Informal kinship care arrangements

Information on informal kinship care arrangements, including how you become an informal kinship carer and available support.

Informal kinship care is where a child is looked after by a close relative, such as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt or step-parent. The child’s parents will usually discuss and agree how the arrangement will work.

As an informal kinship carer, you do not have parental responsibility and the child is not in the care of the local council’s children’s services department.

You will be responsible for the child’s day-to-day care, but their parents will make most decisions, such as any non-urgent medical treatment.

The child’s parents can end an informal kinship arrangement at any time and without notice.

What is parental responsibility? (GOV.UK)

How informal arrangements are made

An informal kinship arrangement can be temporary or permanent.

You will need to discuss and agree how the arrangement will work with whoever has parental responsibility for the child. In most cases, that will be the child’s parents.

You may have been asked to care for the child or you may have had to step in for some reason. Every family situation is different, so there is no one way of making an informal kinship care arrangement.

The most important thing is to make sure all decisions are in the child’s best interests. Their safety and wellbeing should always be the priority.

If an arrangement is not working

Sometimes, you and the parents may not be able to make decisions about the child, which may harm the child’s welfare. In this situation, a social worker from children’s services can give you the advice and support you need.

Where possible, you should work with the child’s parents and the social worker to discuss and decide what will be best for the child. Older teenagers will often have more of a say and be part of those conversations.

Depending on your circumstances, you may want to apply for a legal order, such as special guardianship order or child arrangements order.

Applying for a legal order

If you are given a child arrangements order or special guardianship order by the family court, you will have parental responsibility for the child. They will live with you permanently and the order will last until the child is 18 years old.

It’s a big decision to apply for a legal order, so make sure you get independent advice and do some research. You can also ask for legal advice if you want to know more about your rights and how they might change.

Financial support

In an informal kinship care arrangement, the child’s parents must provide financial support. You may also be able to claim government benefits, depending on your financial circumstances.

Your local council must safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area who are considered ‘in need’ by providing a range of family support services. This could include one-off payments for items such as bedroom furniture or nursery costs, or regular payments if you are a low-income family.

Financial support for informal kinship carers

Support from Kinship

Here at Kinship, we offer a range of free support for all kinship carers, including workshops, online advice and information, and peer support groups.

Contact our advice service to speak to an adviser or book an appointment.