Allowances will be paid to some kinship carers beyond the young person’s 16th birthday, East Lothian Council’s Cabinet agreed today.

Where children and young people in East Lothian need to be formally looked after and accommodated, the Council currently seeks to place them with kinship carers if it is safe to do so. This ensures that disruption for children or young people is minimised and they can grow up in familiar circumstances while staying connected to their family.

East Lothian Council has also supported many informal kinship carers with financial help.

For those and any other children whose kinship carers have been receiving parity benefits, kinship care orders cease to have effect when the young person reaches their 16th birthday.

The consequence of this for a young person deciding whether to stay on at school past the age of 16 or go to college means that their kinship carer would cease to receive any financial support from the local authority. The young person would not be eligible for state benefits. This would leave them vulnerable at a critical time in their lives.

There is a power in the new Kinship Care Assistance (Scotland) Order 2016 to make a payment directly to a young person between the ages of 16 and 18 if they had previously been the subject of a kinship care order and were previously looked after. However, this puts the onus of responsibility for managing finances onto the young person at too early a stage, when they, along with their peers, still need support and guidance.

The newly-agreed proposal will see an extension to the length of time allowances are paid to some carers with a kinship care order beyond the young person’s 16th birthday to their 18th birthday (or date of leaving school if later), providing they are not in full-time employment.

The new approach will align East Lothian Council with other local authorities.

Councillor Fiona Dugdale, Cabinet Spokesperson for Education and Children’s Services, said:

“It’s very important that we do everything possible to give young people the best start in life. This means they can maximise their educational opportunities and go onto reach positive destinations such as employment or further education.

“Kinship carers provide a secure, stable and nurturing home for children and young people. This is a valuable service which we’re very supportive of.

“I’m pleased that Cabinet has agreed to extend the length of time allowances are paid to some kinship carers. This will help avoid family breakdown at what is often a critical point of transition, and enable young people in kinship care to stay on at school or take up training opportunities while being supported by their kinship carers.”

Published: Tuesday, 14th September 2021