A service which offers lifeline support for Scotland’s kinship carers has been taken over by new providers from this month.
Previously run by Citizens Advice Scotland, a joint bid by Adoption UK Scotland and AFA Scotland the Kinship Care Advice Service http://kinship.scot/ will see them run it for the next three years. Both organisations are dedicated to protecting and improving children’s welfare, and between them they have decades of experience working with families.
Current regional advisers, who have a wealth of expertise in their areas, are being transferred over to help develop the service with their new colleagues, with Adoption UK leading the front-line advice and support, and AFA Scotland training and supporting practitioners and agencies and working to improve policy at a local and national level.
What will be provided?
In addition to many of the existing services the new Kinship Care project will include a helpline for carers offering advice and signposting to welfare, support with benefits and helping them to access support for them and their children in their own area. The service recognises that there are differences in entitlements in different local authorities, and will support carers to access information about their rights.
They will also:
- Connect groups together and set up volunteer-led groups where none exist.
- Offer support for professionals, with consultation from Child Poverty Action Group and from AFA Scotland’s legal consultant.
- Plan training sessions in person and virtually.
- Organise family events throughout the year.
- Run Kinship week, to educate the public, raise awareness and celebrate families.
As well as maintaining the kinship.scot website and helpline, there will be factsheets developed for kinship carers and their families.
There will be an overlap between the FASD Hub service (also hosted by Adoption UK Scotland) providing support for biological, adoptive, foster and kinship families affected by prenatal alcohol exposure) for those accessing the kinship support service, and we expect referrals to come from both services to one another. Diane, kinship carer to her 7 year old grandson, has found this service to be invaluable:
“Being a kinship carer is isolating and challenging. I become involved with FASD and Adoption UK a few years ago when my grandson’s behaviour became more challenging and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was being mentioned. Knowing nothing about FASD and trying to navigate my way through a very confusing conflicting and lonely process, I reached out to the FASD Hub who have been amazing in explaining the process for diagnosis, the pathways and legislation.
They have been very proactive and supportive of my situation. Also, being able to access conferences and training is a lifeline to further my knowledge and understanding – this was difficult to access as a kinship carer from other services. It is imperative for kinship carers to be able to access these tools to provide the ongoing care for their loved ones.”
The shared knowledge of working with other bodies, and the training opportunities, should provide a more tailored approach for kinship carers.
Robin Duncan, director of AFA Scotland, is keen to hear from families to incorporate their views into the new service. He said: “Kinship carers have often had to fight hard to achieve recognition for the unique contribution they make and are not always well served by the system that should be there to support them. Our motivation to participate in running the service, however, is precisely because we believe that children in kinship care, their carers and all who support them should get greater recognition and better support.”
Fiona Aitken, director Adoption UK Scotland, said that some people had unfounded misconceptions about their involvement: “Adoption UK Scotland do not place children for adoption, or family find, but rather support families parenting care experienced children. Increasingly our work with the FASD Hub has us supporting foster and kinship families in addition to adoptive families.
“We understand the concerns of kinship carers that they may not have their unique needs met. The aim of the service is to ensure this happens, recognising the right of kinship carers to the support services that their families need.”
Karen, from central Scotland, who became a kinship carer before moving to permanent adoption, which is when she accessed support from Adoption UK Scotland.
“Going through kinship was fairly plain sailing, the lady was lovely, she was understanding and empathetic. It can feel a little intrusive as she went to neighbours my workplace etc. But she told us everything that would happen.”
Even now, Karen can pick up the phone any time she needs support, whether she’s having a tough day emotionally or needs help with the education or health system.
She said: “Without the support from Adoption UK Scotland we would have been left feeling very daunted and unsupported, they were at the end of the phone if we had any questions or if we were feeling overwhelmed. I feel it’s a vital service to support the families, I can’t speak for other people but it’s a roller-coaster of emotions and having that support network was vital for us.”
Another service user is Marion, from East Ayrshire, a kinship carer for her three great nephews who has accessed support from Adoption UK Scotland via FASD Hub Scotland. As well as receiving emotional support, one of the most helpful scenarios was a round the table meeting with other kinship carers, set up by the organisation.
“We travelled over to Edinburgh and met other families, to hear their experiences. I found that hugely beneficial, I didn’t feel so alone.”
Marion says kinship carers often don’t appreciate the scale of the situation they are taking on, and struggle to find help.
She added: “When this first began getting help was chaotic, it was very, very stressful and I felt we were working our way through blindly. Any additional support available is a huge bonus.”
Find out more about the support available at www.kinship.scot or call the helpline on 0808 800 0006