Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by CHILDREN 1st (CF 91)

Introduction

1. CHILDREN 1ST believes that when it is appropriate and safe to do so, children and young people should be supported to stay with their families. Our belief is informed by over 125 years’ experience of listening to, supporting and taking action for vulnerable children and young people in Scotland. Throughout our long history, first as RSSPCC, we have worked to create kinship care family arrangements for children who can no longer stay with their parents. Moreover, we have contributed our knowledge and expertise to the development of policy and law around kinship care and played a full role in contributing to the development of the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 which, for the first time, created a statutory framework for assessment and support of children moving into kinship care.

2. Since 2011, we have been commissioned by the Scottish Government to develop and implement a national kinship care service providing advice, information, training and support for kinship care families. We have engaged with kinship carers with looked after and non looked after children across Scotland listening to their views and experiences and mapping what sort of support they currently receive and consider necessary to support their caring role. In Spring 2012, we facilitated the publication of a manifesto for change, the content of which was produced and agreed by kinship carers from eight local authority areas in Scotland and which was used by kinship carers and kinship care groups all over Scotland to influence the local government elections in their area.

3. There are approximately 3800 known kinship carers in Scotland and an estimated 17,000 additional hidden/informal arrangements. Research shows that when a child is unable to remain living with their parents their needs are best met within a kinship care arrangement with an extended family member or close family friend. Kinship carers play an important role in society both in providing a loving and stable environment for children as well as saving local authorities and the Government the costs of accommodating children in residential or foster care placements. CHILDREN 1ST believe that it is in the best interests of society as a whole to support kinship carers as much as possible.

4. CHILDREN 1ST welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Children and Families Bill Committee. This evidence relates to Parts 6 and 7 of the Children and Families Bill: Statutory Rights to Leave and Pay and Time Off Work: Ante-Natal Care Etc. In particular, it addresses kinship cares in Scotland.

Part 6: Statutory Rights to Leave and Pay

5. CHILDREN 1ST would like to see statutory rights to leave and pay extended to family or friends who assume the care of a child in a kinship care arrangement. The right to request up to 4 weeks paid leave with the option to request an additional 4 weeks unpaid leave would enable kinship care families time to adjust to the new arrangement and put in place the necessary provisions required to continue in employment. It would be reasonable to stipulate that a request for leave of this nature would have to be made within 1 week of the care arrangement being entered into.

6. Through the work undertaken by the National Service, CHILDREN 1ST is aware that many kinship carer arrangements occur at very short notice. Due to the often unforeseen nature of the situation kinship carers struggle to secure time off work resulting in many kinship carers giving up their employment. Affording new kinship carers 4 weeks paid leave with an option to request a further 4 weeks unpaid leave would give families the breathing space they need to settle the child/children into their new home and/or put a system in place which would enable them to continue working.

7. Employers could evidence the care arrangements by requesting written confirmation from the local authority.

8. The 4 week paid leave would also enable kinship carers to start the process of applying for flexible working if appropriate.

Part 7: Time Off Work: Ante-Natal Care Etc.

9. CHILDREN 1ST would again like to see the time off work provisions extended to kinship care families applying for a s.11 order under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (s.11 order). Kinship carers applying for a s.11 order are doing so to secure the child’s/children’s placement and provide stability and security for their future.

10. Through the engagement work undertaken by the National Service, we are aware that there is no consistency in the way such requests are dealt with by employers which again often results in kinship carers having to give up their employment. CHILDREN 1ST would like Part 7 of the Bill extended to provide kinship carers with the right to request time off to attend up to two appointments/court hearings in relation to a s.11 order application.

11. If you have any questions about this response or would like any further information please contact CHILDREN 1 ST’ ‘s Kinship Care Policy and Outreach Officer.

April 2013

Prepared 24th April 2013