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Kinship carers 'miss out' as new allowance is introduced

They said they had been made an April Fool of. Hundreds of �kinship carers� were yesterday still waiting to claim a new allowance for caring for children who are not their own, because councils are ill-prepared and underfunded.

JAMES MORGAN, JULIA HORTON and DAN SMITH

They said they had been made an April Fool of.

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Hundreds of "kinship carers" were yesterday still waiting to claim a new allowance for caring for children who are not their own, because councils are ill-prepared and underfunded.

Thousands more are ineligible for the allowance, which came into force yesterday under the new concordat between local authorities and the Scottish Government.

The weekly payment of £119 to £198 is designed to put relatives who take on the role as parent and guardian the same status as foster carers, replacing a system where only some councils choose to support them. But the grant is available only for "looked-after" children who have been placed with relatives through the Children's Hearing system.

Campaigners say the strict criteria means the allowance will benefit only 2000 of an estimated 10,000 Scots who care for young relatives whose parents are either dead or deemed unable to look after them.

Many councils remain uncertain whether the new budget is sufficient to meet new obligations to family carers.

Of the seven councils who responded to The Herald, only three - Fife, Inverclyde and Midlothian - were ready to implement the new allowance. A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said it had 553 children and young people formally eligible for the allowance, but has been allocated only £772,000 per year via the concordat.

He said: "Clearly Glasgow requires a much greater share of the available funding if we are to meet the needs of our kinship carer community."

However, Martin Booth, finance director of Cosla, replied that the money councils received through the concordat was not ring-fenced.

He said: "We maximised the overall pot available to local authorities. It is for each local authority to determine how it spends its budget, based on changing local priorities. The pot is big enough to cover all scenarios."

Yvonne Ramsay, vice- chairwoman of the Kinsfolk Carers campaign group, believes that the new law will not stretch far enough.

The 45-year-old, from Edinburgh, takes voluntary care of her 11-year-old granddaughter, but will not be eligible.

She said: "It's important to push this new law through but the vast majority of grandparent carers will still not get any money from it."

Anne and Scott Ellis took the heartbreaking decision to apply for custody of their own grandchildren after their daughter's partner was arrested for attacking a fellow drug addict.

Forced to give up their jobs, the couple have had virtually no support as they battled to bring up Karen, six, and eight-year-old Gail for five years.

But they will not receive a penny of the new payments because their hard-won legal rights as guardians make them ineligible for the scheme.

Mrs Ellis said: "Really we are being punished for looking after our own grandchildren, not helped."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Under our historic concordat with local government, councils have been given record investment and we have a shared commitment to provide better financial support for kinship carers of looked after children.

"We would like to see all councils implement the commitment as soon as possible."

A Cosla spokeswoman said implementing the new allowance would take time.

She said: "Over one-third of our members will be making allowances available during this year." Some names have been changed to protect identities.

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