1st November 2010


At a time when value for money is at a premium, I met with a group of people this week who contribute to a £500 million saving to the public purse every year.

These are the grandmothers, brothers and sisters who step into difficult situations and provide stability to some of the most vulnerable children in society, with no thought for financial reward.

In fact, three out of four of these kinship carers live in poverty but still take on the care of children despite the obvious difficulties this brings.

For someone in their sixties or even their seventies, looking after a teenager full time is a difficult job, simply because the world has moved on since they were parents.

And finding money for the latest trainers or designer jackets when you are a pensioner on a fixed income is a challenge unheard of their day..

But these caring family members still take on this responsibility when the parental situation breaks down, often because of drug abuse, leaving children damaged and facing a life in care.

It is estimated that there are at least 13,000 children supported by kinship carers in Scotland.

While it’s accepted that kinship care is the best form of early intervention, financial support has fallen far short of what is needed and varies in different parts of the country.

With the UK Government, the Scottish Government and local authorities all having part responsibility for Scotland’s carers, we have hit an impasse in providing this support.

At an event to mark UK Grandparents Day this week, I was able to meet with many kinship carers, just as I have done with dozens in Inverclyde over the years.

These committed carers never fail to humble me with their personal stories and the fact that they are saving the state hundreds of millions of pounds by providing this care doesn’t come into consideration.

Maybe it should – then they would realise the bargaining power they have in calling in for the allowance they should be entitled to do.

Only real leadership from government will end this discrimination and meet our responsibilities to Scotland’s kinship carers.