New study finds significant increase in children being brought up by relatives in England
Press release issued: 13 October 2015
A University of Bristol study reveals the most comprehensive evidence to date on the extent of kinship care in England. Kinship care is when children are brought up by relatives in the absence of parent/s.
The briefing paper, published today [13 October], analysed microdata from the latest 2011 Census to map the number of children growing up in kinship care households.
The study, led by researchers from Bristol’s Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies, found that the seven per cent growth in the kinship child population between 2001 and 2011 was more than three times that of the population growth rate of all children in England, which was 2 per cent over the same time period. An estimated 152,910 (1.4 per cent) of the 11.3 million children in England in 2011 were living in kinship care.
The highest prevalence of kinship care was seen within the black ethnic group with one in every 37 black children growing up in the care of relatives compared to only one in every 83 white children.
The findings also show that grandparents were the main carer for 51 per cent of the kinship children, while 23 per cent of the carers were siblings. The remaining group of children were being brought up by a by another relative such as an aunt, an uncle or a cousin.
The study shows that the majority of children in kinship care are affected by poverty and deprivation. Of all children living in kinship care in England, 40 per cent were living in households located in the 20 per cent of the poorest areas in England and more than three quarters (76 per cent) of the kinship children were living in a deprived household2. The high prevalence (4 per cent) of kinship children in the most deprived households in England compared with the low prevalence (0.7 per cent) of kinship children in households with no deprivation indicate a pressing need for support and services to be provided to these children and their kinship families.
Compared with children growing up with at least one parent, children in kinship care were also found to be nearly twice as likely to have long-term health problems or disabilities.
Dinithi Wijedasa, the study’s lead author from the Hadley Centre for Foster and Adoption Studies based in University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies, said: “As well as showing a significant increase in the number of kinship care households, the findings highlight that children growing up in the care of relatives face significant poverty and deprivation compared with children growing up with at least one parent. Children in kinship care are also more likely to have a disability or higher levels of long-term health problems. Given that a large majority of these children and their families will be not known to the local authorities, it is imperative that measures are taken to enable them to receive adequate support.”
Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of Family Rights Group, commented: “This new research provides important, authoritative statistics about kinship care. The number of children living in kinship care are increasing, and they are overwhelmingly affected by poverty. This research is reinforced by findings from a new report by Family Rights Group we has found that almost half (49 per cent) of kinship carers have had to give up work permanently to care for the kinchild, and a further 18 per cent have had to give up work temporarily. We call on the government to take action to introduce a period of paid leave for kinship carers, similar to adoption leave, to enable the children to settle in without the carers being forced to give up work.”
Lucy Peake, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus, added: “It is shocking that such a high proportion of children growing up in the care of a grandparent or other family member experience poverty and deprivation. Many of these children are doubly disadvantaged by the abuse and neglect or other serious problems they experienced before moving in with their carers. The government’s proposals to cut child tax credits and reform welfare benefits threaten to make their situation even worse. We are calling upon the government to ensure children in kinship care get the help and support they need, and to protect them from the impact of welfare reform.”
The briefing paper, entitled ‘The prevalence and characteristics of children growing up with relatives in the UK: Characteristics of children living with relatives in England: Part 1’ is the first in a series from an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded research study, ‘Kinship Care Re-visited: Using Census 2011 Microdata to Examine the Extent and Nature of Kinship Care in the UK’ (grant ES/K008587/1).
Kinship care in this study was defined as an instance where a child was growing up in the care of a relative, in the absence of parent/s. Although most definitions of kinship care include situations where friends of the family care for children in the absence of parents, these households could not be separately identified from the Census returns. They are therefore excluded from the definition of kinship care in this report.
According the 2011 Census, a household was classified as deprived if it met one or more of the following conditions:
- Employment: where any member of a household, who is not a full-time student, is either unemployed or long-term sick,
- Education: no person in the household has at least level 2 education (see highest level of qualification), and no person aged 16-18 is a full-time student,
- Health and disability: any person in the household has general health that is “bad” or “very bad” or has a long term health problem,
- Housing: the household's accommodation is either overcrowded, with an occupancy rating -1 or less, or is in a shared dwelling, or has no central heating.
A household is classified as being deprived in none, or one to four of these dimensions in any combination.
Wijedasa, D. (2015). Characteristics of children living with relatives in England: Part 1. The prevalence and characteristics of children growing up with relatives in the UK, 1.
This briefing paper series provides snapshots from the research titled ‘Kinship Care Re-visited: Using Census 2011 Microdata to Examine the Extent and Nature of Kinship Care in the UK’ funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grant ES/K008587/1.
About the ESRC
The ESRC is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. In 2015 it celebrates its 50th anniversary.