6 in 10 won’t put heating on this winter
More than 4 in 10 have had to give up jobs to care for their kinship children
Nearly 6 in 10 borrowing money, using credit and short-term loans
7 in 10 to spend their life savings and pension pots
4 in 10 kinship carers skipping meals, using food banks and buying less food
A new survey out today reveals that 8 in 10 kinship carers are failing to receive crucial support, says the charity Kinship, which is calling for kinship families in Wales to receive urgent financial and emotional support.
Kinship’s 2022 annual survey ‘The Cost of Loving’ reveals that 98% of kinship carers believe that their children would be in the care system without them, but nearly four in 10 carers (36%) who don’t get the support they need, now say they may be unable to continue to care for them.
Kinship carers – family relatives and close friends who care for 9,560 children in Wales – keep children within loving families and out of the care system, but do not receive the same support as foster carers.
The survey of over 1,500 kinship carers in England and Wales reveals that 45% have had to give up jobs to care for their kinship children, leaving nearly 6 in 10 (58%) borrowing money, using short term loans and credit cards and forcing 7 in 10 to spend their life savings and pension pots.
Four in 10 (40%) are now skipping meals, using food banks and buying less food. As the financial squeeze tightens and the cost-of-living crisis deepens, nearly 6 in 10 (59%) say they will not put the heating on this winter, and 26% say they won’t be able to pay bills. More than 4 in 10 (43%) will use ovens less and 41% will take fewer baths and showers.
Struggling kinship carers are also dealing with a severe lack of wider local authority support. More than 7 in 10 (71%) say they did not receive any information about being a kinship carer, 64% had no support when the child moved in, 79% had no preparation support around being a kinship carer and 75% received no support for managing their child’s behaviours.
Mum-of-one Sharon, 51 and husband Matt, 47, from Caerphilly have been raising their 10-year-old grandson since he was a baby, when his mother was no longer able to care for him. Sharon said:
“I was about to fulfill my dream and start a university course to retrain as a midwife but my life turned on its head when social services asked me to take care of my 10-month-old grandson, otherwise he would go into the care system. Of course, your instinct is to care for your own flesh and blood.
“We didn’t receive any legal, practical advice, or financial support and didn’t have a clue about what to do, or how to do it. When we finally received an allowance, it was means tested and amounted to just £50 a month to clothe, feed and look after our grandson and it ended after two years.
“Without any proper financial support, we’ve had to spend all our savings. Now the cost-of-living crisis is seeing our bills double. It’s scary to think how we’re going to manage. We reached crisis point recently and told the local authority that they had to help us as a family. Without the proper support our grandson is the one that’s suffering and it’s heart-breaking.
“We don’t become kinship carers for the money, or as a career choice, we do it because we love our children but we’re ignored and abandoned because we’re family. We should receive the same support as foster carers, that’s all we’re asking for.”
Kinship’s CEO Dr Lucy Peake said:
“Our survey results send a clear and urgent call to those in power to act now to support kinship carers, who have been overlooked and undervalued for far too long. Without support thousands of carers who have been pushed to the brink of despair may no longer be able to look after the children they love, risking an influx of children into the care system
“It’s outrageous that in today’s society many kinship families will be cold and hungry this winter because they don’t receive enough support to maintain their basic human rights.
“Kinship carers in Wales make huge sacrifices to look after thousands of children, spending life savings, moving home and having to give up jobs.
“Unlike foster carers, being a kinship carer is not a choice, it is done through love and often in times of crisis. Kinship carers must be treated fairly because raising a child costs money. We will continue to fight alongside kinship families until they receive the support they desperately need.”