Kinship care and poverty are inextricably linked. Kinship carers take on the full financial responsibility of the children they care for. Taking on the role commonly restricts their ability to work. Kinship carers are not entitled to the same protected paid leave when their children move in as adoptive parents are, which means they often have to take unpaid leave or give up work entirely. This is especially difficult for grandmother kinship carers who had previously given up work to raise their own children as it affects their pensions for the second time. As the retirement age for women increases, more and more kinship carers are affected. Losing this investment in their futures means many kinship carers face spending the rest of their lives in poverty. Younger kinship carers are also financially affected, just in different ways. For example, they frequently step off their pathway to qualifications or career building, which delays and diminishes their future earnings.
“I didn’t get any allowance awarded. I ended up working part-time due to her challenging behaviour and school refusal. I had to sell my house.” Nisha, kinship carer
Children in kinship care often have additional needs which means their kinship carers commonly need to be available during the day to care for them. Kinship carers report having to attend meetings for the children with health, education and social care professionals which are held during the working day. This further restricts their ability to work. Some kinship carers are told by social workers that they need to give up work to be able to look after the children and are then told by the Job Centre that they need to look for work. This catch-22 situation leaves kinship carers at risk of losing their benefits or receiving sanctions. These issues all add to the financial disadvantage kinship carers face.
The lack of financial support for kinship carers has been consistently identified in surveys and research. Reports by the Local Government Ombudsman have also highlighted poor local authority practice. Analysis of the 2011 census found that kinship care and poverty are inextricably linked: children in kinship care are likely to be growing up in deprived households and kinship care is most prevalent in the most deprived areas of the country. Kinship’s specialist kinship care advice service currently supports around 3,500 families each year and 64% of all calls are about financial issues.