Local authorities should have a legal responsibility to support people looking after the children of family and friends, campaigners have argued.
A new survey by the Family Rights Group found kinship carers are facing financial hardship as a result of looking after vulnerable children.
It found three-quarters of kinship carers said they were facing financial problems after taking on a child and felt kept in the dark about their legal options beforehand.
More than half of kinship carers had to give up their job to take on a child, with some being affected by the benefit cap, the bedroom tax and even homelessness.
Kinship carers also said the quality of help they received from children’s services was inadequate, with nearly two-thirds rating it poor or very poor. More than a third (37%) said they received no help from children’s services at all.
Cathy Ashley, chief executive of Family Rights Group said: ‘Today’s report illustrates how many kinship carers experience an environment in which they feel done to, cajoled and put upon, despite trying to do their best for the children.
‘The survey found, for example, that many kinship carers felt pressurised by local authorities into giving up work, even though this pushed them into poverty, or they felt coerced into agreeing to a particular legal order for the child, even though it led to a loss in support.’
The report is calling for a new legal duty on local authorities to establish and commission kinship support services, and ensure kinship carers are always explored and assessed for suitability before a child becomes looked after in the care system.
It also wants the Government to implement the Care Crisis Review’s Options for Change, introduce a period of paid employment leave and protection to kinship carers and exempt kinship carer households from the benefit cap and bedroom tax.