To Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
I am writing on behalf of all kinship carers including special guardians to request that you prioritise them in the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Kinship carers are older and in worse health than any other group raising children and they are facing unique challenges during the pandemic. As Governments of all four nations have stressed on numerous occasions, there are risks when grandparents and grandchildren are together. Sixty percent of kinship carers in Wales are grandparents, typically in their 50s and 60s, and they have no choice but to care for their grandchildren all day, every day. Kinship carers – and the 10,000 children they are caring for in Wales – are understandably anxious about the virus and they need support to keep themselves as safe as possible.
Kinship carers who are classified as extremely clinically vulnerable have continued to support their children to access education at significant risk to themselves. Unfortunately, kinship carers have become ill from COVID-19 and some have died. At Grandparents Plus we believe the role they fulfil, and the risks they take, need to be acknowledged.
We believe kinship carers should be prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccine:
Research consistently finds that kinship carers are disproportionately groups most vulnerable to covid-19. Most are over the age of 50. They are more likely to live in poverty, come from the BAME community, and have chronic illnesses or disabilities than parents, foster carers, or adopters. These are all risk factors for being more seriously affected if they catch COVID-19.
Kinship carers care for children whose parents are unable to. They are usually the last resort for children to remain within their family network, preventing them from entering local authority care. If the carers become seriously ill or die, many of the children will have no other option than to be placed in foster care. It is essential that this is prevented wherever possible because of the impact on children and additional pressure on an already stretched care system and public finances.
Kinship carers have been disproportionately affected by the current global pandemic. Research carried out by Grandparents Plus has highlighted 70% of carers found fulfilling the kinship care role during the pandemic difficult or very difficult and 24% felt they might not be able to carry on in the role if there was another lockdown. The stress of the current crisis on kinship carers needs to be mitigated as much as possible.
I hope you will agree that kinship carers are showing enormous dedication to providing safe and stable loving homes to children who have often had a difficult start in life. Prioritising kinship carers for the COVID-19 vaccine will protect the health of an essential group in society and reduce the risk that more children will enter local authority care.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Chief Executive, Grandparents Plus