Kinship Care WeekScotland’s kinship carers are often overlooked and undervalued by society despite making huge sacrifices to provide stable homes for vulnerable young people, according to the Kinship Care Advice Service for Scotland (KCASS).

Kinship Care Week (15-21 March) aims to provide these unsung, and sometimes invisible, heroes with the recognition they deserve and to encourage support agencies to work together to provide families with timely and appropriate support.

Research suggests the vast majority of kinship carers experience some form of hardship after taking over the care of a child of a family member or close friend. Many have to reduce their working hours, or give up work altogether, and they often find themselves in need of emergency financial and emotional support.

Recent Scottish Government statistics revealed there were 4,175 children living in kinship care in Scotland in 2019. However, it is estimated the true number could be as high as 11,000 when taking into account informal and private arrangements. Many of these families are not known to their local authority, meaning thousands of kinship carers could be missing out on vital support.

KCASS helps families in a range of ways, offering practical support and advice to families about finances, housing, education, dealing with trauma, mental health, legal matters, and more. Between September 2020 and February 2021, KCASS responded to 693 calls to its free helpline – more than 100 every month.

Susan Hunter, KCASS Project Coordinator, said: “It is our service’s role, in addition to providing kinship carers with financial, practical and emotional advice, to ensure their voices are heard when decisions are made which affect their lives, when legislation is introduced which impacts on their children’s futures, and when consultations are undertaken which explore the difficulties and struggles experienced by kinship families.”

Kinship Care Week features a range of webinars, training sessions and activities for carers, children and professionals. A full schedule of events can be found here. This year is the first time that KCASS has hosted the week since the service was taken over by Adoption UK in Scotland and the Adoption and Fostering Alliance (AFA) Scotland in September 2020, after previously being provided by Citizens Advice Scotland.

Fiona Aitken, Adoption UK’s Director in Scotland, said: “Kinship Care Week is an opportunity to highlight the amazing job that kinship carers do, along with the challenges that they face. We’re proud to work together with our partners to support kinship carers and their families. We hope this week puts kinship care families in the spotlight that they deserve.”

KCASS is funded by the Scottish Government and is committed to keeping The Promise, which pledges that children living in kinship care must receive the support they need to thrive.

Children’s Minister Maree Todd, who is taking part in an online Q&A session as part of the week, said: “Kinship Care Week is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the vital role kinship carers play in providing secure, stable and nurturing homes for children and young people who can no longer live with their parents. I’d like to thank all the carers, professionals and partner charities who have supported children and young people in kinship care during this difficult year.

“We are determined to improve the life chances of young people in kinship care through implementing the commitments made in The Promise, so they enjoy safe, fulfilling and loving childhoods. As part of that, the Scottish Government will work with partners, including KCASS, through the Kinship Care Collaborative to better support carers, children and professionals working with kinship families.”

Kinship carers experiencing difficulties or in need of advice are urged to call the free KCASS helpline on 0808 800 0006 from 10am – 2.30pm, Monday to Friday.