New research on kinship care and employment

Parenting across Scotland recently completed research on the impact of kinship care on employment. This briefing includes an overview of the research as well as case studies and a list of organisations that may be able to offer advice if you are affected by the issues discussed.

18 August 2016 | Research

Parenting across Scotland recently completed research on the impact of kinship care on employment. Mentor Scotland was a member of the steering group for this project and, on behalf of those involved, we would like to thank all of the kinship carers who contributed to this important piece of research.

This briefing includes an overview of the research, as well as case studies and a list of organisations that may be able to offer advice if your are affected by the issues discussed.

Kinship Carers and Employment: Barriers and Opportunities

A much higher proportion of kinship carers than the general population are unemployed. Many kinship carers find that they have to give up work when they become a kinship carer or are unable to find work that fits with their responsibilities.

Parenting across Scotland surveyed and spoke to kinship carers to find out the reasons why. The report, Kinship Carers and Employment: Barriers and Opportunities, shows many reasons why kinship carers are unable to work, including the needs of the child, the need to take time off for appointments, difficulties in finding suitable childcare, a lack of understanding of kinship care among employers and a lack of possibilities for flexible working.

The report made a number of recommendations for employers, and other agencies; the recommendations include that employers should:

  • include kinship carers in their carers policies and adoption policies
  • ensure that they offer flexible working practices
  • establish a right to a period of adjustment leave to enable kinship carers to make the necessary adjustments to the change in caring responsibilities without having to give up work
  • ensure that kinship carers are given information about their employment rights, and signposted to other agencies for additional support around key issues such as childcare and benefits.

It was noted that in some cases kinship carers are not in a position or do not want to work on account of their caring responsibilities; even those who want to continue employment may have to reduce their hours. The report rather highlights that, for those who do want to work, employers can and should take steps that enable kinship carers to remain in employment.

Parenting across Scotland is now taking this report to the Scottish Government, to local authorities and to employers and encouraging them to take action on the findings.

The full report and a summary can be found at Parenting across Scotland, under the heading, “Kinship Carers and Employment: Barriers and Opportunities”.

Kinship Carers and Employment: Case Study

Cathy* works full-time at a bank. She is married with three children and lives in Fife. She took on the care of her two nieces after the death of their mother in a traffic accident. Her employer gave her compassionate leave to deal with the bereavement of her sister and her new family situation.

Although her employer was sympathetic, Cathy was still worried because she could not afford to lose her job, especially now that she had five children to provide for. After two weeks, she was contacted by her employer who offered to give her paid ‘adoption leave’ of 12 weeks. This response came as a huge relief to Cathy who had been panicking, trying to make necessary arrangements as fast as possible in order to return to work.

Before Cathy returned to work, she was able to formalise the kinship care placement with social work; relocate her nieces to a new school; build an extension to add an extra bedroom to the house, for her two nieces; and she was constantly present to help both her nieces and her own children readjust to the changed family situation. Having returned to work, she is able to work from home two days a week; and, along with her husband who has also adapted his working hours, they have the flexibility to manage the school run between them.

* Names and some recognisable details have been changed to protect anonymity.

Useful Organisations

Working Families is a UK charity dedicated to helping parents and carers and their employers find a better balance between responsibilities at work and home; they provide a free advice service by phone and email.

Family Friendly Working Scotland is a collaboration of charities that promotes the development of family friendly workplaces in Scotland.