It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I congratulate my hon. Friend Alistair Strathern on securing this important debate, leading it with such energy, providing an excellent introduction and championing the cause of kinship carers.

Kinship carers play an immeasurably important role in our communities. They care for children when the parents no longer can. The complexities associated with full-time care for someone else’s child, even if they are a family member, should not be underestimated. The love, care and stability that the families offer kinship children are nothing short of remarkable. Their actions enable countless young people to remain in their own families and existing support networks. It is for those reasons that we must enhance support for kinship carers.

To their credit, in December last year the Government published the first ever national kinship strategy, which provided welcome recognition of and support for kinship families. However, it falls far short of the support that the families urgently need. There are more than double the number of children in kinship than in foster care, so the Government must support kinship carers in the same way that we support foster carers.

In my region in the north-east, around one in 50 children are growing up in kinship care, with over half being looked after by grandparents. The Kinship charity runs a number of successful support groups across my constituency. As my right hon. Friend Mr Jones says, the support that Durham County Council offers is outstanding. It helps families to support one another through very challenging times. However, there is only so much that the Kinship charity can do. I support its call for the introduction of a mandatory non-means-tested allowance for all kinship carers that is at least equivalent to the national minimum fostering allowance. That was also recommended by the independent review of social care. Eight in 10 kinship carers are forced out of work or must reduce hours because of a lack of financial support.

I want to mention my old friend and constituent Elaine Duffy, who is a kinship carer. She has three grandchildren, and had to give up her full-time work because she could not sustain the commitment to her caring role while working full time. Her dedication is commendable, and fortunately she is now employed by the brilliant Kinship charity. She works very hard to support its campaigns alongside looking after her three grandchildren.

The Government must consider the successful models in New Zealand and Scotland. I urge the Government to do far more to support our kinship carers.

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