Understanding family and friends care: analysis of a population study
AuthorsRachida Aziz and David Roth
This study has collected data from the Understanding Society Survey about the living arrangements and economic circumstances of households where children were living with family and friends carers (or kinship carers), and then compared this to data from the same source about households where children were living with their parents. The information was collected during the period from January 2009 to March 2010.
About the households:
In this sample group, the largest number of children (38%) were being raised by a sibling or half-sibling, followed by grandparents (31%) and other relatives (21%). 10% were being raised by non-relatives. 34% of the family and friends households had three or more children, compared to 16% of all households with children. 17% of the family and friends households had three or more children under the age of nine, compared to 7% of all households with children. It was more than twice as likely in the family and friends care households that there would be nobody in employment compared to the other households with children (43% v 17%). It was ten times more likely that there would be someone over pensionable age in the family and friends care households compared to other households with children (21% v 2%).
Housing and finance
The family and friends care households were more likely to rent compared to other households with children (45% v 35%), and, if renting, were more likely to live in social housing (77% v 55%). They were also more likely to receive housing benefit (41% v 26%). The family and friends care households are no more likely than the other households to fall behind with the most important payments, such as rent or mortgage or council tax. Family and friends carers were less likelythan others to have gone on holiday, saved any money, or replaced worn-out electrical goods. They were more likely to say they would have liked these things but were unable to afford them. A quarter of the family and friends carers felt they needed more bedrooms for the children, but could not afford larger accommodation.
Family and friends carers emerge ahead of the general population in many of the indicators of poverty or low income: they are more likely to rent their home rather than own it, more likely to live in social housing, more likely to receive council tax, less likely to be in work and more likely to be over pensionable age. There are also likely to be more children in the household, including more children who are under nine years of age.
Family and friends carers appear to be prioritising the way they use their income so as to ensure that the most important household bills are met. However, this is at the expense of their quality of life in other areas, such as taking holidays, making savings and replacing worn-out electrical goods.
The picture which emerges overall is of carers and children who are trying to make the best of managing on low incomes, but have to make sacrifices to do so.