Emmerdale actor Jay Kontzle who was raised by his grandparents after the tragic death of his mother when he was aged four, is backing a new charity campaign for better support for kinship carers.
Married dad-of-two Jay who plays Billy Fletcher in the ITV drama is urging people to sign a petition calling on the Government to better support relatives and close friends who are struggling to care for a family’s child when their parents can’t.
Kinship’s survey of 1,500 kinship carers shows that 8 in 10 are failing to receive crucial support leaving many in crisis. More than a third of carers (36%) who don’t get the support they need, now say they may be unable to continue to care for them.
Emmerdale’s Jay said:
“I owe my grandparents everything. They raised me and looked after me through thick and thin. They gave me a purpose and a sense of belonging but they never received any recognition or support for what they did and the sacrifices they made.
“I’m backing Kinship’s campaign because kinship carers should be supported to bring up their own flesh and blood, not penalised. It’s time they received the recognition they deserve. I would urge everyone to sign the Kinship petition.”
Kinship’s survey 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, 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%) say they will use ovens less.
Jay, who also features in Kinship’s campaign video added:
“My nan had to quit her job as a nurse to look after me, and my granddad had to work night shifts to earn more money. They really struggled to get by and used their pensions to care for me. Being a kinship carer can be overwhelming sometimes, without any emotional or financial support for themselves or the child.
“My behaviour was terrible as a kid and I could be a nightmare sometimes, because of what I’d been through but they never gave up on me. If they’d received some support that could have made all the difference to their lives.
“My grandparents hadn’t planned to raise me but they did because they loved me and yet they didn’t receive any help at all, despite all the sacrifices they made and that’s not right or fair.
“Kinship carers like my nan and grandad need to be recognised and supported for trying to do the right thing by keeping children within the family and out of the care system. If it wasn’t for them, I would have grown up in care and goodness know what would have happened to me.”
Kinship carers are raising 162,400 children in England and Wales, more than double the number of children in foster care. They keep children within loving families and out of the care system, but most do not receive the same support as foster carers.
Kinship’s CEO Dr Lucy Peake said:
“We’re delighted Jay is supporting our #ValueOurLove campaign. Jay experienced first-hand how incredible kinship carers like his grandparents make huge sacrifices for their children – spending life savings and giving up jobs, but they’ve been ignored and left without support because they are family.
“Our survey sends an urgent call to Government to act now to support kinship carers, who have been undervalued for far too long. Without crucial support thousands of carers may no longer be able to look after the children they love, risking an influx of children into the care system which would be a tragedy.
“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’s #ValueOurLove campaign is urging the Government to give kinship carers the financial and emotional support they need. 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 want the public to sign our petition, so that kinship carers receive proper support.”
Kinship carer Wendy Turner, 69, from East Sussex raised her two grandchildren, now aged 15 and 10 from babies following their mother’s personal struggles and subsequent death. Wendy had to give up her career and spend her life savings to raise the children and she now survives on her state pension.
She said: “We were struggling before but things have got much worse with the cost-of-living crisis, and I’m really worried where it’s all going to end. Our energy bills have doubled, and I get a lot of our food from the local community fridge – food which supermarkets would have to throw away, and rely on school food vouchers during the holidays. That’s how we survive.
“Life is unrecognisable for the children now. I can’t even afford small treats like ice cream anymore because I have to count every single penny. I love the children more than anything, but kinship carers shouldn’t be in this desperate situation. We need a financial allowance the same as foster carers, as we’re keeping families together rather than letting children go into the care system.”
Support for kinship carers is a postcode lottery and cash-strapped local authorities are not providing the financial, practical and emotional support they need, increasing the risk that children will enter an over-stretched care system.
Kinship’s #ValueOurLove campaign is urging kinship carers and the public to lobby their MPs and sign a petition urging the Government to provide immediate support for kinship carers and implement the recommendations from the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care.