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CAB service delivers £1m boost for kinship carers in Scotland

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.”