A Derry based organisation which supports children and carers where parental care is not possible, has recovered over £100,000 in unclaimed benefits for its service users since the opening a support service in the city 9 months ago.
Jacqueline Wilson, the founder and director of the Kinship Care charity says the money - a figure of £101,604 in total - has lifted vulnerable children in the city and elsewhere out of situations of poverty.
“That money has been secured for extended family members who wouldn’t have known that they could claim things like child benefit, tax credits, pension credits, guardians’ allowances and numerous other benefits,” Ms. Williamson explained. “For extended family members who take over the care of children within their family, the priority is making those children feel secure and getting them settled. Very often, children are coming out of traumatic situations, their worlds have been turned upside down and the family members who take over their care aren’t thinking about money at all.
“As a result, we’ve seen people struggle to feed the extra mouths and struggle to heat their homes and as a result of all that pressure it often has a detrimental effect on the physical and mental health of the carer.”
Ms. Williamson, a passionate advocate of kinship care, says that because of the lack of awareness around financial issues in particular carers and children have been losing out.
“Children in kinship care are twice as likely to live in poverty. I’ve seen people who don’t have carpets on the floor and there are situations where elderly people are sleeping on sofas just to be able to accommodate the children who need them.
“When things settle down after a child has moved in with relatives, that’s usually the point when carers come to us and thanks to our Caring for Kin and our helpline which operates in Mid Ulster, we’ve been able to support and adovcate on behalf all of the people who’ve come through our doors.”
The Big Lottery funded Kinship Care support and drop in centre on Derry’s Carlisle recently welcomed the 100th child to the service, a milestone which Jacqueline and her team are delighted with,
“That’s a big achievement for us and we’re delighted to have made such a positive impact on the lives of our kinship carers and their children but it’s important to stress that the work we do is ongoing. Kinship carers are doing fantastic jobs in situations which are extremely challenging.”