Calls for government to offer same support to kinship carers as adoptive parents

  • ITV News Central Health Correspondent Nancy Cole speaks to one of thousands of kinship carers in the East Midlands.

A woman who became the full-time guardian of a toddler with just two weeks' notice is calling for more support for 'kinship carers'.

Sarah Cassidy, from Nottingham, started looking after her young nephew a few years ago when his parents could no longer look after him.

This arrangement - when a relative or family friend take in a child - is known as kinship caring.

After doing this, Sarah quickly realised the lack of support available to people in her position.

Kinship carers have no equivalent to statutory maternity leave or adoption leave, which can leave many struggling to pay bills and hold onto their job.

Luckily, Sarah's workplace and the local authority supported her, allowing her to take a year off from work to transition her nephew into his new home.

But she says it's not right that the systems aren't in place for that to be standard practice.

Sarah says kinship carers should have the same support as adoptive parents. Credit: ITV Central News

Sarah said: "I've heard some really, really harrowing stories from other people and actually I think I'm really lucky because not only did my employer say ‘yes, we'll match the adoption provision'.

"But my assessing social worker during my assessment said that we would benefit from lost earnings, which enabled me to take another six months off work."

Sarah added: "We are a parent so why is there a two-tier system where kinship carers aren't recognised as parents and given that same leave and that same security? Why do we have to ask for it? 

"Why do we have to bargain for it? Why do we have to have the uncertainty? When we're already dealing with so much like a huge assessment process and all the stress of the family being in crisis and not being able to care for their child?" 

In the East Midlands, there are 15,290 thousand children living with a kinship carer.

Figures from the charity Kinship reveal those living in the East Midlands:

In the East Midlands there are 15,290 thousand children living with a kinship carer. Credit: ITV Central News

Sam Turner, Kinship's Head of Policy and Public Affairs, says the government needs to "step up" and provide a financial allowance to people like Sarah.

He said: "We'd also like to see them provide kinship carers with a right to pay family from employment like adoptive parents get."

Earlier this month, the government announced plans to introduce measures to support wider family networks and help keep children out of the care system.

As part of that, training and support will be given to kinship carers, though it's not yet clear if it will guarantee financial support for all.

A year on, and Sarah is returning to work.

She said: "My nephew has had some really difficult experiences and he really needs that time to feel fully settle, safe and now going back into work safe in the knowledge that I know he's fully settled and enjoys nursery I can leave him and he knows I'm coming back and all of those things are really, important."

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