Reaching their retirement years, Nicky and her husband were looking forward to finishing work, selling their home and moving abroad to relax in the sunshine.
Then one Sunday night they received a phone call at 11pm from social services: “please can you collect your grandson or he will have to go into care.”
Overnight, the couple suddenly became the full-time carers of their six-year-old grandson and rather than bask in the sun, they found themselves doing the school run each morning.
This is a scenario many families are faced with. Nans, grandads, uncles, aunties and cousins all over the UK are suddenly having to care for youngsters who can no longer live with their birth parents.
While they wouldn’t want it any other way, they are often ill-prepared emotionally and financially – having extra mouths to feed, not to mention finding the energy required to rear young ones. Plus the children may have special educational needs.
There is surprisingly little in the way of training, information and financial support available for these family members trying to raise other people’s children and give them the best start in life.
Luckily Liverpool has an amazing support group to help these families. Based at Ellergreen Community Centre in Norris Green, Kinship Carers Liverpool supports families who raise children (mainly grandparents) when their biological parents are unable to do so, as well as carers, children and young people.
The charity provides practical and emotional support for families, taking them out on day trips, pamper days, coffee mornings and intergenerational sessions.
It can also help new kinship carers navigate and find their way through the maze of regulations and obstacles they come up against, be it legal, money or parenting issues.
This unique group does a fantastic job in Liverpool, but kinship carers in other parts of the UK are not so lucky and are totally alone.
Now Kinship Carers Liverpool is on a mission to raise awareness of kinship families and the issues they face nationally.
Earlier this year, they worked creatively with dance artist Paula Hampson and composer Chris Mellor to explore ways to raise awareness of the role of a kin carer through text, movement, music and film. Their work culminated in a weekend of public performances at Bluecoat in February 2019.
The process, supported by Arts Council England and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, was filmed and shown at a special screening and discussion event at Bluecoat, Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts in June.
Colleagues from health, social care, education and the arts gathered together to watch the documentary premiere In the Palm of My Hand: Reflections. The film was introduced by the artists involved followed by talks from kinship carers who were involved in the project and shared their personal stories.
They were joined by Rt Hon Stephen Twigg MP, patron of the Kinship Carers, and Cllr Barry Kushner who pledged to highlight the issues explored by kinship carers at a parliamentary level.
Together they set up a Parliamentary Task Force to have vital discussions with MPs around kinship care.
On July 1, a group of kin-kids went down to Westminster to have their voices heard by MPs and Lords and pave the way for policy change.
Pauline Thornley from Kinship Carers Liverpool said: “Our young people were fab. They articulated themselves wello. It was very emotional – young people sharing their stories – but this was really important in getting their message across.
“They are passionate and determined that changes for the better, will be made for all kinship families in the future.
“Thank you to Stephen Twigg for being host to our children, showing them around Westminster, and a huge thanks to Steve Morgan Foundation for funding a remarkable and memorable event for our young people They truly enjoyed their time there.
“Liverpool is on the way to becoming a UNICEF UK child friendly city, meaning the voice of the child is listened to.
“The peer support project will allow our young people to continue in their mission to ensure their views are listened to and that they can bring about change.”
This week the Kinship Carers Liverpool group is celebrating National Kinship Carers Awareness Week from (October 5-11) to help them to raise further awareness of these families who do an amazing job is raising their kin children.
They have hosted a number of events including a day out with grandparents at Gulliver’s World and a coffee morning featuring St Laurence’s School School Choir which was attended by football legends John Barnes and Howard Gayle.
Tonight they have arranged a children’s celebration party from 6pm-8pm with food, cake and an entertainer and tomorrow members will attend a confidence course and on Friday 11th October they have organised High Tea from 12pm to 3pm as a celebration and thank you to kinship carers for the dedication they show to their kin kids.
So if you are raising a child for a family member, come along and meet fellow kinship carers and discover how much support and information is available.
Kinship Carers Liverpool meet at Ellergreen Community Centre, Ellergreen Road, Liverpool. L11 2RY, call 0151 280 2108, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at http://kinshipcarersliverpool.co.uk