A growing number of Mid Ulster people are finding themselves responsible for another’s children for reasons including death, neglect, abuse and abandonment.
That’s according to the charity Kinship Care, which offers help, advice and at times practical support to those who find themselves in this situation.
We have got £219,000 [in benefits] back for kinship carers since the project started - Michelle Dixon, project worker
Many of those taking on someone else’s child have the role thrust upon them because the little one’s parents have either passed away, walked out or were simply not able to care for them.
Because of this, and the increasing number of phone calls that the charity Kinship Care was receiving from people in the Mid Ulster area, they opened an office in Magherafelt at Christmas.
And in that time, have taken on over 100 new cases in the area as well as providing free telephone advice to a further 400 people.
But, whether the carers are grandparents or great aunts and uncles in their later years, are a brother or sister bringing up siblings or a close family friend who has stepped in when needed, Kinship Care tries to help “keep your family together”.
Jacqueline Williamson, who set up the organisation after finding herself in a ‘kinship care’ situation with little available support, explained what they do.
“We started off doing a lot of case work and supporting kinship carers and since then developing specialist services specifically for kinship carers and their children. We provide financial advice and a free telephone help line, through that we provide information on the legal and financial responsibilities of kinship carers.”
Michelle Dixon, who works on the Caring For Kin project for the charity, added: “We have got £219,000 [in benefits] back for kinship carers since the project started.”
They also host coffee mornings in Magherafelt and Cookstown each month. Find them on Twitter @KinshipNI or on Facebook at Kinship Care Northern Ireland.