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Christine Grahame (Scottish National Party)
In my previous life as a family solicitor, I was often involved in cases where it was the grandparents, aunts or uncles who held together the children of a broken relationship—I am sad to say that it was sometimes more than one broken relationship, as the mother and father of the children went through a series of partners. That is just part of life's course these days. I also dealt with cases where grandparents came to my office because their own children were having drug or alcohol difficulties and were therefore incapable for a variety of reasons—they could not look after themselves, let alone their children.
Those grandparents, aunts or uncles did not know the terms "kinship care" or "carers"—they were just looking after the children they loved and they did so with responsibility and experience. Therefore, it comes as news to me that there is apparently such discrimination in the way in which those grandparents and other members of the extended family are reimbursed and supported by the state. I am grateful to the Glasgow advice group for providing a briefing note on the subject. I hope that, in summing up, the minister will clarify
"50 cases where the child, as a result of a Supervision Requirement, imposed by a Children's Panel, resides with a relative, usually the grandparents, as a condition of that Supervision Requirement."
The briefing note does not say whether, once such an order is given, there is a financial consequence for the state to meet. I see that Scott Barrie is shaking his head to tell me that there is not and I thank him for that. If such an obligation is imposed, there must be some kind of assistance from the state.
There also appears to be a conflict between—or at least a brushing together of—several pieces of legislation. For example, there is the Fostering of Children (Scotland) Regulations 1996, under which discretionary payments are made; such discretionary payments are not usually made to people who have a blood relationship with the child. However, there is also the Children (Scotland) Act 1975, which rightly promotes the idea that the welfare of the child is always paramount. Neither parents' nor grandparents' interests should be taken into account; it should simply be the interests of the children that are considered. It appears that, under that act, there might be scope for making payments to the extended blood family.
However, the information seems to be in a bit of a mess and the position seems to depend on which local authority is involved. I would be pleased to know from the minister whether he can advise the chamber of any thoughts that the Executive has about making the situation more uniform throughout Scotland and about recognising the essential role of the blood family.
I commend all those grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbours and others who often bring up without any recognition the many children who are victims of broken marriages. Through their experience, love and kindness, they repair the lives of those children.