8 in 10 kinship carers fail to receive crucial support
Nearly 4 in 10 may be unable to carry on caring for children
6 in 10 won’t put heating on this winter
Nearly 6 in 10 borrowing money, using credit and short-term loans
4 in 10 kinship carers skipping meals, using food banks and buying less food
A new survey reveals that 8 in 10 kinship carers are failing to receive crucial support leaving many in crisis, says the charity Kinship, which launches a major campaign today (19 October) demanding urgent Government action to support kinship carers.
Kinship’s 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 (36%) of carers who don’t get the support they need now say they may be unable to continue to care for them.
Kinship carers are relatives and close friends who care for 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 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.
The Government’s failure to put kinship carers on an equal footing to foster carers means 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.
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.
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.
Kinship carer Wendy Turner, 69, from Eastbourne, 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 keep the children and she now survives on her state pension.
“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 the petrol I need to drive the children to school. 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 budget and 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.”
Kinship’s CEO Dr Lucy Peake said:
“Our survey results send a clear and urgent call to Government 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’s #ValueOurLove campaign is urging the Government to give kinship carers the financial and emotional support they need and deserve. They make huge sacrifices to care for children – spending life savings, giving up jobs and moving homes, but they have been ignored and left without support because they are family.
“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 the support they desperately need.”
Former Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield said:
“In places like New Zealand family-based care is recognised and supported financially. It should be here too. We know that providing children with care from family or friends they know and trust can provide the kind of stability and support they may not find elsewhere. It also makes long term financial sense, reducing costs on already stretched statutory services as fewer children end up going into an increasingly expensive care system.
“The Government should be doing all it can to recognise the value of kinship care, and to expand support for kinship carers, and make kinship care a key part of its children’s social care reform.”
Former President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, Sir James Munby said:
“For far too long, kinship carers, who selflessly provide invaluable love and stability to thousands of vulnerable children, have been undervalued and unfairly treated. Lack of proper support for kinship carers harms both them and especially the children they care for.
“Children have far better outcomes in loving, secure and safe families but without this essential support more kinship carers may be unable to continue to care for them. Returning children to the care system would clearly be catastrophic for the children, the families who love them and our society as a whole. The Government must prevent this from happening.
“The Government needs to fund under-resourced local authorities so they can provide the crucial financial and emotional support kinship families so desperately need.
“Our children and young people are our future. One of the measures of a civilised society is how well it looks after the most vulnerable members of its society. Are we, is society, is the Government really doing enough, let alone doing the best, for these vulnerable children and their devoted carers? The truth is that we need to do much more.”
Kinship is calling on the Government to commit to a first ever kinship care strategy so that kinship families are entitled to the same support as foster and adoptive families.
The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care report recommendations called for the Government to ensure all local authorities have support in place for kinship carers, including financial allowances, paid leave from employment, training and legal advice, and peer support. The Government is due to respond to the recommendations by the end of the year.