It feels like as a family carer I'm discriminated against!

Post Reply
twinsauntie
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2018 12:28 pm

It feels like as a family carer I'm discriminated against!

Post by twinsauntie » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:08 pm

I don't know if anyone else is in the same situation and can advise me, but I am at a loss as to who to turn to and just don't seem to be getting anywhere!

My 11 year old twin nieces have been living with me since September 2017, their father abandoned them when they were 2 and currently lives somewhere abroad, their mother is an alcoholic and it is not safe for the children to live with her. There has been a family 'arrangement' put in place which gave her space to seek help and try to recover but instead she has got worse. My sister was on benefits
and was meant to be giving me financial support for the girls which over the last 9 months has been sporadic if at all. As a result I am in debt. I have been told that I should now apply for child benefit and universal credit which I am doing but have yet to receive anything.

No legal arrangement such as special guardianship or child arrangement order has been put in place as of yet, though social services have said it would be quicker to do it privately than wait for them to go through the process. I don't know which would be the best route for me and cannot afford a solicitor to advise me.

If I wasn't here the girls would be in foster care and I just cannot put them through that on top of what they have already been through. I have absolutely no interest in any financial gain from looking after the girls, but I thought I would get support for it. If I was a foster carer I would receive immediate financial support, yet as a family member I get nothing, it just doesn't seem right!

My whole life has been turned upside down, I went self employed before the girls came into my care and was building up a client base, but I haven't been able to build it due to the circumstances. I have got my head around the fact that the girls will be in my care long term, but I don't know which road I should go down that will keep the girls safe but not penalise me financially for doing so.

Any help or advise would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.

User avatar
Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 519
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: It feels like as a family carer I'm discriminated against!

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Mon Jul 02, 2018 2:48 pm

Dear twinsauntie

Welcome to the Family and Friends Carers discussion board and thank you for your post. My name is Suzie, FRG’s online adviser. I am sorry that we were not able to respond to you before now and also to hear about the difficulties that you and your nieces have been experiencing.

It sounds is you have stepped in to care for the girls as their parents cannot but this has left you under considerable financial strain and lacking support.

You mention that it is a family “arrangement” – do you mean that this was put in place independently by the family i.e between your sister and you without children’s services’ involvement?

If children’s services were involved in making the placement with you then do seek further advice from us urgently about this. Also read the information on pages 13 to 17 of Relatives and friends taking on the care of a vulnerable child in an emergency which explains what should happen if children’s services place a looked after child with relatives i.e. they must assess you and pay you as a foster carer for the children.

However, if the plan for the girls to live with you was made directly between your sister and yourself then it is a private arrangement. In this situation the girls’ parents remain financially responsible for them (although this does not necessarily mean that they will pay for their children’s upkeep) but you are entitled to apply for benefits or tax credits to support you to care for the children.

Children’s services are involved though – is this because your nieces are seen as children in need with a child in need plan in place? If so, children’s services certainly have a power (but not a duty) to help you and the children in any way that is identified in their child in need plan. They could help you with items that the girls need or with a financial payment although this is less likely and dependent on assessed need. If you have not been consulted on the plan for the children then you should insist that you are, as their current carer.

If the girls have a child protection plan then they are considered to be at risk of harm and so children’s services have a legal duty to be involved; there is a also a stronger argument that they should support their carer to keep them safe.

Have you been given a copy of the local authority’s Family and Friends Care policy? If not you may be able to find a copy in local policies or ask the social worker to give you a copy. This should explain more about what help may be available.

Has a family group conference (FGC) ever been offered to the family? This might be a good idea to work out longer term plans for the girls and to identify support needs. The person with parental responsibility would need to agree.

At the moment, you do not have parental responsibility for the girls; their mother (and possibly father) does. Children’s services do not (unless they have a court order). It seems as if the possibility of a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) or Special Guardianship Order(SGO) have been discussed but no specific option recommended or action taken. If you do want to apply for parental responsibility and children’s services also recommend that this is best then you can ask them to support you to apply (e.g. to pay court fees etc.), to help you with legal fees or advice (if you are not eligible for legal aid – do check if you are first – you might be if the children are or have been on a child protection plan and if your application will be opposed) and definitely to assess your and the children’s support needs including for a CAO allowance or SGO allowance . You should ask for a copy of their policy on help with legal fees and on when CAO allowances or SGO allowances are paid in your area. Both allowances are means-tested and discretionary and you have a stronger argument to receive them if the children have been looked after first.

You can find out more here about applying for a DIY Child Arrangements Orders: information for family and friends carers or a DIY Special Guardianship Orders - information for family and friends carers and the different options for support.

You are not alone in feeling poorly treated as a family carer. You can find out more here about how the Kinship Care Alliance campaigns to help family carers.

If you cannot get any help or are unhappy about the situation is being assessed you could make a complaint .

