HUNDREDS of grandparents who look after young children are set to lose out as a result of new legislation passed by MSPs, campaigners claimed today.
Kinship carers in the Capital fear they will see a cut in the cash they are paid towards the cost of bringing up youngsters who would otherwise risk being taken into care.
The Children and Young People Bill, which passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament last night, will reduce the number of children with “looked after” status – which is needed to qualify for the city council’s kinship allowance.
Youngsters will instead be placed on a Kinship Care Order which does not entitle them to the same level of support.
The Kinship Care Alliance claims relatives and friends who accept responsibility for youngsters rather than see them being taken into care are saving taxpayers £600 million a year.
It warned the new legislation fails to address the “postcode lottery” which leaves the level of allowances to the discretion of local authorities.
Edinburgh pays among the higher rates. But Anne Gray, 49, from Stenhouse, who cares for her four-year-old grandson, fears the £77 a week she currently receives could be cut.
She has looked after the boy since he was six months old and says people like her need more help not less.
“Lack of support is a big issue,” she said. Respite arrangements to allow carers a weekend off and extra allowances to help with birthdays and Christmas are among the improvements carers would like to see, she added.
Kinship carers say they were promised the same level of allowance as foster carers but it has never happened.
Alliance chairwoman Anne Swartz said: “It is despicable that the Scottish Government is trying to further reduce support, which is already inadequate, under this Bill. Children in kinship care should not suffer because their family members have taken them into their care, where they have maximum stability and love, rather than letting them go into the foster or residential care systems. These children should have access to the same services as those in other forms of care.”
James Cameron, 55, and his wife Val, 54, from Niddrie, have looked after their granddaughters for the past decade. They receive tax credits and child benefits for the girls, now 14 and 12, but do not qualify for a care allowance.
He said Edinburgh had a good record on kinship care. “There was a bit of a worry when they published their draft budget and they were going to slash payments for new kinship carers. We had a meeting with the finance convener and explained they would be creating a two-tier system which was not acceptable and they didn’t go ahead with that.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This Bill will, for the first time, set out legal entitlement to kinship care assistance for families who apply for a kinship care order. It is estimated up to 500 informal kinship carers, who currently do not receive any support, could apply each year.”