Martin Johnstone: Kinship carers want justice

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Today kinship carers from every part of Scotland have been demonstrating outside the Scottish Parliament demanding justice for the children in their care.

They are primarily women and often grandmothers. For many, their lives were turned upside down when they got a knock at the door from someone, often a social worker, asking them to take in a member of their family. If they say ‘Yes’ – the natural thing to do – then their lives are irrevocably changed. They are left looking after a child (sometimes more than one) who has often been deeply traumatised.

The real injustice is that they all too often have to cope without adequate support from the state. Through the Scottish Kinship Carers Alliance, which has organised today’s Day of Action, I know of one Edinburgh woman who said ‘Yes’ the first time the social worker called but felt unable to say ‘Yes’ the second time. She could not see how she could cope. That second child has since been in 12 foster homes.

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill is currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament. On the surface it looks like a positive step forward – a new special Kinship Care Order is being proposed. But sadly kinship carers have felt it necessary to oppose the proposed legislation. They believe, rightly, that it does not go far enough. Indeed, they are concerned that it would actually make things worse.

What the alliance is asking for is very simple – what these children need. First and foremost that includes the chance to grow up in their own families. It also includes access to the sort of services which will help them to recover from the trauma that they have experienced and enough money to be able to care adequately for them as they are growing up. I know lots of kinship carers. I know the spectacular work they are doing. I believe that they need and deserve our support.

• Martin Johnstone is priority areas secretary of the Church of Scotland and secretary of Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission