by Heather Scally,
Mentor UK, Scotland
“I just felt so lost, I didn’t know where or who to turn to”
Over the last three years, Mentor has been working closely with kinship carers across Scotland as part of a European project. Our research published earlier this year, shows that a lack of support for kinship carers is still badly letting down the children in their care.
Traumatic early experiences mean around half of all children being looked after by kinship carers have serious emotional or behavioural problems. Their carers often struggle to cope and many worry that as the children reach their teenage years, they will follow their parents by turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with stress, or to fit in with their peer group.
Carers told us that they wanted support and advice in dealing with these specific issues, and also support for the children.
“My granddaughter constantly hits me. One minute she can be a lovely little girl, then she turns to this horrible monster. I just don’t know what to do with her.”
As kinship carers deal with emotional turmoil, they also face a financial drain on resources. Beds, clothes, furniture and toys must be bought and savings quickly disappear. There is no consistent definition of kinship care amongst Scotland‘s 32 local authorities and each treats kinship carers differently.
“I get £74 a week, while Sue gets £57 and Liz gets £26 and yet we are all in the same arrangement, it just doesn’t make sense.”
The lottery of financial support also extends to whether a carer receives practical help. The majority of kinship carers are not in touch with services at all, but for those who are, there is no guarantee that their social worker will have the knowledge or find the time to help them effectively. Kinship support groups can be a lifeline where they exist, but many carers do not have access to them and remain isolated.
Mentor will continue to make the case for a consistent entitlement for kinship carers for support and services to meet their needs. We also want to help carers access what they are entitled to and will shortly be launching an updated edition of our successful guide for kinship carers in Scotland and the professionals who work with them. The guide will be available for download on www.mentoruk.org.uk from the middle of December and hard copies will be widely distributed across Scotland by the Scottish Government.