Families who take in child after tragedy ‘deserve same support as foster carers’

People who take in their grandchildren and care for them after a family tragedy should have the same financial support as foster carers, ministers have been told.

Liberal Democrat MP Munira Wilson (pictured) told the Commons that many kinship carers are struggling to make ends meet as the cost of living rises, and called for the Government to create a statutory definition for their role to support them.

Ms Wilson told the Commons: “Every year thousands of grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and family friends step up to support a child whose parents are not able to care for them.”

The Twickenham MP added: “They turn their lives upside down to provide children with a loving, stable home. For most of them, welcoming in a child is not a choice they make but an instinctive reaction out of love to a dramatic, often overnight change in circumstances.

“This could be a death in the family, or domestic abuse, or a similar situation.”

She went on: “Kinship care is the Cinderella service of our children’s social care system, too-often ignored. The Government has created a system full of unfairness and uncertainty, leaving some of the most vulnerable families without help.”

Ms Wilson cited a survey by the charity Kinship, which found that “just 6% of kinship carers with an informal arrangement receive help”, and those carers who do receive an allowance are getting paid “£40 a week less than the national minimum allowance for foster carers”.

“This is bad enough, but the Government’s failure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis is only making the situation harder,” she added.

Further data from the charity found that 44% of kinship carers “could not pay all their household bills” this year.

The MP also told the Commons that the benefits of living with friends or relatives is “immense”.

She said: “Compared to care leavers, they are more likely to have better mental health, they are more likely to have better exam results, and they are more likely to hold down a job.

“It is why in Australia kinship care is the preferred option when a child cannot be looked after at home by their birth parents.”

Introducing her proposals as a ten minute rule motion, Ms Wilson said that “all kinship carers should receive weekly payments equal to the national minimum weekly allowance that foster carers receive”.

She added: “Secondly, kinship carers should be entitled to paid employment leave when a child starts living with them, just as what happens when a family adopts a child.

“Thirdly, children in kinship care should have the same support as looked-after children in our education system, such as pupil premium plus, virtual school heads, and priority in the admissions process.

“Finally these should be underpinned by a statutory definition of kinship care that will act as a gateway for carers to access the rights I have just mentioned.”

Ms Wilson asked for her Bill to be given a second reading on Friday, March 17 next year, but it is unlikely to secure time for further consideration.

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