Kinship And / Or Family Carers ? Guidance / News / Articles / Support

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
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."
Childcare : thousands of grandparents miss out on a pension perk.

Those who look after their grandchildren can receive national insurance credit.

Thousands of grandparents who look after their grandchildren continue to miss out on a perk that could increase their state pension.

New figures show that while more than 10,000 have made use of a scheme designed to assist grandparents who make sacrifices to help their children get back to work after the birth of a child, there are still many more who have not.

The government launched the “specified adult childcare credits” in 2011. It means that if a mother goes back to work after the birth of a child, she can sign a form that allows a grandparent, or other family member, to receive national insurance credits, provided the child is under 12.

Data obtained via a freedom of information request by mutual insurer Royal London found that the number claiming rose to just over 10,000 by 2018.

However, Steve Webb, the firm’s director of policy, says: “While it is great news that thousands more grandparents are benefiting, the numbers are still a drop in the ocean out of all those who could claim. It is increasingly common for grandparents to spend some time each week looking after their grandchildren, often to enable a parent to go out to work,” he says.

“It would be quite wrong if these grandparents suffered financially in terms of their own state pension as a result. This scheme needs to be much better publicised, and I would encourage any family with a grandparent under pension age who helps out with the childcare to find out more.”

One year of the tax credits can be worth around £250, or £5,000 over the course of a 20-year retirement.

It’s not known precisely how many people are missing out, says the firm, but according to research by charity Grandparents Plus, around two-thirds of all grandparents reported that they spent time looking after grandchildren. There are more than 7 million grandparents of all ages in Britain with grandchildren under 16.
Interesting article from Susan Hunter :

The value of kinship care.

Susan Hunter on why we should value kinship carers.

All across Scotland, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and family friends care for children because, for a variety of reasons, their parents cannot.

People who look after children in these kinds of circumstances are known as kinship carers.

For the last few years the Scottish government has funded the Citizens Advice network to run a project offering targeted advice and support for kinship carers.

When I took on the role of project coordinator for this service I thought it would be quite straightforward.

I had worked in the voluntary sector for the past 12 years and thought I knew about kinship care. How naïve!

Within a week of starting in the role I was waking in the night, wondering how I would cope if I had to take on what kinship carers do. How would my life change if I had the care of my grandchildren, nieces or nephews or the children of my friends? As much as I love my own grandchildren, the idea of having full time care of them was unimaginable to me.

Most kinship carers take on their role out of a sense of love, loyalty and devotion for the child they care for, but this does not make kinship care easy or straightforward.

To ensure the wellbeing of children in kinship care it is imperative that support is made available from the moment they are welcomed into a kinship care family.

Support agencies need to work together towards allaying the many hardships kinship carers can face when they take on their role, such as having to give up their work, their homes, their savings and the life they lived previously.

As with any form of care, the wellbeing of kinship care children is intrinsically linked to the support that is made available to kinship carers to help them do this.

In my opinion, kinship carers are often overlooked and undervalued by society. The role they take on, often in often difficult situations both practically and emotionally is invaluable and they must be celebrated and appreciated.

The Scottish Government states: “We recognise the important role played by kinship carers in providing secure, stable and nurturing homes for children who cannot be cared for by their birth parents.”

The citizens advice network across Scotland is here to help carers, working with our local CAB advisers and other agencies to deliver solutions that will make a difference to people who are in this situation.

For Kinship Care Week in Scotland this year, events are being organised for kinship carers where local agencies will promote services.

There will be workshops and taster sessions where kinship carers can gain information on a range of topics. There will also be a film launch by Star Catchers and we will provide new literature to kinship carers so that they know what support is available to them.

Kinship Care Week Scotland will raise awareness of the selfless support provided to some of Scotland’s most vulnerable children by kinship carers.

For further information email

Susan Hunter is the project co-ordinator for the Kinship Care Advice Service for Scotland.
Retired pensioners spend 25% less time volunteering than 20 years ago because of grandparent duties, figures reveal.

Retired pensioners spend 25% less time volunteering now than they did two decades ago, new figures reveal, as they are forced to “plug the gap” and care for grandchildren.

Between 2001 and 2015, the total amount of time retired people spent volunteering fell from 21 minutes per day, down to 15.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also reveal that the steady downward trend is also true for people aged 65 and over - whose volunteering time per day fell from 18 minutes per day down to 14 mins per day.

The data has sparked urgent calls from the Centre for Ageing Better for charities to consider a new approach to recruiting older volunteers amid an ever-shrinking civic sector in order “to futureproof the contributions that enrich and sustain our communities”.

The data comes amid rising levels of pensioner poverty, a shrinking voluntary sector, an ageing population with increasing numbers of those living with health conditions or disabilities and people being forced to work for longer.

Experts said that increasing numbers of people will also need to provide unpaid care for loved ones, older volunteers will be needed to “plug the gap” in voluntary resources, and grandparents are being derailed from volunteering in communities in order to help sustain free care for their grandchildren as increasing numbers of parents are in work.

The charity said in a new report that “our communities currently rely on a ‘civic core’ of highly engaged individuals, who are mainly middle-aged, wealthier and white”.

However, researchers added that “there is no room for complacency that this group will be able to sustain its contributions in future”. Meanwhile, older people from less financially secure, less healthy or from a BAME background can face “structural barriers” were found to be less likely to volunteer.

The guide, entitled the Age-friendly and Inclusive Volunteering guide introduces six core principles that charities can adopt to address barriers to inclusion and widen participation of older volunteers. These include offering flexibility, providing opportunities for older people to meet, and playing to individuals’ strengths.

In a foreword for the guide, published during National Volunteers’ Week and seen by The Telegraph, Tracey Crouch MP, former minister for civil society, welcomed calls to combat the practical, structural and emotional barriers which prevent older people from volunteering.

“People in later life make essential contributions to their communities – from volunteering in schools, hospitals and charities, to popping round to visit a neighbour who is ill or alone,” she said.

“They bring a diverse range of skills, talents and life experience to help their communities thrive. We know that getting involved is good for people in later life, helping to strengthen their social connections and wellbeing.”

However, she added that the review also finds that as people move through life, “they can face a number of barriers to taking part, such as health conditions, or work and family commitments.''