Health & Fitness: Concerns over potential kinship crisis in West Dunbartonshire - - PressFrom - United Kingdom

Health & Fitness Concerns over potential kinship crisis in West Dunbartonshire

19:40  18 october  2019
19:40  18 october  2019 Source:

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Until the mental health and addiction scourge in our communities is sorted out, generation after generation will be forced to become kinship carers, according to a leading campaigner.

Micheleine Kane of West Dunbartonshire Kinship Care has said the selflessness of those who step in to salvage their family is to be commended.

But the grandmother – who cares for her two grandchildren – this week told how she struggles to see how the cycle will be broken.

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She said: “Until addiction and mental health is properly dealt with, the authorities won’t be able to get a grip of the situation.

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“If you don’t stop this and get these kids to see there’s a better life, we don’t stand a chance. If we can’t break the cycle, our kids will be kinship carers and their kids will be kinship carers and that’s not what I want for modern day Scotland.”

The 50-year-old is involved with the support group which meets in Ben View in Dumbarton and is appalled that kinship care is on the rise.

Micheleine went on: “Kinship is a knock-on effect from poverty, from drugs and addiction closely followed by mental health.

“If they are in poverty and being affected by poverty they turn to drugs or alcohol and then incur mental health problems as a result of that.”

Kinship care comes about when a parent is unable to care for their child, mainly due to addiction or mental health problems, and another member of the family takes parental responsibility.

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Most often this is a grandparent but it can also be an aunt, uncle or, in one of the cases locally, a sister who cares for her younger sibling.

Micheleine explains how this turns the kinship carer’s life upside down at an already traumatic time.

She said: “Your whole social circle changes. In most cases, you are a grandparent being asked to be a parent again. Mother nature has not built us for this. I love my grandson with all of my heart but I wish it didn’t have to be like this. It’s soul destroying.”

In many instances the parent of the child dies or is so severely incapacitated that they are not able to look after them.

Not only does the kinship carer have to try and bring up the child, they must also try and support their relative through a devastating time of their life.

Micheleine said: “There are bereaved grandparents bringing up what’s left of their families.

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“If your child is still here you worry are you going to be the next bereaved grandparent.

“The grandparents have done nothing wrong and they have lost their own family but they are frightened to say no to taking these children in.

“Kinship is also a second chance for mothers and fathers to get their act together and go again. Once they are in foster care and adopted, there is no second chance.”

Micheleine herself became a grandmother and a kinship carer when she was 38 and feels that very little has changed since then despite steps being taken in the European court of human rights to recognise their role.

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She went on: “We were supposed to get parity in 2015 but there’s no parity.

“All looked after children in West Dunbartonshire are meant to be on par with foster kids.

“They know these kids are our blood and we won’t hand them back. I can’t believe I watch grown men reduced to tears because of this situation.”

Micheleine claims kinship carers lose out on vital support regarding benefits they are entitled to and respite care which she says is provided to foster care and it is up to groups like the one she runs to pick up the slack.

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She was recently left distraught after a kinship family came to her desperate for advice.

One of them had to give up a well-paid job to look after the child and they were left with no money from benefits for weeks.

Micheleine was in tears as she told us how the circumstances brought up memories of when she first became a kinship carer.

She continued: “In 2019, I shouldn’t be leaving my office, where I am a volunteer, in tears because I feel so bad for a kinship family who aren’t being supported properly. That was the one that really got to me.

“We are expected to provide a first class service but we are treated third rate. In Scotland, there are more kids in kinship care than in foster care. If all of those kids were to be in foster care, they couldn’t cope.”

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Last week we reported how the lifeline group is under threat after struggling to pay rent at Ben View due to lack of funding.

Over £10million was invested by the Scottish Government into kinship care in 2015 but Micheleine believes the figure may have to treble or even quadruple to keep up with demand.

She continued: “They will need to be looking at £30million or £40million.

“It all comes down to money. All of these kids lives come down to money.

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“The SNP wants this to be the best place in the world to bring up children but they won’t invest. That whole slogan makes me angry.

“I grew up in Possil and as a teen I saw the worst I thought I could.

“Now in West Dunbartonshire, I feel as though we are going back to that.

“The same problems are there, poverty, addiction. I have been here since I was 18.

“This area wasn’t blighted by that then but now it’s like taking a step back. It’s soul destroying.”

Additional work is being undertaken to bring kinship carers in line with foster parents, according to the Scottish Government.

They confirmed to the Lennox Herald this week that they are working with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) in order to “achieve consistency for children and young people in foster and kinship care”.

This follows a recent national review of care allowances .

A spokesperson also confirmed that more than £10million is pledged each year to local authorities “to raise kinship care allowances to the same level foster care families receive”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We value the important role played by kinship carers in providing stable and nurturing homes for children and young people when they are no longer able to live with their birth parents, which is why we have allocated £10.1million per year, since 2015, to local authorities to ensure parity of allowances between kinship and foster carers.”

Micheleine has criticised the Scottish Government for saying Scotland should be the best place for children to be brought up but, according to her, they are not providing the support required to looked after children, particularly those in kinship care.

The spokeswoman continued: “We are working with COSLA following our review of foster, kinship and adoption care allowances which is expected to be implemented from April.

“This will improve consistency and transparency for looked after children, their families and their carers across Scotland.

“We look forward to receiving the recommendations of the independent care review, which is being led by children with experience of care, so we can continue to work with kinship carers to make Scotland the best place for children and young people to grow up.”

The Lennox Herald asked West Dunbartonshire health and social care partnership, what steps are being taken to address addiction issues and mental health problems which Micheleine claims are causing the number of children in kinship care to increase.

A spokesperson for West Dunbartonshire health and social care partnership (HSCP) responded and said: “We are committed to supporting all families who face adversity and, through our comprehensive Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) approach, we assist families affected with poor mental health and substance misuse.

“All requests for additional supports are considered in the context of the child’s plan and carer’s support needs when reviewing arrangements for children looked after by a kinship carer.”

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