Grandparents facing stigma at school gates, say campaigners

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GRANDPARENTS AND other close family raising relatives’ children face stigma and discrimination at the school gate while the youngsters get shunned by their peers, according to a new survey.

Families, known as kinship carers, told charity Grandparents Plus they felt that they were treated differently by other parents, mistreated by social workers and teachers and the children they raised were bullied or excluded by others.

Two in five also said they had to leave their jobs to care for young ones, while 77 per cent felt the need to ask for professional help as around three in five cared for a child with a disability or special needs.

Now the charity is calling for the Government to support the UK’s estimated 200,000 kinship carers by guaranteeing they receive support, offering them the same rights as those who adopt and ensuring the welfare system does not “penalise” them.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of Grandparents Plus, said: “Grandparents and family carers are unsung heroes. They do the right thing and step in to care for children, keeping them out of care, usually in very difficult circumstances and at great personal cost. Yet so many are experiencing discrimination by social workers, teachers and other parents.”

The survey, which had 354 respondents comprised of 90 per cent grandparents, found 43 per cent felt stigmatised, 28 per cent had been mistreated by social workers and a further 16 per cent had been discriminated against by teachers.

The charity points out that, while some youngsters being cared for by their relatives face issues similar to those in the formal care system, 95 per cent do not have “looked after” legal status, affording them financial or practical support.

TV presenter Gloria Hunniford, who will front a BBC One show on the issue next weekend, said: “I know just how hard it is to care for your grandchildren in traumatic circumstances. We should be doing all we can to support people in this situation. They are doing society a great service.

“When my daughter Caron died of breast cancer I wanted to do all I could to care for her young boys. The family were already living with me and continued to stay with me for some months afterwards. The truth is tragedies like this can happen to anyone.”