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Family and Friends Newsletter

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Welcome to Family Rights Group’s Autumn 2013 newsletter


In this edition focusing on family and friends carers raising children who are unable to live with their parents, we highlight:


Congratulations to Chris Leaves, Family Rights Group consultant, who was awarded the British Empire Medal, for services to children and families

Calling all sibling carers. Family Rights Group and the drama group Magical Quests are organising a Christmas Special Occasion for you and the younger brothers or sisters you are raising


Research updates


In 2014, Family Rights Group will be marking our our Big Four-O by staging activities that will celebrate our achievements and focus on the progress still to be made - do get involved!


Conferences and events


Children and Families Bill


Breaking news: We're setting up the Struggling Families Alliance


Congratulations to Chris Leaves


Chris_1 3


Family Rights Group consultant Chris Leaves was awarded the British Empire Medal, for services to children and families, at an award ceremony in her home town of Peterborough in October 2013.

This richly deserved award was presented in recognition of Chris's lifelong service to ensuring that children can receive the best care possible, even if they cannot live with the parents. Family Rights Group is very proud that since 2005 we have engaged Chris as a consultant whose work is to bring together family and friends carers around the country, so they can meet in their own local support groups.

We are very pleased to announce that the Big Lottery's Awards For All scheme has just agreed the funding which will allow Chris to continue to undertake this invaluable work, in areas which do not yet have support groups. If you are interested in setting up a support group, please ring 01733 751531 - Chris will ring you back if you leave a message. Or you can email


Calling all Sibling Carers


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Research update


In May 2013, Family Rights Group published two major new pieces of research into family and friends care, which can both be bought from the FRG shop, or downloaded as individual chapters from our website.


It's Just Not Fair! Support, need and legal status in family and friends care is the final report of a three year study into family and friends care funded by the Big Lottery and carried out by Family Rights Group with Joan Hunt,Oxford University.


Drawing on data from interviews, focus groups and internet questionnaires of family and friends carers and the professionals working with them (including social workers, managers, lawyers, judges and Cafcass officers), the research demonstrated very clearly how the systems that are intended to provide support for family and friends carers and children often withhold that support from those who need it most. 


Relative Poverty: family and friends care in London is a study of the effects of poverty on family and friends carers living in London.


The authors examined a variety of official data sources, and information from other related studies, to enquire as to the extent of poverty among family and friends carers in London. The report found that they are twice as likely as family and friends carers in other English regions to be managing on a low income of less than £200 per week; and they are around half as likely to be in paid employment. The authors conclude that local authorities could do more to understand the needs of such households, and the report includes a template setting out data that local authorities could record and collect.


Local Government Ombudsman report slams local authorities on family and friends care


The Local Government Ombudsman has issued a landmark report slamming the way in which local authorities often treat family and friends carers who are raising children who cannot live with their parents.


The Local Government Ombudsman's report shines a light on an area of child welfare which for too long has been neglected by Government and gets the Cinderella treatment by local authorities. We know from the thousands of calls that we deal with on our advice line, as well as research studies that we have undertaken that the injustices highlighted by the Local Government Ombudsman are common place.


40 years of Family Rights Group


In 2014, Family Rights Group will have been in existence for 40 years. We are preparing to mark our Big Four-O by staging events and organising activities that will celebrate our significant achievements and highlight the progress still to be made.

Can you help us with the 40th anniversary activities and events? Could you spare any time, or do you have access to resources that might assist us? Do you know any ‘celebs’, artists or others with a creative bent who could join in? Were you involved in the early days of Family Rights Group? Have you benefited from our services? Please contact if you are able to help in any way.


Further news on FRG's 40th birthday events to follow on our website..

Alan Johnson MP 

Family Rights Group is very proud to present former Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Education Alan Johnson MP as our new patron. Alan Johnson has personal experience of family and friends care, having been raised by his 16 year old sister after their mother's death when he was 13, experiences described in his recently published autobiography ‘This Boy'.

Alan Johnson MP spoke movingly at our fundraising dinner & resolved to raise awareness & support for children in sibling care

Fundraising dinner


Conferences and events


You can book a place now on the following training courses:


Independent Reviewing Officers: Essential Legal and Practice Knowledge
26th March 2014


Protecting children: The new landscape
11th June 2014


Three day family group conference training for new co-ordinators
11th, 12th, 13th February 2014, London

1st, 2nd, 3rd April 2014, Manchester

15th, 16th, 17th July 2014, London


Parental advocacy in the child protection process

7th May 2014, London


Children and Families Bill


There has been a lot of concern that the Children and Families Bill as drafted will remove the obligation to prioritise placements with family and friends carers as soon as the local authority considers adoption as the plan for a child. The ‘foster for adopt' proposals apply to voluntarily accommodated children as well as those under a care order. Consequently, it could result in children being placed with potential adopters without parents having had access to legal advice, without there being any court proceedings that the child cannot live with their parents and even if there are suitable family and friends carers. The bill also introduces a standard time-limit for care proceedings of six months, with a danger that family and friends carers who come forward a later stage of the court's new time table (Day 12) could miss the opportunity to care for the child. There are also measures which are intended to reduce judicial scrutiny of care plans, including sibling placements. These and other measures could mean children losing the opportunity to remain in their families or stay with close friends, if the bill is passed unamended.

Family Rights Group has played a leading role in highlighting this risk. Working through the Kinship Care Alliance, and in partnership with The College of Social Work, we have drafted a raft of amendments pressing for:  Foster for Adopt  not to apply to accommodated children; a new duty on local authorities to explore wider family before a child enters the care system; family and friends carers being entitled to paid leave along the lines proposed for adopters;  a national financial allowance for family and friends carers raising a child unable to remain with their parents; local authorities having a duty to put in place family and friends carers support services. As well as promoting our amendments to MPs and peers, we have also had a number of meetings with the Bill team.


Many thanks to all who have supported our proposals, particularly Baroness Massey who has taken the lead on family and friends care.


Full details of FRG's response to the Children and Families Bill and our draft amendments can be found on this webpage.


Struggling Families Alliance


Breaking News: We have secured 5 months funding from Lankelly Chase to establish a Struggling Families Alliance. The long term aims are to:


•  influence how families, whose children are subject to state intervention, are perceived by the public and portrayed by the media and politicians;

•  enable these families to have a voice in policy and decision-making circles and the design and delivery of services;

•  enable them to influence plans, decisions and services affecting their children, whether in child welfare, youth justice and/or the education systems; and

• Identify and promote approaches which facilitate this and measure their impact.


Our immediate tasks are:


• Establishing a development group and organising a seminar to consider the remit, priorities and membership the Alliance;

• To convene a parents' event and develop a parents' panel, comprising parents whose children are subject to state intervention, to inform the Alliance's work;

•To work with Professor Brigid Featherstone and Assoc Professor Kate Morris to improve knowledge of marginalised families' experiences and capabilities including convening workshops with leading researchers to identify research methodologies for capturing families' perspectives and put together a research proposal;

• Extending FRG's existing child welfare and human rights expertise to cover youth justice and school exclusion and linking with relevant rights-based organisations who provide services to young people.


If you are interested in getting involved in the Alliance – in any of the ways outlined above, please contact



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