Aim to transform support for North East kinship carers.

NORTH-EAST MPs are leading a taskforce working to transform support for the ‘army of kinship carers’ who keep children in their families and without whom the care system would collapse.

Teesside MPs Anna Turley, Alex Cunningham and Mike Hill met with kinship carers in Redcar last week to hear their views on the help and support that would have made becoming a carer easier.

The MPs for Redcar, Stockton North and Hartlepool respectively are urging carers across Teesside to get in touch with the taskforce to share their experiences and ideas for changing the support available.

Kinship carers are people who take in child relatives when they can no longer live with their parents and they are commonly grandparents but can be brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, or even close family friends too.

Half of kinship carers have to give up work to raise the child, in part because unlike adopters, they are not entitled to paid leave for the child to settle in. Most are also not paid a statutory allowance as foster carers are.

Too often kinship care households end up in severe poverty, dependent upon benefits, isolated and struggling to get the help, such as bereavement counselling, that the child needs.

The number of children in the care system is at the highest level since 1985.

Ms Turley said: “We have heard from many kinship carers who find their responsibilities incredibly tough, especially if they already have children of their own.

“Even though they fulfill the same roles as foster carers, many kinship carers receive little help because they are not all recognized on the same statutory basis. Yet in taking on the care of their loved ones, they are keeping children within their family network and saving many from joining an already pressured care system.

“We want to transform the system so more children can be supported to stay with their families.”

Mr Cunningham said: “A critical part of the whole inquiry is listening to people who take on the tremendous responsibility of looking after family members.

"Only by listening and understanding can we get to the right conclusions and make the recommendations that hopefully one day will improve all their lives.”

Mr Hill added: "Ever since I was elected I’ve wanted to champion the cause of kinship carers.

"They are an army of hidden volunteers who literally save the state a small fortune, but who by and large go unrecognised.

"Working closely with organisations like Grandparents Plus, it is our ambition to get their voices heard, and their needs met."