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Taxpayer saved at least £23,000 per year for each child in informal kinship care

New study examines experiences of children in informal kinship care

Buttle UK and the University of Bristol have published, what they describe as, the most comprehensive picture to date across the UK of informal kinship care – children cared for informally by relatives and friends because their parents are no longer able to look after them.

The Poor Relations: Children and Informal Kinship Carers Speak Out examines both the child's perspective of living in an informal kinship care setting and the views of their carers.   It provides insights into how well, both emotionally and academically, these children are doing, how this compares with children in the formal care system and what impact such arrangements have on both children and carers.

It also gives an authoritative account of the financial hardship, sacrifice, isolation and the cost to health of the relatives bringing up children across the UK with little or no statutory support – often at very little notice.  The report calculates that each child cared for by an informal kinship carer saves the taxpayer between £23,500 and £56,000 a year.

Drug and alcohol problems feature heavily in the background of the parents in this new research, causing a child's move into informal kinship care – which is often sudden and crisis-driven.  Findings show that just over two-thirds (67%) of these children are abandoned by parents who are affected by alcohol or drug misuse, including nearly a quarter (24%) who are misusing both.

Exposure to domestic violence and parental mental illness was also common. These parents' chaotic lives put their children at risk and led to parental indifference (64%) and to active rejection (26%) of their children.  Relatives and friends stepped in to care for them.

Other key findings are:

The report can be read here.