People in Scotland who take in and care for their family members’ children have gained £1m in vital support, thanks to a project run by the Scottish CAB service.
On Thursday 5th June, Citizens Advice Scotland publish a report detailing the work of this project and the impact it has had on Scotland’s vulnerable families.
‘Kinship Care’ is the term for people who look after children who are part of their extended family. They can be the grandparents, siblings, aunts/uncles or even just close friends of children whose parents are no longer able to care for them. These people do a great service, providing a stable family home - and also saving the taxpayer huge amounts of money, as the children would otherwise have to be looked after by the state. But taking in children is an enormous financial commitment, and state benefits are not always adequate or easy to obtain. So in 2008 the Scottish CAB service took on a national project aimed at helping those families stay together.
Today’s report, ‘In The Family Way: Five Years of caring for Kinship Carers in Scotland,’ shows the outcome of that work, and also puts the spotlight on kinship carers and the great contribution they make to our society. The report identifies the project’s Top 10 Successes in its first 5 years (2008-13). These include:
- We helped nearly 3,000 kinship carers in the project’s first five years.
- Nearly £1 million gained for those clients over that time,
- Free, expert advice for often complex problems,
- That advice is tailored for individual carers in different areas,
- Support for Councils too in their Kinship Care work,
- A network of Local Peer Support Groups for Kinship Carers across Scotland.
In her foreword to the report, Citizens Advice Scotland’s Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says,
“All across Scotland, thousands of people care for children because their natural parents are unable to do so. These carers are often grandparents, but can also be aunts and uncles, siblings and other relatives or close family friends.
“According to Scottish Government statistics on ‘looked after children’ collated in July 2012, around 1.8%, or 16,248 of Scotland’s children are looked after by their local authority, and 4,067 of these are looked after in formal kinship care arrangements.
“Many more – an estimated 13,000 – live in informal kinship care arrangements, and this distinction can have a significant impact on financial and other support available to their carers.
“In addition, arrangements for kinship carers are different across the local authorities of Scotland and kinship carers, like many others, have to navigate the welfare system – and the recent welfare changes that have come with it. This along with what can be a stressful, emotional time for families who are entering into kinship care arrangements.
“Which is why five years ago when there was a clear need for a specific advice service for kinship carers, the Scottish Citizens Advice Bureaux began working with the Scottish Government to establish that service. This report celebrates the work of the Citizens Advice Scotland Kinship Care Service and highlights the need for it to continue to advise and support kinship carers as they navigate the changing landscape of welfare changes and the impact of the Children and Young People Act on their family circumstances.
“We want to mark our five years caring for kinship carers and our successes in the field – most particularly the financial gain that has been gathered for kinship care clients – nearly £1million and that we have helped nearly 3,000 kinship carers receive the free independent advice they need tailored for each individual’s circumstances.
“That in itself is something to celebrate and highlight but so also is the level and provision we give kinship carers who can often have complex cases. Alongside the partnership and training support we do with local authorities and other support groups and our gathering of evidence and case studies of the issues kinship carers present with, the Citizens Advice Scotland Kinship Care Service has much to be proud of in its first five years.
“It is clear that the project is needed in the future because the number of kinship carers continues to rise and their need for advice increases also. The nature of the advice that is needed is also complicated and needs to be tailored not just to the individual family circumstances but also to the area in which they live.
“We have developed a level of expertise and capacity through our CAB network that could not be easily replicated or matched. Our CAB advice model is successful and locally responsive which is why we have consistently received excellent feedback from our service users and stakeholders. So I look forward to the work we can do in the next five years.”
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
Case study 1 - Karen and Lucy
On the evening before Karen’s five year old grand-daughter, Lucy, was due to start school, she went, with her mother, to a building which she described as “the drug house”. At around 2.30 the following morning, aware that there was no-one competent to provide care for her, and anxious that she would miss her first day of school, Lucy left “the drug house” and set out to walk 13 miles to her grandmother’s house, at the end of a busy dual carriageway. Lucy was noticed by an officer in a passing police car, an emergency social worker was contacted, and Lucy was delivered to Karen’s home at 7.30 that morning. Initially, Lucy was placed in her grandmother’s care for a few days, but the placement became a long term one, and Karen became a kinship carer. A regional officer helped a client gain entitlement to four years of backdated kinship care allowance totalling over £14,000.
