‘I became a kinship carer 11 years ago when my wife and I brought our granddaughter home from hospital to care for her in only the clothes she was wrapped in. We had both retired and had no money to fall back on and nobody to help us.’
This is the experience of one kinship carer in Glasgow, but is one shared by many throughout the country. It is a story of relatives making immense sacrifices to protect vulnerable children in their family. It is a story of very little government support and of carers, often grandparents, being pushed into poverty. This is also a story, however, of strength and hope and love.
Kinship Carers are family members, often grandparents, who have become the primary carers because of parental drug or alcohol abuse, neglect or bereavement. Using the official figures of 10,742 kinship children, Kinship Carers are currently saving the government £176 million per year by keeping children out of foster and residential care and with their families where they are happiest.
'Kinship Care works. Without it thousands of children would be facing a much less secure childhood and the State would be facing the enormous expense of caring for those children.'
Despite this huge saving for the public purse, kinship carers continue to face significant disparities across different local authorities and with other similar carers, such as foster carers.
In 2007, a motion in the Scottish Parliament - calling for an end to the discrimination between kinship and foster carers – passed unanimously. Despite this, more than five years later, many feel discrimination is still prevalent.
Martin Johnstone, the Poverty Truth Commission’s secretary says, ‘Some progress has been made over the last five years but it is not enough – and it is not nearly quickly enough. We need to move from warm words to real action in order to ensure that this group of children, and their carers, get the support they need and deserve. Kinship Carers need to be listened to and what they have to say needs to be acted upon.’
Standing Up for their Rights
However, despite the tremendous challenges many face, not least financial, scores of kinship carers have refused to lie down quietly and have their case for justice and equality ignored. Instead in Scotland, as in elsewhere, many carers have decided they need to be listened to and have their voices heard.
On April 15, 2013 the Scottish Kinship Care Alliance was officially launched. This brought together a tremendously talented team of tireless campaigners from many different parts of Scotland.
The Alliance has led a passionate and vocal campaign around the Children and Young People’s Bill and continues to be involved in the negotiations as it has some grave concerns regarding the legislation. High on the priority list is the current provisions for only three years ‘transitional support’ which will leave many still in poverty and struggling to get by and could also, more importantly, see the withdrawal of crucial psychological support for kids. Anne Swartz, chair of the Alliance, recently outlined to The Guardian her concerns about the bill.
The Poverty Truth Commission was honoured to be a supporting partner at the Alliance’s launch. The Commission recognises that kinship carers are the experts on their situation and must have their voices heard. A true insight into the barriers kinship carers face to get the necessary financial and non-financial assistance for the kids in their care cannot be gained, the Commission believes, unless carers are given the correct platform to tell their stories.
Turning Up the Volume on Poverty
Turning Up the Volume on Poverty
On Saturday 21, June at the Woodside Halls in Glasgow, the Poverty Truth Commission will be Turning Up the Volume on Poverty. On the agenda will be an appreciation of the tireless work of kinship carers in Glasgow and their ongoing struggle for truth and justice.
If you realise the importance of this struggle then please visit the Scottish Kinship Care Alliance website and show your support. To see how the Commission is Turning Up the Volume on Poverty by placing those with experience at the heart of the decision making process then please come long to our event in June.
To register at this free event click here; call 0141 248 2911; or email firstname.lastname@example.org #TurnItUp2014