You may also want to have a look at the Local Government Ombudsman’s (LGO) reports on family and friends’ care issues as they have found in favour of relatives in a number of recent cases. However, you are required to have exhausted the local authority’s complaints process before contacting them.

You might also be interested in knowing about the work of the Buttle Trust charity which focuses on support for family and friends carers as one of its priorities.

I hope this is helpful.

Best wishes

Suzie

twinsauntie
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2018 12:28 pm

Re: It feels like as a family carer I'm discriminated against!

Post by twinsauntie » Mon Jul 02, 2018 4:38 pm

Hi Suzie, thank you so much for your reply, that's been the best support I have had in the last 10 months! I'll go through it all, take it in and reply!

twinsauntie
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2018 12:28 pm

Re: It feels like as a family carer I'm discriminated against!

Post by twinsauntie » Tue Jul 03, 2018 8:45 am

Hi Suzie,
The arrangement whereby the girls were put into my care was initiated by Social Services. They were no longer safe with their Mother, so, to prevent them having to go into care I was happy to look after them (and still am). A child protection / child in need plan is in place. In September last year, my sister was supposed to be paying me a weekly amount to cover the cost of my caring for the girls, she was also supposed to see the girls on specific days. This didn't last very long and resulted in my looking after the girls more, spending more, not being able to do my work properly and not getting anything to help. In fairness, our social worker has fought to get me me some help but this has 'reached a maximum' and no where near covered the costs in reality.
We have had a family group conference, my sister didn't show as she was drunk, but from that, all that was established was that she wasn't allowed to pick them up from school anymore (she previously did 3 times a week before she dropped them back at mine - but has admitted to driving drunk with them) so I pick them up every day which results in my work suffering, and if she does see them I have to breathalise her first - which was agreed with all of us. Nothing was ever mentioned about money and to be honest I didn't event think about it at the time, I just needed to make sure the girls were safe.
My sisters benefits have now stopped and I have had to apply for Universal Credit, which is means tested, I earn enough to keep me on my own, but the amount I am now receiving still means I am going to have to move house (which is what I was going to do before the girls came to live with me).
Social Services want a long term care plan put in place and the CAO and SGO have been mentioned, and they have suggested I go to court 'privately' to speed up the process. I understand this means responsibility is shared, but didn't really get that this would mean financially as well. My sister is incapable of financially supporting the girls in any way, so ultimately, everything lies with me alone. Going forward, I need to know what help I can get financially with whichever route CAO / SGO we go down. Whichever route it is, it seems that my work/financial life suffers regardless!
From what you have said, Social Services have done everything i.e. discussing how the girls are looked after to make sure they are safe, but practically nothing to help me.
I cannot get my head around the fact that foster carers (whilst I respect what they do) get immediate financial help, yet no-one, including social services want the girls to go into care as it is not in their best interests, yet I have to fight for scraps!
I have made a complaint to the council, and am currently waiting for a reply regarding legal advice and financial help.
I have been in touch in Buttle who have been amazing and we are looking at options.
Any advice you can give me going forward is greatly appreciated.
Thank you so much.

User avatar
Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 519
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: It feels like as a family carer I'm discriminated against!

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Thu Jul 19, 2018 2:01 pm

Dear twinsauntie

Thank you for posting again.

You say that the children came to be in your care because children’s services initiated this arrangement. I think it is important you understand that this suggests that children’s services should have been treating you as a foster carer and paying you the appropriate foster care allowance from the time the children were placed with you.

An emergency placement can be done but children’s services are required to carry out a full fostering assessment which, it they have failed to do. Ask the social worker to explain to you the legal framework under which you are caring for the children. Whilst you are happy to look after your nieces this does not remove children’s services obligation to carry out the assessment. It appears that they have been treating this as a private arrangement so they can justify not paying you the fostering allowance to which you are entitled.

Reading your post, it appears that you may not have fully read the advice sheets included in the earlier response and I suggest that you read them to get a clearer understanding of your position. Ied53 has given you advice about applying for child arrangement or special guardianship orders. I think you should take this on board as it is good advice. Should you make a private application without children’s services accepting that they are looked after children then it is likely to be a little harder to insist on financial support as it would be at their discretion.

Please consider your position carefully before going ahead with a private application even if children’s services are willing to pay for you to make the application. Discuss with the social worker and if you do decide to go down that route have it confirmed in writing that you will be assessed for financial support that is, child arrangement allowance or special guardianship allowance.

I suggest that you look at the local authority’s policy on family and friends carers or kinship care.

I hope you find this helpful.

Best wishes

Suzie

twinsauntie
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2018 12:28 pm

Re: It feels like as a family carer I'm discriminated against!

Post by twinsauntie » Fri Jul 20, 2018 8:30 am

ied53 wrote:Do NOT go to court privately this absolves the childrens services of all responsibility leaving you with no support or financial assessment for a possible allowance.
Thank you.

Post Reply