Around 40 kinship carers and their supporters from across the Scottish regions descended on the Scottish Parliament today chanting and singing loudly. They held banners and placards telling the SNP government to stop their plans for Kinship Care in the proposed in the Children and Young People Act, which the Scottish Kinship Care Alliance claim will maintain and even increase the differential treatment of children in foster care and kinship care with comparable needs. The angry group of kinship carers from the Scottish Kinship Care Alliance questioned the SNP government’s commitment to ‘make Scotland the best place for children to grow up’, claiming that the vulnerable children in their care are discriminated against and under-supported. Other placards stated that discrimination between foster and kinship children is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Children and Young People, met with a delegation from the Alliance on Thursday evening to hear their concerns but did not promise any changes to the legislation which is being developed, angering the Alliance further.
See the coverage: STV Kinship carers in Scottish Parliament protest over ‘discrimination’
Evening Times Kinship carers stage protest at Holyrood
Daily Record Scottish Kinship Care Alliance protest against Children and Young People Act at Holyrood
“The Scottish Government claim they are ‘getting it right for every child’ but kinship children remain stigmatised and discriminated against. This is a wake up call to the SNP to stop trying to limit support in the Children and Young People Act, put serious finances behind kinship care, and make Scotland truly the best place for vulnerable children to grow up.”
The Alliance claim the new Kinship Care Order will further embed the existing discrimination between children in kinship care, and those in foster care. Foster care children currently receive much higher levels of financial support and access to essential services such as educational and psychological support, while kinship children often remain in poverty and without any help, and are even stigmatised by the Local Authority, as the Buttle UK’s 2013 report The Poor Relations highlights. The Buttle report claims that each informal kinship carer saves the taxpayer between £23,500 and £56,000 a year, despite many of these carers finding themselves in poverty, with 31% of these families unable to provide all of the eight basic items that most of us consider necessities, such as heating and winter clothes. 1 in 70 children in Scotland is in kinship care according to the report which is based on census data.
“Children in foster and kinship care have the same stories, the same needs, and can even be brothers and sisters. Yet they are treated totally differently by Local Authorities and the Scottish Government. Kinship carers are not asking for a wage, or any great reward, just the most basic services and support to help the children in their care cope with the trauma, separation and poverty they experience. Surely this is not too much to ask.”
The Alliance and its supporters assert that the Kinship Care Order, a new legal status for kinship placements proposed in the Children and Young People Act, will reduce, or at best fail to increase, support for children in kinship care by:
a) Reducing the number of kinship children with Looked After status over the coming years, instead placing them on a Kinship Care Order which does not entitle them to the same level of support.
b) Severely limiting the number of kinship care placements which can receive financial support, start up grants and support with the court costs of obtaining an order by imposing eligibility criteria which only entitle ‘children at risk of becoming Looked After’.
c) Failing to ensure that often traumatised kinship care children have priority access to psychological and educational support.
d) Leaving decisions on support to the discretion of Local Authorities, continuing the ‘postcode lottery’ of assistance for kinship placements which currently exists across Scotland.
These points are included in the Alliance’s recent response to the preliminary Secondary legislation for the Kinship Care Order. The response also notes that the Scottish Government’s review on financial support to kinship carers, expected by the end of 2013, is now well overdue, giving no assurances that the Scottish Government will provide a minimum financial allowance to all kinship care families to provide for the basic costs of childcare.
The Alliance had previously opposed the measures in the Bill and submitted a number of amendments with the help of Jayne Baxter MSP, but it was nonetheless passed without amendments in Holyrood in February, while kinship carers demonstrated loudly outside. The Financial Memorandum of the Bill openly states that the measures suggested will save the Scottish Government and Local Authorities money over the coming years, rather than increasing the investment into kinship care.