Kinship battle goes to Stormont

Jacqueline Williamson, centre, from Kinship NI, pictured with Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey and Children's Commissioner Patricia Lewsley at the launch of the 'Buttle UK' report in Stormont.

Jacqueline Williamson, centre, from Kinship NI, pictured with Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey and Children's Commissioner Patricia Lewsley at the launch of the 'Buttle UK' report in Stormont.

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The Derry woman behind the Kinship Care charity, which supports carers within families who look after children when their parents are no longer able to do so, took to the podium at Stormont last week where the staggering findings of a UK study were revealed for the first time.

The research provides the most comprehensive picture to date across the UK of informal kinship care and was carried out by the University of Bristol in partnership with the Children’s Grant giving charity Buttle UK.

Speaking after the Stormont event where kinship carers themselves were given a chance to speak about their experiences, local woman Jacqueline Williamson said it was a chance to bring to the forefront what remains a largely hidden issue.

“Kinship carers struggle with everything,” said Jacqueline. “And at Stormont last week we were given the platform to speak up about those issues.”

Among the research published was the fact that each child cared for in an informal kinship care arrangement saves the taxpayer between £23,500 and £56,000 a year. It was also revealed that many of the children cared for within these arrangements do better long term than children who enter into the formal care system.

Many of the positive findings however are to the detriment to the people giving the care as Jacqueline explained.

“Kinship carers struggle with everything, nothing comes easy,” she said. “They deal with a number of issues like access to benefits, trying to find support, breakdowns in relationships with other family members, but on the other side, children come out of these situations doing exceptionally well because their carers have done so much for them. As a result however, the carer’s health and well being often suffer and that’s something that as an organisation, we’re determined to tackle.

“We’ve been pushing for financial support for carers but it’s about much more than that too. Really what we want is recognition for these amazing people who with very little consideration for themselves give vulnerable young people a secure home.”

In the coming weeks Kinship Care NI, founded by Jacqueline, will open the first purpose built centre for kinship carers and young people in Derry. The centre will provide support as well as operating as a drop in facility.

“We’ll also offer an advice and befriending service and a number of programmes and activities. It’s a facility which is badly needed and while we’ve come a long way we firmly believe there’s much more work to be done in this area.”