Challenging poverty in kinship care | CPAG

Challenging poverty in kinship care

Published on: 
01 October 2021

Child Poverty Action Group works on behalf of the more than one in four children in the UK growing up in poverty. It doesn’t have to be like this. We work to understand what causes poverty, the impact it has on children’s lives, and how it can be prevented and solved – for good.

At CPAG in Scotland we have lots of resources and support for advisers, including those who are supporting kinship carers. We have up-to-date information on social security benefits and the interaction with other financial support, training and our advice line for advisers, which helps people navigate their way through what can be quite a minefield. Our Early Warning System gathers case studies to monitor how the social security system is working and uses this information to inform our policy work and to feedback to the agencies delivering benefits.

We know that kinship carers can be disproportionately affected by poverty. This might be because they take on the care of a child or children at a time of their lives when they were not planning to do so. It may be because they have to give up work to care for a child, or reduce their working hours. The reasons are many and varied. Added to this can be the difficulties of having to navigate a complicated and sometimes inconsistent system of financial support, both from the social security system and, sometimes, from their local authority.

Over the past decade or so, we have produced a range of resources to help kinship carers, and those supporting them, understand the financial support available to them. In doing so, our aim has been to help kinship carers get the financial support they are due. This work has led us to our current role of providing support - in the shape of information, resources and training - to the Kinship Care Advice Service for Scotland.

On our advice line for advisers, our welfare rights workers deal with hundreds of enquiries every month. These come from a wide range of front-line advisers and workers from across Scotland and cover all sorts of social security problems. The enquiries relating to kinship care issues demonstrate the kinds of complexities and difficulties that carers can face trying to navigate the social security system and other financial support. Over the past few years, we have seen more and more enquiries about universal credit - in particular, about whether kinship carers can get the ‘child element’ of universal credit for the child or children they care for.

Advice line case study

An adviser contacts CPAG advice line about a kinship carer they are advising. The kinship carer is caring for her niece, who is ‘looked after’ by the local authority under a compulsory supervision order. She is getting universal credit and it includes the ‘child element’ for the niece. The local authority pay a kinship care allowance and deduct the universal credit child element. The adviser wants to check if this is correct. We advise that the child element should not be payable because of the child’s looked after status and that it is really important to get it sorted out as any overpayment of UC can be recovered from the claimant no matter what has caused it. The kinship are allowance should be adjusted to reflect the fact that the child element is not payable.

We see how important good advice, accessed at the right time, can be.

Advice line case study

A social worker contacts CPAG advice line about a kinship carer they are supporting. The kinship carer is caring for her two young grandchildren. The children are not ‘looked after’ by the local authority, there is a kinship care order in place and she gets a kinship care allowance from the local authority. The kinship carer has recently reached state pension age and has retired. She just has her state pension and child benefit for the children, plus a disability benefit for one of the children (disability living allowance, middle rate care component). Her social worker wants to check if she can get any further support for the children through the social security system. We advise that she can claim state pension credit, including child additions, to top up her state pension. She also has an underlying entitlement to carer’s allowance which will increase the level of pension credit she gets. It turns out that she should also be getting guardian’s allowance. Although some of these extra amounts will be deducted from her kinship care allowance, not all of it will be and she should have a net gain of around £85 a week.

In Challenge Poverty Week, our key message for kinship carers and those who support them is just how important good advice can be.

The Kinship Care Advice Service for Scotland is the Scottish-Government funded service for Scotland’s kinship carers and their families. Contact the Helpline on 0808 800 0006 (Mon to Fri 10:00am – 2.30pm) and follow the Service on Facebook.

See here for details of CPAG in Scotland’s advice line for advisers.

Read our factsheets:

Kinship carers and benefits - the essentials

Universal credit and kinship carers

Scottish child payment and kinhsip carers

Feel free to use the online version of the Children’s Handbook Scotland which covers lots of these tricky issues in clear and helpful way.

Remember, getting good advice about financial support and getting it at the right time, can make a huge difference to kinship carers and the children they care for.