Charities have called for a formal inquiry to be launched into kinship care in Scotland, following growing concern about neglected children.
Voluntary sector groups and carers gave evidence recently to the Scottish parliament's education committee and are determined to continue pressing their case.
Lindsay Isaacs of the Kinship Care Service spearheaded calls for an inquiry as the best way of tackling multiple concerns arising from the financial and social constraints experienced by children and carers alike.
These include the performance of local authorities in discharging their responsibilities, benefits, housing support, information support, access to counselling services, the definition of looked-after children as distinct from those in foster care, and early intervention strategies.
Ms Isaacs said that frequently information support and other vital services are not available for carers locally.
“Support varies hugely across local authorities, but it also varies hugely within the local authorities. There is no guarantee or consistency that someone entering into a kinship care arrangement within any local authority actually knows what they’re going to get,” she declared.
Campaigners say that the orientation of the inquiry should be towards the needs of children, and how those can be met more effectively.
Tommy McFall, who has looked after his grand daughter for eleven years, and who represents the Glasgow group New Fossils Grandparent Support Group, told the Committee that “the discrimination against these children is breathtaking."
He continued: “It is tantamount and comparable to apartheid … in the strict definition and interpretation of the word 'apartness' – treating children differently with the same legal status, in this case.”
The parliamentary education committee also heard from Alison Todd, of the group Children First.
The needs, concerns and perspectives of kinship carers was an issue that featured high on the agenda of Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission (PTC) - an initiative supported by churches and charities which brought together those living with poverty and deprivation alongside politicians and policy-makers.
The aim of the PTC is to encourage new ways of policy-making and structuring and running services which take the experience of those living at the sharp end as central, rather than marginalising them. There can be no solution to poverty without the involvement of those who endure it, says the Commission.
Kinship care is usually defined as the provision of full-time nurturing and protection of children by adults, other than parents, who nevertheless have a family relationship bond with the children.
* Poverty Truth Commission - http://povertytruthcommission.blogspot.com/
* PTC report recommendations on kinship care (*PDF Adobe Acrobat) - http://www.povertytruthcommission.org/uploads/doc_15172323012012_Kinship...
* Children 1st - http://www.children1st.org.uk/