Grandparents Apart UK

Grandparents Apart UK
"Bringing Families Together"

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Why Grans are picking up the bill for childcare

By Laurence WhiteFriday, 27 March 2009

Grandparents should be paid for looking after their grandchildren, according to a new report.
And 60% of parents agree. I must confess to a vested interest here. I am a grandparent with three adorable grandchildren. My wife and I would happily look after them for nothing — and the Government knows that is the case in ten of thousands of similar households.
Parents can get help through benefits with the fees for leaving their children in nurseries or with registered childminders. That is the only practical option for one of my daughters who lives in another part of the province from us.

She has to use the local nursery for her two young daughters and very good it is too. But it doesn't come cheap. If she lived locally, she would gladly use her mum as the childminder while she and her husband went to work.
Our other grandchild is with us every day. Payment for looking after him is never an issue. His sheer presence is beyond recompense. He is happy, his mum is happy and my wife is happy with the arrangement.

Charity, Grandparents Plus, which campaigns on behalf of the 300,000 grandparents who regularly look after their grandchildren, reckons us old folk save the Government £3.9bn a week — almost enough to bail out a bank. One in four of families and around half of single parents rely on grandparents for childcare. In one respect that is a heartening statistic in an era when the nuclear family is under threat as never before. Grandchildren are the glue that keeps some families together. But it is also a cynical exploitation of family values by the Government.

Ministers know well that grannies (the burden falls mostly on them) are saving them a fortune in childcare tax credits. And the grandparents are likely to play an even bigger role as the recession continues to bite. Many parents will be unable to afford childcare in nurseries or with registered minders and will seek out their own parents to help.
It is surely in the interest of governments, even in times of recession, to ensure that as many people get the opportunity to work as possible. Young children can make that difficult, especially, but not solely, for single parents.

With the working day seemingly getting longer and longer, who will look after the children if parents cannot afford official childcare.
In principle, what is the difference between the care given by grandparents and that given by owners of commercial nurseries or childminders? If any, then the balance must surely go towards the grandparents. If you cannot love your own grandchildren then who can you love?
So what then is the principle that stops grandparents being paid if they perform childcare duties?

The Government believes that trained childminders and nurseries give young children a better start in life than keeping them with grandparents or family members. Its policies have centred on expanding formal childcare.
Some research apparently says that young children reared with grandparents struggle to socialise with peers, are behind at certain early developmental stages and have more behavioural problems. The only benefit is their good vocabulary. The Government says paying grandparents would be a step too far but it will look at other ways of helping.
That sounds very rich coming from politicians who have no difficulty spending billions of taxpayers money bailing out beleaguered banks which were the authors of their own downfall.
Maybe it is time for the grey generation to start standing up for their own rights.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The costs of children in care.

Approximately 1 in 20 children have been taken into care, some adopted, at some point in their lives. Nearly 60,000 children are taken into care each year. That's the entire population of 100 primary schools. Each case costs the taxpayer an average of £70K in legal fees, many cost over £350K. There are other costs, costs that needlessly drain the resources of local authorities, central government and charities. Private children's homes charge up to '£7000 per week per child' and foster parents in Slough for example get '£400 per week per child' Children in care cost the taxpayer over £830 million pounds a year. That's an average of £2,500 per child, per week-more than four times what it would cost to send a child to Eton

The poor and the most vulnerable are paying dearly

From Times Online
March 25, 2009
Family courts: the poor and most vulnerable are paying dearly
Anthony Hayden, QC

Mr Hayden comments:
"The Legal Aid Act 1949 celebrates its 60th birthday this year. Its provisions embody core beliefs that most of us still subscribe to, central to which is the principle that access to justice is not the privilege of those who can afford it but the entitlement of anybody fighting for the care of their child or for their financial security on the breakdown of their marriage."

"On this 60th anniversary the Government is proposing to drastically reduce funding for family lawyers, both solicitors and barristers.

"That is a tragedy on many levels. It will leave some of our most vulnerable adults and children without a strong, competent, professional voice in some of the most serious cases that any court has to determine."

The Government's proposed cuts to funding family law legal aided cases as well as their intention to increase court costs hugely in private law cases to supposedly help self fund the system will mean, as alluded to by Anthony Hayden QC, that justice will not be accessible to those coping with family breakdown who need recourse to the family courts.

Surely this cannot be the way forward for a caring and socially committed Government?

Sharing with each other. Thanks to Karen.

A holy man was having a conversation with God one day and said, ' God , I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.' God led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water.

The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared
to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles, that were strapped to their arms and each found it impossible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. God said, 'You have seen Hell.'

They went to the next room and opened the door.. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's mouth water.

The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The holy man said, 'I don't understand..' It is simple,' said God . 'It requires but one skill.