Case Study 2 - £14,000 in payments gained
A client approached a South of Scotland CAB in May 2013, requesting support to lodge a complaint regarding her local authority’s decision to not backdate payments of kinship care allowance. The client had been caring for her niece for many years when, in 2008, she was granted a Residence Order. The client lives in a local authority that makes payments of kinship care allowance to carers of not looked after children, and so she was entitled to financial support from this date. However, despite ongoing social work involvement in the case, the local authority did not inform the client of her entitlements. In September 2012, she was alerted to her status as a kinship carer by a third party, and contacted the local authority. She was approved as a kinship carer in December 2012, but not awarded back dated payments. When she queried this decision, she was told that their policy had changed and that, as of October 2012, they no longer made back dated payments. The CAB Kinship Care Service Regional Officer supported the client through Stage 1 and 2 of the Local Authority’s complaints procedure, at which the complaint was not upheld. In September 2013, it progressed to the Complaints Review Panel, at which the Regional Officer presented a summary of the case and the client’s grounds for believing she was entitled to back dated payments.
The panel concluded that the client would receive a one-off payment for the full amount of kinship care allowance that should have been in payment since October 2008. The payments will total between £14,000 and £15,000.
Case study 3 - Marjorie and Louis
Marjorie is 63 and is the grandmother and kinship carer of Louis, who is 14. Louis’ mother – Marjorie’s daughter – died following a long illness. Marjorie lives in a different local authority to the one in which Louis and his mother lived, but because she was keen to avoid further disruption to Louis’ life, she decided he should remain at the school he knew, with supportive friends and teachers. However, this involves Louis taking two busses to travel to school, which at a cost of £15 per week, proved to be expensive for Marjorie, who is retired and receives a state pension. Marjorie contacted her local authority to request a bus pass for Louis, but was refused, as he did not attend school in the local authority – the local authority in which he attended school also refused, as he did not live there. Marjorie approached the Citizens Advice Scotland Kinship Care Service, and, while the two local authorities were unable to help, the Kinship Care Service was successful in securing funds from a local charity to pay for a bus pass for Louis. The Kinship Care Service was also able to advise Marjorie that, she may be entitled to apply to Louis’ school for free school meals and school uniform vouchers. As Louis is not a looked after child, Marjorie is not entitled to apply for kinship care allowance from her local authority, which would have amounted to £142 per week, but instead receives Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit totally £86 per week.
Case study 4 - Kate and her grandchildren
The company Kate worked for ceased to trade and Kate lost her job and applied for Job Seekers Allowance while she looked for employment. However she unexpectedly became the kinship carer of her three grandchildren, aged six, three and eleven months. She attended the Job Centre to explain that she could not now seek employment, and to apply to change her benefit application to Income Support. This was refused, on the grounds that she could not produce evidence of her entitlement to receive Child Benefit for the children. Kate explained that the children had just been placed with her, that they were looked after children, but that the Child Benefit had not yet been transferred into her name. The Job Centre staff were sympathetic, but stated that, without the correct documentation, she could not have Income Support, and also, as she had declared herself unwilling to look for work, she could not now have Job Seekers Allowance either. Kate was very distressed when she contacted the Citizens Advice Scotland Kinship Care Service because, when she was denied access to Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance, she also lost her entitlement to Housing Benefit and was left with no income, three children to care for, and a requirement to pay rent. The Kinship Care Service spoke to the local authority social work department and the Job Centre on her behalf, and it was arranged that the children’s social worker would provide evidence that the children were placed with Kate, and she was granted Income Support.
Case study 5 - James and Sarah, and their granddaughters
James is a serving member of the armed forces and he and his wife, Sarah, currently live in army accommodation in Germany. They are also the grandparents and kinship carers of two girls, aged 12 and 14. James and Sarah were unaware that their granddaughters had been taken into local authority care until they received a message from the elder child to say that they were living with foster carers. Sarah contacted the local authority to say that they were willing to provide care for the girls, resigned from her job in Germany, and travelled to Scotland. The children were formally removed from foster care and placed with James and Sarah in a kinship care arrangement, and Sarah remained in Scotland with the children while an application was made to the court for a Residence Order.
This process took three months, and the children moved from being formally looked after by the local authority and placed with James and Sarah, to being the subjects of a Residence Order, which removed their formal looked after status. The local authority did not inform Sarah that she and James would be entitled to receive, initially, kinship care allowance, and then a residence allowance (at a slightly lower rate), and Sarah returned to Germany with the children, with no financial support from the local authority. Three years later, following a chance conversation with a colleague, James contacted the Citizens Advice Scotland Kinship Care Service and learnt that he should have been receiving a weekly payment for both girls, since the date they were placed.
Following negotiation between the Kinship Care Service, on behalf of James and Sarah, and the local authority, it was decided that they should receive residence allowance and a backdated payment, and consequently they received a cheque for £25,000, with ongoing payments of £200 per week which will continue until the children are 16.