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Kinship families plunged into poverty

Kinship families are being plunged into poverty as the cost of living continues to soar, the charity Kinship has revealed.

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Urgent action is needed to prevent many more families from struggling financially as they alleviate pressure on the care system by caring for children who are not able to live with their parents for a variety of reasons.

Laura, a kinship carer from West Sussex, who is raising her two half siblings said: “I’ve survived on food banks, school food vouchers and family help. I don’t have any spare money – it all goes on gas and electricity bills which have gone up from £91 to £200 per month.

“I’m now in arrears with the rent because I’m struggling to pay the energy bills and I’m getting threatening letters from the housing department saying debit collectors will come round.

“The children need new school uniforms and other essentials but I’m having to cut those to keep the debt collectors from the door. If I’d received a financial allowance, it would have made a huge difference to all our lives and given us a sense of financial security.

“We willingly give up our lives to keep families together, but we need the government to recognise kinship carers and give us the financial and emotional support we all need,” added Laura.

Kinship carried out its first ever survey of kinship carers’ financial situations last year. This year the survey found:

  • 44% of kinship carers could not pay all their household bills.
  • 26% could not afford food for their families.
  • 35% could not afford clothes for their children.
  • 18% could not keep up with rent or mortgage payments.
  • 33% of carers were concerned that their financial situations might eventually prevent them from being able to continue to care for their children.

When kinship carers step up to care for a child, they take on full financial responsibility for them. Their efforts mean thousands of children can stay with friends or family, but it comes at significant cost. Many carers are forced to reduce their working hours or give up work completely to care for the child and will face extreme financial pressures as a result.

Dr Lucy Peake, Chief Executive of Kinship, said: “It’s deeply shocking that kinship carers are doing their very best to keep children with the people who love them but can’t afford to buy them daily essentials like food and clothes as they are left to manage with no financial support.

“Pushed into poverty, the financial strain means many kinship families are worried they may have to give up the care of the children. This would be a massive tragedy that is entirely preventable.

“We know it’s best for children to stay within their own families where they are loved, safe and secure rather than go into the care system but raising a child costs money. It’s only right that kinship carers receive the same non-means tested financial support as foster carers.

“The government must act with urgency and implement the recommendations made by the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care and provide kinship carers and their children with the financial support they clearly so desperately need,” she added.

Kinship has been working with Munira Wilson MP on the development of a Kinship Care Bill, including the provision of financial allowances and employment leave. Munira will be presenting the Bill in the Commons on Tuesday 5 July which Kinship believes is a fantastic opportunity to push the government and ask them to step up to support kinship carers when they publish their response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care later this year.

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