The finding comes from research by Grandparents Plus and Family Lives, the charities calling for more recognition and support for the vital role played by family members and friends who step in to take care of children, known as kinship carers.
More than 200,000 children in the UK are looked after by grandparents and others because their parents are unable to take care of them.
The analysis found that if every child looked after by kinship carers were fostered instead, local authorities would face an average additional cost of £14.8million each.
Local authorities are not currently required to provide any financial assistance to kinship carers, even if they live below the poverty line.
Schools are not required to know which children live with kinship carers, or offer extra support to them. There are 21 children in kinship care per registered GP surgery in the UK.
Children in kinship care are more likely to have a disability, learning or behavioural difficulties and mental health problems, but doctors are not asked to record if a child is living with their parents or carers.
As part of the public awareness campaign, the charities have made a video featuring Rochelle, a grandmother raising her two granddaughters. The film shows passers-by being invited to leave their messages of support for the kinship carer role, which the charities say can often feel ‘invisible’.
The two charities are also planning to hold a conference on kinship care at the end of November.
In addition to the new campaign, the two charities run Relative Experience, a National Lottery funded programme which offers support to kinship carers in 18 local authorities.
The programme offers one-to-one support from project workers independent of social services, befriending from trained volunteers, and support group development.
Lucy Peake, chief executive of Grandparents Plus, said, ‘There are around 200,000 children being raised by kinship carers in the UK – twice the amount in local authority care – and yet there’s so little recognition throughout society of the role they’re playing or what support they might need. This campaign is about making more people aware of what’s happening, and letting kinship carers know that they’re not alone.’
Jeremy Todd, chief executive of Family Lives said, ‘Kinship carers do an amazing job, often stepping in overnight to look after their relative’s children. This campaign will help to raise awareness of what they do to support their family, and the impact it can have on their life and to improve the outcomes for the children.’