From the TUC

Doing right by kinship carers

20 Jun 2012, by Guest in Working Life

Now here’s a funny thing.  I recently came back to work from maternity leave.  I had 9 months’ paid leave, time to bond with my baby, and to manage and adapt to the changes in our lives that a new baby brings.  Now imagine I’m a 55 year old grandmother whose daughter has been taken into hospital after overdosing on heroin.  My grandchildren aged 5 and 2 arrive at my door unannounced.  The social worker who brings them says will I take them or they will go into care.  I don’t hesitate to say ‘yes’. I forget to ask the important questions but assume that can be taken care of later.  I phone my boss to say I need some time off for a family emergency.  But I don’t want to tell him the real reason why, he doesn’t know my daughter is a drug addict.

I then enter a world of confusion anxiety and delay as I negotiate with children’s services, get legal advice, sort out school and childcare arrangements, buy the children clothes and find beds for them to sleep in. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  But all the while my employer is growing impatient. He was understanding at first but it’s two weeks since the children arrived at my door. They can’t go back to mum and I will have them with me for many months if not permanently.  The social worker is telling me to give up my job to care for them.  The children have led chaotic lives and need stability.  I would really like to stay in work.  but I’m only entitled to unpaid emergency leave. I don’t have any other rights.  I can’t even request flexible working.  What can I do?

Well, what most grandparents and family (kinship) carers do in that situation is give up work.  New Grandparents Plus research has found  that half (47%) of grandparents and kinship carers in this situation  give up their job, that’s 9,000 every year.  Only 13% of those who gave up work are now back in work.   A combination of a lack of leave entitlements and the stress of the situation, plus pressure from social workers, drives them out of the workplace.  We want to end this injustice and see kinship carers entitled to a period of paid leave, equivalent to adoption leave or maternity leave.  We also want the Government keep its promise to extend the right to request flexible working.

Kinship carers are doing the right thing for their families, isn’t it time we did the right thing for them?

GUEST POST: Sam Smethers is Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus. She was previously Director of Public Affairs of the Equal Opportunities Commission, and a former trustee of the Fawcett Society and Gingerbread. She has three children and was brought up by her grandparents. Grandparents Plus is the national charity championing the vital role of grandparents and the wider family in children’s lives – especially when they take on the caring role in difficult family circumstances. They want to see the grandparental role better recognised and rewarded and the private sector, public services and employers recognising and responding to the growing contribution grandparents are making.

7 Responses to Doing right by kinship carers

  1. Eleanor Firman
    Jun 21st 2012, 1:34 am

    Agree totally.

  2. Diana
    Jul 1st 2012, 5:08 pm

    I agree totally. Not just Housing Benefit reductions, but many of these lone Kinship Grandparents have their own homes with mortgages, so 50% cut in Mortgage interest paymnents to cover the cost of the home whilst unable to work while caring for someone elses child has impacted hugely in keeping the roof over their head, and any financial support, however little has been slashed by social services which has compounded to put their homes at risk, potentially moving these children into the care system. Even paying a Kinship Carer £1000 per month (£12000 per annum) will save the Tax payer 30-40k per annum (4o-50k per annum is the average cost of a child in the care system.) Come on politicians, MPs, Government…do your maths!! Support the kinship Carers that are in turn supporting you. Where is this Big Society??

  3. Jan Wagner
    Jul 12th 2012, 5:32 pm

    I could not agree more with both the blog and the comment made by Diana. I am in the same situation. But, compound that by the lack of available medical coverage and you have a disaster of mega proportions. At 61 years of age, it is nearly impossible to be rehired at a job that includes medical benefits, and impossible to purchase affordable coverage with limited income and a pre-existing medical history. Soon, the mortgage wont be an issue-we will have to sell in this depressed market to cover hospital bills. I took a low paying, part time job and have lost both medicaid for low income families, but a drastic reduction in food assistance as well. All for $450 a month plus husbands social security. Grandson is only 6 so we have a long way to go.

  4. Judy Conway
    Jul 12th 2012, 7:42 pm

    this is what happen to me and then to make matters worse I make $3 over the lime and can not receive any assent from state so we live week to week
    and now I am told that I cant go into foster care with my grandsons

  5. Janet Murphy
    Jul 12th 2012, 8:39 pm

    I totally agree with Sam’s blog and the comments made by Diana and Jan. In addition, the government needs to do it’s job and take action against the numerous local authorities that have failed to develop and implement a Family and Friends Care Policy as directed within the Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities issued last year by the Department for Education. The deadline for this was 30th September 2012. When is the government going to take some action against these L.A’s for non-compliance? It is disgraceful that after failing to comply for almost a year L.A’s are still being allowed to do as they like whilst Kinship Carers are left to care for some of the most vulnerable children in the country with little or no support. I am a Kinship Carer and have looked after my two Grandchildren for almost four years now and had to fight my L.A. every step of the way for a Special Guardianship Allowance, I was lucky and succeeded thanks to the help of Nigel Pristley of Ridley and Hall, but know that many other Kinship Carers have not been so fortunate.

  6. Brenda Reeves
    Jul 12th 2012, 10:01 pm

    The system as it stands is so unfair. I, like Diana have a mortgage and had to give up work 18 months ago to look after my 2 grandchildren. I am in the position now that I have to seriously consider selling my home (and the only stability they’ve ever known) in the hope of getting rental accommodation that the state will support.

    The mortgage contribution basically wipes out the jobseekers allowance I receive so am living hand to mouth every month – a situation I never expected at my time of life – I’d assumed a reasonably comfortable retirement in 4 yrs time – but hey ho, I never expected my daughter to succumb to drink and drugs at age 31 either !!! Sort yourselves out Govt and the Social Welfare and recognise the important job we do – keeping out kids out of the care system …

  7. Emma
    Jul 16th 2012, 2:50 pm

    I agree totally. I’, a kinship carer (SGO) for my nephew who has just turned 2. I had to drop 12 grand and go part time. I had to find myu own accomodation and a nursery place. I had to fight the L.A every step of the way for funding for essential equipment likes a bed etc! I haven’t had my own children yet so I had nothing. It would have been nice to have support, not have to fight and justify why i wanted to keep my teaching job I’d worked so hard for. My mom, 5 years ago took on the older 2 children and had to quit her job. She was working nights and couldn’t continue to do that and look after an 18 month old and a 7 year old…although she tried! She wasn’t allowed benefits as she couldn’t prove she was ‘actively seeking work’! It’s outrageous that due to my sister’s addiction to heroin and alcohol that other members of the family that step in are penalised financially for doing so! the alternative is to give them an unsettled life in the care system and pay through the nose for it. It’s a really unfair system and is family unfriendly.