Tees MPs have a message for kinship carers: We are listening, we want to help
- Teesside MPs leading a cross-party taskforce are working to help ‘army of kinship carers’ who keep children in their families
- Call for evidence from carers about their experience and ideas
Teesside MPs, Anna Turley, Alex Cunningham and Mike Hill, 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.
The MPs met with kinship carers in Redcar on Friday 1st March to hear their views on the help and support that would have made becoming a carer easier.
They are urging carers across Teesside to get in touch with their MPs and 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.
- 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. Kinship care could be an alternative for many of these children but it is too often not explored or not effectively supported.
Anna Turley has established the cross party Kinship Care Taskforce in Parliament to tackle the issue, supported by Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) and Mike Hill MP (Hartlepool) as well as other MPs and peers from across the political spectrum.
The group is engaging with kinship care support organisations, local authorities, and public agencies, amongst others. It will publish its final recommendations in 2019.
Kinship carers can contact their own MP or they can contribute by filling out this survey by the Family Rights Group: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/DRTRXWQ
Anna Turley, MP for Redcar and convenor of the taskforce 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.”
Alex Cunningham, Member of Parliament for Stockton North, added:
“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.”
Mike Hill, Member of Parliament for Hartlepool said:
“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.”
One of the charities supporting the taskforce, and who helped facilitate the meeting with carers on Teesside, is Grandparents Plus. Chief Executive, Lucy Peake, said:
“We’re grateful to the kinship carers who bravely shared their experiences with MPs. Their stories were harrowing, but all too typical of kinship carers across the country, who turn their lives upside down yet struggle to access the most basic support. We’re working really hard to support kinship carers in Teesside and nationally but we know that there needs to be a step change in the way they are recognised and supported by government. We’re pleased to be helping to shine a light on the urgent need for support and hopeful that this attention from MPs will be help drive real change for kinship care families.”
Cathy Ashley, CEO of the charity Family Rights Group who are the co-secretariat for the taskforce, added:
“It’s heartbreaking that people doing right by the child can end up in such difficulties, for example we know of some who have fallen into severe debt and lost their home.
“This taskforce is the first time a cross party group of MPs and Peers have specifically explored kinship care. It is a hugely welcome and very timely initiative to raise awareness and consider what steps can be taken to support children remaining safely in family networks.”
Advice and support is available to kinship carers on Teesside. They can contact the Grandparents Plus Advice Line on 0300 123 7015 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Family Rights Group also operate a Freephone helpline: 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm) – https://www.frg.org.uk/