Sarah Wellard - Grandparenting, intergenerational care
December 2012 Sarah Wellard
Overview• About Grandparents Plus• Grandparents and kinship carers raising children• BME children in kinship care• Older kinship carers• What policy changes do we want to see to support kinship carers?
Who we are• Grandparents Plus is the national charity which champions the vital role of grandparents and the wider family in children’s lives, especially when they take on the caring role in difficult family circumstances.
Our aims• What want to redefine the family so that the role of grandparents and the extended family is better understood and supported by policy makers, service providers and employers.• We want better support for grandparents and other kinship carers who are bringing up children because parents cannot look after them.
What we do• Services for kinship carers – 200,000 grandparents, older siblings, aunts and uncles and other relatives bringing up children in the UK because of parental drug or alcohol misuse, death, serious illness or disability, imprisonment, abuse and neglect.• Advice and information, peer support network reaching 4,000 carers across England, mentoring and parenting support• Research and policy• Campaigning
Kinship carers• 200, 000 grandparents and other family members are bringing up children as a result of difficult family circumstances.• Approx 25,000 kinship carers are over 65.• Around half of those who are working give up work when children move in.• High proportion on low incomes, often dependent on benefits.• High levels of stress, isolation and poverty.• Often have multiple caring roles - 1 in 3 older carers• 3 in 4 older carers have a chronic health condition.
Children in kinship care• Children have suffered trauma and abuse and many have emotional problems and or disabilities – but have good outcomes, better than stranger foster care.• Many would be in care if their relatives had not stepped in.• Support provided by the state and children’s services is inadequate.
Ethnicity of children - (Census analysis)• Higher rates among ethnic minority children than white children.• Especially high rates among Black and Chinese teenagers.• BME findings may be explained by different cultural norms rather than high incidence of difficulties.
Too Old to Care? 2011 research findings• Comic Relief funded project on older kinship carers – survey, interviews and focus groups with older kinship carers, campaign aimed at local authorities.
Financial situationThe grandparents generally have low incomes. They put thechildren first. There may have additional costs on top of thosewhich parents would incur. Some are not claiming benefits.“You don’t have a retirement. You don’t go off on coach tripsand holidays. You haven’t got spare cash because you arespending it on school uniforms and bus passes.” (Grandmotherraising 16 year old grandson)“We spent £18,000 on legal fees. It’s money we could havedone with for fetching up the children.” (Grandfather in his late 60sraising three grandchildren aged six, seven and eight)“We haven’t had a boiler for two years so we don’t have hotwater or radiators.” (71 year old grandmother raising seven year old.)
• .... Money’s a problem. I try to overcompensate because before they missed out. They do scouts and cubs – NSPCC said why don’t you do that instead of respite? So they do do loads of camps and super activities and they do cost money and I find it really hard to say I can’t afford that. I certainly put them first money wise. There are times when we go to McDonalds and I get them something but I don’t have anything. My savings are right down to a hundred pounds and I’ve only got a pound in my purse til tomorrow
Grandparents’ health and wellbeingSeveral of the grandparents have severe health problems, insome cases exacerbated by the stress of their family situation.In most cases they do not significantly impact on their abilityto look after the children, but they may neglect their healthbecause they are focussed on the children. Some conceal illhealth from grandchildren to protect them. They may bereluctant to ask for help.“I get very tired and I get very stressed sometimes. A lot ofpeople who know me say, ‘You must take some rest, maketime for yourself’, but where? When? I’m managing though,I’m managing.” (Grandmother raising granddaughters aged six and 16)
This great-grandmother was approved as a fostercarer and receiving financial support, but no respite:“Social Services asked me to hang on because theyreally didn’t want the children to go into care but inthe end I developed ulcerative colitis. It was ahorrible time for me, I was terribly frightened aswell, I thought it was something worse. So I thoughtif they go into care just for a little while...”“My health is good. There’s a upside to having thechildren, it keeps you young, it keeps you active. 66these days is no age.” (Grandmother raising grandchildren aged 10 and 11)
The support grandparents receive from children’s services• Grandparents generally do not trust children’s services, and often fear children will be taken away.• Some grandparents feel that children’s services are ‘interfering’ or wouldn’t help.• Some do get financial and or practical support, but the support may not meet their needs.
“I was told I wasn’t entitled to respite because I wasa grandmother. I didn’t even have anybody whocould say, sit down have a cut of tea, I’ll take the girlsfor an hour or so.’ because everyone had to CRB’dand no-one wanted to.” (70 year old great-grandmother raisingthree great-granddaughters aged seven, eight and 11)“I asked for help but the social worker didn’t want toknow.” (Grandmother raising two grand daughters aged 6 and 16)
Relationships with the children’s parentsRelationships with children’s parents are often anongoing source of difficulty.“I had to bail my son out from time to time. Anysavings I had went. . As a teenager he got involved inblack youth culture and got into drugs. I’d wake up ifa car drove up in the middle of the night and think‘oh no’.” (66 year old grandmother raising two grandchildren aged 10and 11.)
Concerns about the children“People don’t always realise how damaged thechildren are. Social workers and GPs say theyare not children in need, but they haveemotional problems and behaviour problems.They don’t appreciate the lasting impact of theirexperiences.” Grandmother carer whose granddaughtersare in their 20s“How are they going to cope when you are notaround? That is a terrible worry.” Grandmother raising17 year old with Asperger’s syndrome
Benefits of family and friends careAll the children had contact with members of theirwider family including cousins and aunts. Oftengrandparents had backup plans if they were unableto care for some reason.Grandparents have a wealth of experience andwisdom:“In some ways you are a better parent. Now you aremuch more relaxed about the whole thing...You arewiser, better at knowing when to say something andwhen to listen.”Grandmother carer whose granddaughters are now in their 20s.
What needs to change for kinship carers ?• Parental leave and paid leave entitlement when they take on the care of vulnerable children so they can remain in the labour market.• Protection from the impact of Welfare Reform• Financial allowances to keep them out of poverty• Better services from local authorities for kinship carers and the vulnerable children they are looking after.
Recent action with kinship carers• Kinship carers’ summit in June• Local groups campaigning with local councillors and talking to the media• Significant concession on welfare reform, establishment of working party to look at taking forward agenda within government• Back our campaign! – email your MP and local councillors.www.grandparentsplus.org.uk