risk of being removed into care
- Promoting legislation, policy and practice that respects the right to family life and promotes and safeguards children’s welfare
- Undertaking policy and research projects, offering training and consultancy services, producing publications and organising conferences and events.