You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.' Its estimated 93% won't forward this. If you are one of the 7% who will, forward this with the title '7%'. I'm in the 7% Remember that I will always share my spoon with you!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mentoring Interview

This lady interviewed me today. She is the manager of mentoring Scotland and would like to interview other grandparents. Not for publishing, completely anon.


0131 552 8660
Mob 7894269854

Sunday, March 22, 2009

We thought we'd never see the girls again.

A Glasgow couple reveal why they want a change in the law to recognise the rights of grandparents

from the Sunday Times March 22 2009

Jimmy and Margaret Deuchars’ daughter Susan was seven months pregnant when she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. From her hospital bed she asked her parents to make a promise that after she died they would look after her two-year-old daughter and baby girl.
“It was such a difficult time but we told her that we would always be there for them,” says Jimmy. “We loved them and they were our last link to our daughter.”
Three years after Susan died, her husband, Joe, and his new girlfriend announced they were moving from Glasgow to Liverpool. Jimmy and Margaret, who had given much of their time to caring for the children, were sad to see them go but agreed to visit and have the girls to stay.
It wasn’t long before the arrangements began to unravel. Visits were cancelled on the flimiest of pretexts. Meetings that did take place were stressful and often cut short. Afterwards Jimmy and Margaret would drive back to Glasgow in tears, fearing that they were being pushed out of their grandchildren’s lives.

“It was like losing Susan all over again,” says Margaret. “It was devastating to think we might lose touch with Nicola and Joanne, too. Our two sons would say, ‘You don’t have to put yourself through this’. But people don’t realise the bond that exists between grandparents and their grandchildren. There was no way we could let them go.”

After six months without seeing the children, the couple grew desperate. “We thought that was it — we were being denied contact altogether,” says Jimmy. Remembering the promise they had made to their daughter they hired a lawyer but were shocked to learn that they had no legal rights to see their grandchildren.

“In the eyes of the law, we are classed as irrelevant persons,” says Jimmy. “There is no need to acknowledge grandparents.”

It’s a predicament that more and more grandparents are facing. As the divorce rate rises, an estimated 7,000 people in the UK are being forcibly kept apart from their grandchildren. According to the Grandparents’ Association, 90% of the callers who contact them are fearful of being cut out of their grandchildren’s lives after a relationship break-up. In many cases the close relationship they enjoyed with the children is destroyed along with the marriage.

For the Deuchars the situation was resolved after a mediation session, arranged by a family court in Liverpool, at which both sides got a chance to air their views. Jimmy says it began badly, with a barrage of accusations, but eventually an agreement was reached. He and Margaret could see Nicola and Joanne once a month and have them to stay during school holidays.

“It was terrifying at the time,” says Margaret. “The night before the court date I never slept a wink. I was so worried about not being allowed to see the girls.”
Since then visits have become much more frequent and relaxed after Jimmy and Margaret’s son-in-law, Joe, split up with his girlfriend. “He was never the problem,” says Jimmy. “It was his former girlfriend who didn’t want anything to do with his first wife’s family.”

Now they are older, Nicola, 15, and Joanne, 17, stay with their grandparents during the school holidays. “We have some special moments. They tell me things that they wouldn’t tell their dad. I like that we have that trust. That’s what grannies are for,” says Margaret.

After enduring such a harrowing experience, Jimmy and Margaret decided to do something to help the growing number of people in a similar situation. “When it happened to us, we didn’t know where to turn for help. Everywhere we turned was another dead end,” says Jimmy. “So we set up a group called Grandparents Apart so that other people would have someone to talk to and ask for advice.

“I remember how bad I felt when we were going through the worst times. I felt that life wasn’t worth living. I only snapped out of my depression when I hired a lawyer and took action to see the girls again.”

The Deuchars’ organisation in Glasow has received thousands of calls and e-mails from distraught grandparents around the UK. “We have had calls late at night but we never turn anyone away because I know what it’s like to go through that,” says Margaret.

Jimmy points out it’s a nightmare scenario that can affect anyone. “Like us, most people don’t give it a thought until it happens to them. We didn’t. You still get grandparents who say, ‘Oh, that would never happen to us because our family would never do that to us’. But you can’t predict what’s going to happen. It really can affect anyone and when it does, it’s very painful. I had one person on the phone who said, ‘Thank God you were there or I might have ended it’.
“I also know of people who have spent up to £50,000 on legal fees trying to gain access to their grandchildren.”

The lack of legal rights afforded to grandparents is something else Jimmy and Margaret are attempting to redress. They are campaigning for a change in the law to recognise the rights of grandparents; this Wednesday, in Dundee, Grandparents Apart UK will be holding a peaceful demonstration against social services’ family policy. “Grandparents play a significant role in many children’s lives and that should be taken into account by the courts when determining a child’s future,” says Jimmy.

The couple have had several meetings with Scottish government officials and were consulted when the Family Law Act was being drawn up in 2005. Their Charter for Grandchildren, which calls on adults to take into account what children want, has been adopted as an advisory document by the government although it does not form part of the Family Law Act.

