Kinship Carers

Older lady and young boy

What is a Kinship Carer?

Kinship carers are relatives (grandparents, siblings, Aunts, Uncles or other relatives) or even sometimes just friends of the family, who provide full time (either temporary or permanent) caring support for a child or children of parents who are unable to provide care and support. These children and young people are known as kinship kids. Almost half of kinship kids have a disability or emotional difficulty. 

There are a number of ways in which children can live with people other than their parents. There are also many different reasons why a child may be raised or living with a kinship carer. This could be because of parental death, imprisonment, mental illness, substance misuse and separation of parents. Kinship care often happens following a crisis situation. It can be extremely stressful for both the kinship carer(s) and the kinship kid(s).

Kinship Care is an arrangement for a relative or close friend to provide care for a child. This may be an informal arrangement (for example, placed there by the child’s parents without the involvement of the local authority) or a formal arrangement (for example, placed there by the local authority and where a Legal Order has been obtained). When arrangements have been formalised by the court, the kinship carer then has parental responsibility. 

The majority of kinship carers are relatives of the child or who have parental responsibility for the child through a Court Order. Many of these arrangements have been undertaken without involvement of the local authority. Families might need advice and assistance during the early stages of considering whether to care for a relative or a friend’s child.

Advice is available from Grandparents Plus and the Multi-Agency Screening Team (MAST). MAST is the first point of contact for Early Help and kinship carers will be offered support, advice, signposting and information. Kinship carers experience some of the most difficult challenges.

They can often be in poor health due to the stress, anxiety and issues that have led to them becoming a kinship carer. Many kinship carers are aged over 50 and may already be in a caring role, such as looking after an elderly relative. They then take on the responsibility of looking after kinship kids and juggle a duel caring role. Benefits for kinship carers are totally different from Foster Carers. Kinship carers are able to claim for Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits but may not receive any other financial support. Not all kinship carers are able to access additional welfare benefits. For most kinship carers this can lead to extreme financial hardship and poverty. They may face housing issues such as too small a dwelling due to kinship kids living with them.

They often have very limited access to information, advice or advocacy. Above all, they need to know where and who to go to for help including finding out what they may be entitled to claim (for themselves and their kinship kids). Children and young people change over the years. The Early Help and Partnership Team can provide the right support at the right time to help kinship kids and kinship carers get the most out of family life. kinship carers often say the rewards are enormous and would not have made a different choice if asked again to take on this difficult and challenging role.

Useful contacts
  • Adult Social Care Single Point of Access (SPA) 01642 726004
  • Carers Together (Adult Carers) 01642 488977
  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) 0344 4994110
  • Department of Works & Pensions (DWP) 0843 5158313
  • Emergency Duty Team (EDT) 08702 402994
  • Family Information Directory Service 01642 354200
  • Grandparents Plus 0330 0167 235, Advice Service number 0300 123 7015 
  • Multi-Agency Screening Team (MAST) 01642 726004
  • Parents4change 01642 200526/ 0758 4055639  
  • SEND & Vulnerable Learners 01642 201831  
  • South Tees Youth Offending Team 01642 201888                        
  • Staying Put Agency 0800 5875184    
  • Tees Valley Housing 0800 0461600
  • The Junction (Young Carers) 01642 756000
  • Welfare Rights 01642 729242          

Middlesbrough Kinship Active

Kinship Active provides a supportive environment allowing kinship families to get more active together. Families have access to project workers, free or low-cost local activities and a peer support network.

This is a three-year project funded by Sport England until August 2021 for kinship families in Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and is run in partnership with Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation and Teesside University.

Project workers also provide one-to-one support for families – discussing the specific challenges they face, developing activity plans together, supporting participants to access specialist health services if required and working towards achievable outcomes.

Through building strong local partnerships the project has been able to organise low cost activities including low cost swim sessions, free table tennis, walking groups, community café sessions, dance classes and over 130 kinship carers and their children come on day trips for fun activities. Activities are as local as possible to avoid transport costs.  

You can refer a kinship carer to the Kinship Active programme by contacting Sue Wadwell 07943 865586 or Jane Hamer 07943 865601. 

Peer support

A group of kinship families meet at Grove Hill Community Hub on Tuesdays 10:30- 12 noon. The group is a well established active group that welcomes new kinship carers and their families to come together and meet others in similar situations. The group help each other with practical things such as clothes and toy swaps and also play bingo and have a tombola as well offering peer support. Due to current social distancing rules the group are not currently meeting. We will update this as soon as the group is back up and running.