New research has found that the proportion of children being brought up by relatives other than their parents has dramatically risen over the past decade
Figures compiled by the University of Bristol show that around 150,000 English children are growing up in a home with relatives other than their parents.
More than three-quarters of these children are in deprived households, raising questions about the level of support available to “kinship” carers.
Dinithi Wijedasa, the study’s lead author, said: “As well as showing a significant increase in the number of kinship care households, the findings highlight that children growing up in the care of relatives face significant poverty and deprivation compared with those growing up with at least one parent.
“Children in kinship care are also more likely to have a disability or higher levels of long-term health problems.
“Given that a large majority of these children and their families will be not known to the local authorities, it is imperative that measures are taken to enable them to receive adequate support.”
Experts warn thousands of guardians are at risk severe poverty, debt and losing their home.
This comes as a result of tax credit cuts and the benefit cap, despite figures showing they save the country billions of pounds each year in care costs.
Around two thirds give up work to look after child relatives and make significant personal sacrifices, meaning welfare support is vital.
Last week, Chancellor George Osbourne announced plans for shared parental leave and pay to be extended to one nominated working grandparent.
By making the move, Mr Osbourne has acknowledged that many grandparents are now playing a central role in caring for younger generations.
Current government guidelines now allow mums and dads to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of parental leave pay.