“We tried to get it made law but it didn’t go through. What we want is for the government to make it mandatory for professionals who deal with children to use the charter when deciding custody and access arrangements,” says Jimmy. “We want the best solution for children and usually that includes the stability of being with grandparents who they’ve known all their lives.”

Now that Nicola and Joanne are older, how do they feel about their grandparents’ struggle that they were too young to understand at the time? “I think they’re really proud. They appreciate the fact that we put up a fight for them,” says Jimmy.

Margaret agrees. “They were definitely worth fighting for and I’d say that to anyone in our position. As long as it’s about love for your grandchildren, you don’t give up.”

Jimmy and Margaret Deuchars’ story is told in Battle Lines on BBC Radio Scotland on Friday, March 27 at 11.30am.

Child safety sham puts lives at risk

Published Date: 22 March 2009
By David Leask

A CRUCIAL part of Scotland's child protection system has been exposed as a sham after it emerged that thousands of youngsters attend clubs and faith groups whose staff have not been vetted.

Politicians and campaigners last night demanded changes to the law after Scotland on Sunday discovered there is no legal way to force many organisations working with children to carry out criminal records checks on their prospective employees.T

he loophole emerged after a children's charity discovered that Imams in four out of five of Scotland's mosques and madrassahs are educating youngsters without being checked by vetting agency Disclosure Scotland. Charities also believe numerous local sports clubs have also failed to vet their volunteers.However, an investigation by this newspaper has established that most organisations are not under any legal obligation to do the checks, there is no sanction for failing to check, and no organisation is regularly monitoring compliance.

The current system only punishes organisations that fail to carry out checks if it subsequently emerges they recruited someone formally barred from working with children, a situation described by one commentator last night as "shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted".Last night, the Tories and a child protection adviser to the Scottish Parliament called for urgent reform of the law to make it an offence not to carry out Disclosure Scotland checks on all prospective workers with children. And the SNP deputy convener of the Parliament's education committee said that he wanted to re-examine the whole issue.The current system was introduced after the 2002 murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham,

Cambridgeshire. It was designed to root out individuals who, like the Soham killer Ian Huntley, work with children despite concerns over their past.Schools, nurseries and other organisations which are subject to official inspection are expected by their watchdogs to comply and face disciplinary – but not criminal – action if they fail to do so.Child protection experts are most concerned by organisations outside the mainstream, where there is no system of compliance, enforcement or monitoring.Roshni, a charity which fights child abuse in ethnic minority communities, says around 40 of the nation's 50 mosques and madrassahs north of the border have failed to sign up for Disclosure Scotland checks, despite looking after as many as 3,000 children every day.

The charity's chairman, Ali Khan, has launched a campaign to sign up minority faith groups for the disclosure system. Khan said: "We believe that around 20% of madrassahs and mosques are aware of the need to carry out Disclosure Scotland checks on their staff and are already compliant. Our project is to make sure that, in time, all the rest are too."Martin Henry, of Stop It Now, a charity that raises awareness of child sex abuse, stressed that smaller sports clubs were also slipping through the net.He said: "

There are some organisations, usually small ones, who manage to duck under the radar because they don't belong to larger frameworks that tell them to comply."The current law only allows serious punishment of any organisation that is subsequently found to have recruited a barred person and managers could face five years in jail. No organisation has ever been prosecuted.

Critics have long argued that some organisations have been far more zealous about the way they pursue checks than others. Some schools, for example, insist on vetting casual helpers on children's trips. Established groups, such as churches and the Scout movement, which are committed to the system, sometimes do not make the same demands for the same kind of activities.Anti-abuse campaigner Helen Holland last night called for a major review of the way Scotland's disclosure system is policed. Holland, who suffered horrific sexual abuse while at a church children's home, now counsels fellow survivors and advises the Scottish Parliament on the issue.She said: "It defeats the purpose of having Disclosure Scotland if compliance with its system is not going to be monitored.Holland was backed by Tory MSP Bill Aitken, who said: "Clearly there is a flaw and a loophole in the law that needs to be investigated." Kenny Gibson of the SNP, deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament's education committee, yesterday called for further investigations into the Disclosure system.

He intends to raise the issue with children's minister Adam Ingram and the education committee. Like many, his main concern is simply that so many bodies appear ignorant of the system. Gibson said: "It's really important that we communicate with organisations that they have responsibilities here."

The Scottish Government yesterday said its agencies and partners had carried out significant awareness-raising work with children's organisations, including 1,000 groups from black and ethnic minority communities.

The Disclosure system is set to expand to include vulnerable adults from 2010. A Government spokesman said: "We are committed to protecting vulnerable groups in Scotland and laws are in place to stop unsuitable people gaining access to children through work, either paid or unpaid. "We are engaging Muslim communities in a positive and constructive dialogue and specifically supporting projects to work with Muslim women and youth."