June 2018: Your Local MP

May 30 2018

More action needed on kinship carers

One of the most rewarding aspects of my work in Parliament is meeting charities working at a local and national level to hear about the campaigns they’re working on, and how I can get involved. I recently had the pleasure of talking to Barnardo’s about their mental health green paper, as well as their work to improve the rights of children in kinship care (that is, children being looked after by family or friends because their own parents are unable or unwilling to take care of them.)

Since being elected in 2005, I have repeatedly spoken out about the difficulties kinship carers face because of the technically informal nature of this kind of arrangement. Reasons can vary from a parent being in prison or hospital, through to family crises such as drug and alcohol dependence. Research by Grandparents Plus estimates that there are 180,000 children in the UK in kinship care, yet kinship carers have very few rights and little additional support in comparison to people who adopt a child.

Back in 2011, I introduced the Kinship Carers (Parental Responsibility Arrangements) Bill in Parliament to try and enable kinship carers to obtain parental responsibility without going through the Courts. Sadly, the Bill did not become law, and many of the problems I raised then still stand now – kinship carers face all kinds of difficulties in supporting and organising the life of the child they’re caring for – from applying for passports, to registering with a GP, to accessing child benefits. The advantages of a child staying with a family member as opposed to being taken into care are massive, and it’s high time that kinship carers receive the help and recognition they deserve for the support they offer to vulnerable children across the country.

To give an example, one of my constituents, Lana Gayle, cares both for her own child, and her nephew. She got in touch with me after her nephew’s school refused to treat her daughter’s application to that same school as a sibling application, despite the fact that the children live in the same household and are raised as siblings. We managed to get this decision overturned, but kinship carers shouldn’t have to face these administrative hurdles in the first place, especially given their work saves the NHS and local authorities so much time and money annually.

I’m pleased to say that Labour recently pushed the Government to concede that children in kinship care shouldn’t count towards the two-child benefits cap. This is brilliant news, but there are still lots more issues around kinship care that need addressing, not least that 62% of kinship carers say they need more advice and information in general, and that 65% say they need more emotional support. I’ll continue to liaise with Barnardo’s, Grandparents Plus, the Family Rights Group and other organisations on this issue, but if you have been affected by similar problems, please don’t hesitate to get in touch at kerry.mccarthy.mp@parliament.uk. 

To contact Kerry, call her office on 0117 939 9901 (Mon-Fri 10am- 1pm) or email  her at kerry.mccarthy.mp@parliament.uk