Vulnerable elderly carers ‘abandoned’ during Covid-19 pandemic
That’s the view of Jacqueline Williamson, Chief Executive of Derry-based Kinship Care, which has been providing emergency food parcels and other essential aid to families living in severe poverty.
She said: “Since lockdown, we have provided emergency food parcels for 261 kinship carers looking after 311 children. One lady with Stage 3 Cancer, who looks after two grandchildren, has been provided with four food parcels. She can’t leave her home. It is a priority for us to support this carer and other carers with significant health issues.
“Government guidance is that grandparents shouldn’t have any contact with their grandchildren but that isn’t an option for the families we support as many are raising their grandchildren. They have received no guidance or support from the authorities.”
Kinship Care closed its five shops at the beginning of March, with a loss of £2,600 in revenue per week but has since been swamped by families looking for help.
“Many of our older carers have pre-existing health conditions and are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. We realised they were going to be struggling with the lockdown and targeted those aged over 70 raising grandchildren and younger carers aged 18-25 bringing up younger siblings,” added Jacqueline.
The charity says it received no direct support from social services or the health trusts, who have a statutory duty to provide for these children. Faced with a collapse in income at a time when there is a huge demand for services, Kinship Care made an application to the Halifax Foundation for NI for £9,900 to provide services for carers in the Derry and Strabane areas, including food parcels and emergency activity packs for children.
Jacqueline added: “We spent the money in eight days. The charity sector is running out of money and organisations such as the Halifax Foundation for NI have jumped in and provided support to meet the immediate needs of very vulnerable families. The National Lottery has also helped, and we have received small amounts of money from other donors.”
It’s understood many elderly carers are looking after four or five grandchildren without a penny of support because they aren’t aware of any entitlement to financial aid or the parents of the children continue to claim child benefit, which prevents grandparents from making a claim for support. This is at a time, says Kinship Care, when these families urgently need money to feed the children under their care.