Sadly, we know that some children going through the care system suffer disruption and significant challenges as a result of the decisions taken on their behalf. I was therefore delighted to take part in a Westminster Hall Debate on Kinship Care for Babies recently where I was able to highlight inequalities in the outcome for children in the care system and the growing importance of kinship care.
Whilst adoption, fostering and special guardianship orders continue to be important, it is clear that kinship care is increasingly seen to be an equal option for a child within the care system. Kinship care options are an excellent way of managing the risks to a child, ensuring a nurturing environment, and doing so in a way that is good value and efficient for taxpayers.
During the debate, I also had the opportunity to raise the work being done by Hillingdon Hospital and the excellent work of Dr Jideo Menakaya. Dr Menakaya is a leading expert in neonatal care, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to thank him for his work.
You can watch the full Westminster Hall Debate here, or read my contribution below.
My hon. Friend makes an important point, which I was going to develop next. We need to look at the practicalities and logistics of making kinship care a much more effective system and to address some of the challenges described by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne).
The support of employers is clearly vital for family members to be able to take on that caring responsibility. Entitlements that exist in law for adoption and parenting are often very difficult to access for a whole host of reasons, which is something that needs to be explored. We need to consider the issue of finance and what it means to a family taking on a child with potentially very expensive needs that have to be met, when they themselves might not be in a position financially to do that directly. We need to recognise that this process saves the local authority potentially significant costs that would be incurred through a foster or residential placement, which is also an incentive to look at the way we provide support. The manifest benefits of kinship care placements, such as the sense of stability a child experiences being with a family member instead of with strangers at that stage in their life, are critical.
Yesterday, I went to the Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to visit an acquaintance of mine, Dr Jideofor Menakaya, who is a leading national expert on care of neonatal children. It was an opportunity to see how Hillingdon Hospital is working with a local authority, through a family hub model, to develop a package of different kinds of support to address the care needs of children with significant medical challenges. Some children going through the care system have suffered disruption and may have health problems arising from what happened to them before birth. It is striking that when children are in an environment with supportive and loving family members around them, it is much more straightforward to address those medical and health challenges. I know that Members present have often spoken about that, and seeing it in action is fantastic. Recognising how the placement of a child with a kinship carer can make a real difference to addressing significant medical needs right at the start of life is a good example of why this care is so important.
To conclude, it is important to recognise that a degree of moral hazard is perceived in the wider public debate. Having been in local authorities and seen kinship care developing as an option that is often explored, I am certainly aware that people ask why we would pay family members to care for a child who is a member of their own family, especially when, historically, many people would do that voluntarily. We need to recognise that, as a country, we have high expectations of the experience that children will have. In order to make sure that the outcomes we want are achieved, we need to make sure we have system that supports children. Alongside adoption, fostering and special guardianship orders, the kinship care model is an excellent way of managing the risks to a child, ensuring a nurturing environment and doing so in a way that is good value and efficient for taxpayers.