Children & Social Work Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by Lana Gayle (CSWB 40)

1. I am a Kinship carer of almost 3 years. I am a working single mother on a low income. I took on my nephew as, had I not, he would have ended up in local authority care.

I have saved the public purse thousands of pounds each year by preventing this. (My nephew shows signs of trauma, if he was fostered by a Treatment Foster Care Oregon carer they would have been paid £33,800 to care for him in 3 years, this calculation does not include on costs, CYPS, training, legal etc.

I have lost my home, my partner and quality of life.

Myself and my family have received barely any support for our commitment. This is a story shared by as many as 200,000 kinship carers in the UK. 95% of those children are not "looked after" according to "family rights group"

2. I believe my local authority could be acting unlawfully as it is incompatible with a convention right and article 14 of the human rights act 1998

Right not to be discriminated against

Article 1 recognises the right to peaceful enjoyment of property, this covers a wide range of meaning but where the state has created a system of benefits, al lowances, services and support, this must be compatible with article 14.

Article 14 states that discrimination is prohibited based on 'Social Origin', 'Birth' and 'Other', all of which I believe directly relate to the kinship care status vs local authority foster care status.

Kinship carers are not included in the child and social work bill. They potentially fit the 'Other' and 'Birth' status.

Kinship carers with special guardianship or informal arrangements where they are caring for children who are permanently not living with their parents but whereby it is known to social care that an agreement is in place, do not receive equal levels of support financially or emotionally or support accessing appropriate housing, an assessment of needs or support in education where needed.

The council have failed to base the calculations for financial support on families financial needs, they have completely overlooked the risk of breaching article 8

3. Article 8

Right to respect for private and family life

I feel there is an obligation to provide support in order to secure private and family life.

The right to family life includes the right to have family relationships recognised by the law.

Again this is incompatible with article 14 because kinship carers receive band 2 or 3 (depending on the amount of children) priority for rehousing whereas foster parents receive the highest level of priority band 1 if they are to become overcrowded by taking children into their care.

This is not justifiable especially if there is a court order in place and/or social care can confirm the arrangement. It took me 2 years to be rehoused. My toddler and Jacob were unable to share a room due to Jacob s additional needs, he is often violent and does not understand the consequences of his actions. I slept on my sofa for those years and my health suffered as a result physically and emotionally.

I further believe there to be a breach of article 2

Right to Education

4. Where possible an authority should ensure that policies do not interfere with a child's right to accessible education. How can local authority automatically consider a child's social history if they are "looked after" but dismiss the social history of a child in kinship care?

I have applied for an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP) for my nephew that has complex disabilities including brain damage not to mention that he is not in the care of his biological parents. His EHCP was refused and his care arrangement was never considered (as confirmed to me by the Bristol Special Educational Needs Team).

There is no audit trail for these children, how can they be catered for if they simply are not acknowledged and therefore do not exist?

Why are children in kinship care not allocated an authoritative figure that is qualified to monitor and a ddress their needs in and after school. It would seem that they are being thrown into very ordinary expectations under very extraordinary circumstances. Circumstances that are usually equal to those in foster care or can exceed in severity.

Further to this, how is that children in local authority care are given first priority to their school of choice? Looked after children are not given any priority at all. When applying for Jacobs senior school I am faced with uncertainty and anxiety that he will not end up in a school best prepared for his needs. You see he has not been deemed disabled enough for a special school but as he isn't looked after we have no priority in choosing his mainstream school. School admissions in

Bristol prioritise children that are looked after. Two siblings can share the same story but be separated by status and therefore be treated entirely differently by not only my local authority but by our UK government.

5. The United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states as follows

Children not living with their parents:

If you are not living with your parents, or have had to be removed from your parents, the Government must make sure that you are cared for, and that you are given special assistance and protection (article 20). This can include, for example, making sure there are foster carers available.

If you are looked after by local authorities (e.g. in foster care) or put in a special facility to provide you special care or treatment for a physical or mental health problem, you must have someone review your situation regularly (article 25).

Why is this not applicable to children in Kin care

Children with disabilities: If you have a mental or physical disability, the Government must make sure that you are able to live a full and decent life and they must help you to do be able to do things independently, and be involved in the community. People who care for you must be given support if they need it (article 23).

6. The Children and Social Work Bill is an opportunity for the Government to provide a clearer framework of support for ALL children who cannot live with their parents and are living in alternative permanence arrangements.

We propose that this Bill truly does provide a clearer framework of support for ALL of these children, this will include children in Kinship Care. Currently children in Kinship Care are not entitled to support including financial support, educational support, housing support, emotional support of after-care.

Children in Kinship Care have often experienced the same types of trauma that all children who go into care experience. They can, in fact, be more at risk than a child in foster care as there is no monitoring or audit trail and this combined with a lack of support for the kinship family can cause family breakdown.

We propose that Kinship Carers are treated equally to Foster Carers and supported in the same way. We wish any new clause to ensure this so that any financial, educational, housing, emotional and after-care support is equal to that of a foster carer. This support will keep Kinship families together, functioning, thriving and in terms of social return on investment save many millions of pounds as these families will not cost services in the future either themselves or intergenerationally .

December 2016

 

Prepared 5th January 2017