Citizens Advice Scotland have today published a report highlighting the problems that face people who care for children who are part of their extended family.
‘Kinship carers‘ is the term for the thousands of aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and family friends who take over the care of children whose parents are unable to look after them. The CAS report, Relative Value, identifies in detail where the system is working and where it is letting children and their kinship carers down.
CAS Acting Chief Executive Susan McPhee said,
“There have been a number of initiatives in Scotland to improve the lives of the thousands of children in kinship care, and many of these are making a real difference. But case evidence in our latest research report, Relative Value, reveals many examples of kinship carers being let down by the system. Too often, the modest level of assistance that can make all the difference to a kinship care household is either missing or the route to accessing it is long and tortuous.
“The main message of this report is that UK, Scottish and local government, alongside voluntary organisations, need to work together to make sure the holes in the system are closed up. The people taking on the care of these vulnerable children are not just providing a home for kith and kin, they’re doing a valuable service to society. They need and deserve both support and recognition.
“Our advice to kinship carers themselves is: if you are having problems, get yourself to your local CAB. They will make sure you know your rights, make sure you are getting any benefits and allowances you are entitled to, and will make sure the local authority is doing what it ought to do to support you. And if you can’t make it to your local CAB, you can call the confidential kinship care helpline on 0808 800 0006.Scottish CAB advisers have seen hundreds of kinship carers through our doors and as they leave they are often better off, both financially and in terms of peace of mind.”
There are an estimated 13,000 children in kinship care in Scotland. CAS’s report examines the circumstances and advice needs of over 350 kinship carers who approached the Scottish CAB service for advice in 2009. Among the findings are:-
- most kinship care arrangements come about due to an upsetting and stressful situation for both child and carer. Addiction problems (36% of kinship care arrangements), bereavement (24%), and neglect (16%), were the most common circumstances leading to kinship care
- difficulties faced by kinship carers include having to give up work to meet their care responsibilities; pressure on relationships; health problems of the children cared for; financial problems; and strain on the mental health of carers
- around three-quarters of kinship carers are the grandparents of the children they are caring for. Many have given up employment to meet their responsibilities. The majority of kinship carers are female between the ages of 45 and 59
- councils are legally required to provide allowances to kinship carers of looked after children on an equivalent basis to foster carers by 2011. While most local authorities are providing allowances, the level of allowance varies considerably
- all levels of government need to recognise that the needs, including the need for financial support, of kinship care households are very often the same regardless of whether the children are formally ‘looked after’ by the local authority or not.
The Relative Values report is available on the CAS website www.cas.org.uk.
For more information please contact Tony Hutson, 0131 550 1010.