We would like to say a huge thank you to Teesside university students who spent their own money to make Christmas magical for kinship families across Middlesbrough, as they buy presents for young people in kinship care.

There are estimated to be over 9,000 children growing up with relatives in the North East. Teesside has one of the highest concentrations of kinship carers in the country, with an estimated 2,200 children growing up in kinship care. These figures could be even higher as they do not include children being looked after by family friends.

Many kinship carers step in quickly in a climate of crisis and fear, with little time or access to independent information and advice, or support to consider their options. Only later do they realise that support is determined by the child’s legal order – it is usually discretionary and it can be means tested, time limited or cut for good.  

Kinship carers often have to give up their jobs to take in the children. Other kinship carers are retired and trying to raise children on a pension. Without entitlement to financial support they can end up plunged into poverty and living in inadequate housing. They frequently can’t afford beds, school uniforms or activities and can become reliant on food banks. Many are raising children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, having often suffered neglect, abuse and a chaotic early life.

Lucy Peake, our Chief Executive said: “Christmas is a particularly challenging time for kinship carers. There may be difficult family relationships to manage, and on top this they want to make it a special time for their little ones but can’t afford to put food on the table, let alone buy them gifts.

“Many kinship carers are aware that when they return to school the students will all be comparing presents and they don’t want their children to feel left out, especially as they may already be the odd one out and experience bullying because they don’t live with ‘mum and dad’.”

After hearing about kinship care through university lecturers, Teesside University student, Lisa Rayner decided to take action. Her class, who are all qualified nurses studying the Specialist Community Public Health Nursing Course, decided to each buy two presents for children in kinship families in Middlesbrough.

All of the students work with children in Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust’s 0-19 health visiting and school nursing services across North Yorkshire and the North East.

Lisa said: “Many of the group are parents and we understand ourselves how challenging this time of year can be. We thought it would be a lovely idea to support some families and hopefully make Christmas time a little easier for kinship families involved with Grandparents Plus.”

Lucy said: “We’d like to thank every student who dug into their own pockets and helped make Christmas magical for kinship families across Middlesbrough.”