Posted: 25 July, 2014 at 10:57 am
Grandparents and family carers visited Westminster and won the backing of local MP John Healey.
The summit was for relatives raising children who can no longer live with their parents.
Mr Healey has already been working with one grandparent carer from Wath, Karen MacGregor, who has helped set up a support group for such ‘kinship’ carers. ‘Kinkids’ has 170 members and is growing fast.
Mr Healey said: “More and more we are seeing children being looked after by grandparents and other relatives, but there is no organised recognition for this type of care. Our legal framework and statutory services haven’t really caught up.
“If parents can’t keep their child, grandparents often step in because they want them to stay in the family. But this is often at great cost to themselves – half have to give up work – and often without some of the support that might automatically be there for foster carers or adoptive parents, and even without some of the support the benefits system provides for parents.”
The event in Westminster Central Hall was attended by more than 50 ‘kinship’ carers from across England and Wales and the children’s minister Edward Timpson MP.
Mrs MacGregor, 57, who has been bringing up her 10-year-old granddaughter Charley since she was three days old, was at the lobby. Mr Healey has been helping her for several months including with setting up a fundraising charity shop in Swinton.
She said: “People need to realise we are saving councils thousands and thousands of pounds. I’m not saying we should get the same money as foster carers but we need the same rights, support and access to social services.
“We don’t get anything. I know people who have lost their homes and their relationships because they’re a kin carer. Some look after several children. Some have to fight social services to keep the children to start off with.”
Mrs MacGregor says at least one in three ‘kinkids’ is disabled and conditions like autism and attachment problems are common. Many, like Charley, get bullied at school. But children looked after by a family member often do better in life than those in care.
National charity Grandparents Plus, which supported the event, say up to 300,000 children are living with 200,000 grandparents and wider family members, and that this is saving the taxpayer £12 billion in care costs each year alone.
Often such children have experienced similar problems to those in the care system, like parental drug or alcohol misuse, abuse or neglect, imprisonment, domestic violence, disability, ill health or bereavement.
Mr Healey would like to hear from grandparents and relatives in the constituency who have stepped in to care for children. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01709 512463.
For more information about Kinkids, visit http://www.kinkids.org.uk/.