Kinship Carers Left In Financial Hardship

Kinship Carers, who are left to look after children of family members, urgently need financial support and their role should be legally recognised. Professor Jane Aldgate, who conducted research for the Social Work Inspection Agency into children who are looked after by relatives, will tell a conference in Glasgow this week that the “postcode lottery” of financial provisions given to kinship carers must be halted.

Aldgate said: “I think it’s fair to say there is a tremendous range across Scotland and it was perhaps a larger range than one might have expected. What you get depends on where people live. Some carers might get the equivalent of a foster’s allowance and others will get nothing.”

Family members can find themselves becoming kinship carers when the parents of a young relative die, or experience mental health problems or addictions.

In the report, which was published in September, Aldgate found of the 24 kinship carers she interviewed, 15 said they were financially worse off since becoming carers, compared to just two who said they were better off.

Ministers last week gave £2 million extra funding to foster and kinship carers. However as there is no uniform policy of distributing cash across the local authorities many kinship carers are left with no way of accessing financial support.

The Scottish Network for Families Affected by Drugs (SNFAD), the organisation behind this Saturday’s conference, said that kinship carers deserve an allowance because they save the government millions of pounds by preventing thousands of children from entering foster care services.

Ellen Donnelly, chair of SNFAD said: “What we want is to be treated equal to foster carers. These people are left doing the local authority’s jobs for them and they’re getting very little practical support.

“The Scottish Executive has to look at this. It’s going to be a can of worms, the money they might end up having to pay because of the volume of children out there living with kinship carers.”

According to Executive figures there were around 1400 children living with kinship carers in March 2004, which has now risen to more than 1600. If kinship carers were to receive the same weekly allowance as foster carers, which is an average £150 per child, the government would have to pay kinship carers more than £12m a year.

Caroline Garrett, volunteer coordinator of You Are Not Alone kinship care family group in Wigtownshire, said more consistency is needed.

“We’re finding with carers that some of them are able to access financial support from social services, some have had a one-off payment for help to get school uniforms, and some are saying that they’ve had no help at all.

“We’ve got one grandparent who was left with four children from three to 16. She’s not been able to get financial support, she’s living on a pension. We’re hearing stories like this all the time.”

A Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) spokesman admitted: “The extent of involvement by local government is extremely variable.

“Some families will have had formal assessments and the kinship carers will actually be approved foster carers. In other cases the carers do not have, and would not seek, formal residency rights of the children they are looking after, and are not eligible for some forms of financial support.

“This complex picture is the reason why different carers will be paid different amounts, and the reason why social work departments have met with the Scottish Executive to try to establish a greater degree of commonality in the approaches in Scotland, to ensure this source of care can continue its valuable role.”