Grandparents Apart UK

Grandparents Apart UK
"Bringing Families Together"

Monday, July 6, 2009

Folloow up of. A tree bends with the wing.

I agree 100% with your correspondent below. My son has decided, based on a single instance of corporal punishment in 1984 that he was abused physically, verbally and emotionally as a child. The fact that it took him to age 34 after accepting many years and many thousands of pounds worth of our help including child-care - looking after our grandson on a weekly basis for all of his 6 years to decide this and despite the fact that no one apart from his lovely Asian wife agrees with him really doesn't square with his convictions. Out of the blue, BY EMAIL no less he tells us that we are banned from his house and denied access to our two grandchildren. I do not know what the triggering event for this has been but we have been subjected to an avalanche of (completely unfounded) accusations all delivered via email as he won't face us. Your organisation seems to focus on families within the care system - what about folks like us. Since this happened, I have become aware of may people in similar family circumstances - none within the care system. I work within the care system as a children's panel member and am aware that the care system offers us nothing. Our only route is to go to court and that solves nothing, has a low chance of success and just keeps family lawyers in a job. Like your correspondent below I WANT LEGAL ACCESS TO MY GRANDCHILDREN! So what does Grandparents apart offer folks like us? Bill Mason

First of all. We don't offer you anything you need to work at it yourself or are you one of the millions who sit back and expect others to use their time and do it fot you.

We have helped a lot of grandparents get back in their grandchildren's lives by a little education on how to fit in with their new grandparental role and it has worked wonders and this is outwith the care system.

We are a voluntary non-funded organisation and spend what time we can to help others. We have family lives too which we have fought for and are trying to pass on our experience and help others when we can.

The government refuses point blank to grant grandparents any legal rights and the feed back is also resentment from parents if we did get legal rights, so we are trying to work round it. As i said to the other lady if you can do better, help yourself. If the grandparents that are affected got off their backsides and supported us like we asked i think we would be a lot closer to a resolution. We can bring it to the notice of the government but it is you the constituent that changes things. Changes are brought about by people like you by lobbying your member of parliament so don't put the blame on us. We have in the past ten years raised the profile of grandparents tremendously and have gained the 'Charter for Grandchildren' which we are trying to bring forward to raise our profile even further. If you find it is not going the way you want you seem to be a reasonably well educated. Do it yourself!..

We are volunteers.

Grandparents ready for the battle to secure justice

They hold a gun to your head," says Jessie Harvey, and the others round the table murmur a resigned chorus of, "But what can you do?" Their unflinching belief that children need and deserve the love of their own families rather than being cared for by strangers is one of the twin certainties in their lives. The other is poverty.

The majority of them are grandmothers, plus a grandfather or two, an auntie, and a couple of great grandmothers. All are caring for young children in their mature years, long after they had expected to be free of the daily demands of parenting.

Many have stepped back in to the role of parent because of the heroin addiction of a son or daughter.

Their stories are heartbreaking: a four-year-old trying to look after a baby and toddler; social workers arriving with starving children and an ultimatum: "Take them in or they'll go into care"; social workers appearing with a newborn whose mother was found injecting on the maternity ward.

For the relatives who have already lost one generation of their family, there is only one reaction. They open the door, open their arms, give up their bed for the children and spend the night on the sofa worrying over how they are going to provide a cot, a bed, food, clothing. That first sleepless night can be followed by months, if not years, of broken nights soothing infants who were born addicted to methadone or dealing with the fears of children who have been abused

The discovery that there are now thousands of others in the same position with little or no financial help, despite saving millions of pounds for councils who would otherwise have to pay the costs of foster or residential care, has turned these unsung carers into campaigners determined to secure justice for their children.

Relatives taking on the role of parents have now become so numerous - largely because of drug-addicted parents, but also as a result of death or illness - that a new term, "kinship carer", has been coined to describe them.

Most hope the children will eventually be able to be cared for by their own parents. Mrs Harvey, for instance, looks after her five-year-old grandson whose father, her youngest son, was a promising young footballer before turning to drugs 18 years ago.
She hoped the birth of a baby would help her son and his partner to live a drug-free life, albeit with the help of methadone. They managed three months before Mrs Harvey felt she had to step in.

Since then, she has only had a full night's sleep when the child is staying with his other grandmother. "He's a healthy, outgoing wee boy, but he was born a methadone baby and he has sleep problems."Both grandmothers encourage visits from the parents, but enforce a strict rule of no access if they are under the influence of drugs.

The unpredictable behavior of addict parents is the subject of bitter tales at the support groups kinship carers have formed across Scotland.There are parents who refuse to transfer child benefit, even though the child is not living with them; the mother who takes a teenage daughter into town and is arrested for shoplifting; the mother found comatose after being entrusted with the care of her toddler. Despite provocations of this kind, Mrs Harvey says: "You never hear a granny say anything bad about a parent to a child."

What has turned their stoicism to anger, however, is a feeling of injustice, that the children they are caring for are being condemned to poverty while unrelated foster parents and the children placed with them are given allowances of several times as much, plus extra payments for holidays and birthdays.

Some kinship carers' support groups have enabled children to go on holiday by holding money-raising events while the kinship care network has access to a caravan. For some, however, the cost of £40 a week, plus £10 for each child, is prohibitive.

Moreover, Mrs Harvey, and the hundreds of others in her situation, now fear that without adequate support in the form of psychological services, the children in their care will become damaged adults and, in turn, incapable themselves of competent parenting.

There is a huge demand for access to support services for children affected by traumatic early experiences, and deep anger that children placed with foster families are given priority while kinship children are "at the back of the queue".

The discrepancies are because in most cases these children live with members of their extended family though a private, voluntary agreement with their parents. However, some are placed on supervision orders through the children's panel, and others have residency orders by which the grandparents or other relatives have parental rights.

As with the allowances paid to foster parents, different councils pay varying rates to kinship carers, which range from nothing in Stirling, to £405.02 a fortnight in Perth and Kinross, for 16 to 18-year-olds who are formally "looked after" by the council, and £161.70 for those in informal arrangements.

Even the recommendation that there should be a minimum allowance paid throughout Scotland causes problems. The chief obstacle is such payments reduce other benefits. For that reason, Glasgow City Council has taken a policy decision not to make payments that reduce entitlement to state benefits. When it introduced kinship care payments at the beginning of this year they were limited to £40 a week.

Even that, however, has negative consequences for carers, who now find they have to pay fees for nursery school or after-school care, from which they were previously exempt.
The anomalies are recognised by the Scottish Government. Research for the previous Executive recommended there should be a separate official category of children looked after through kinship care, and they should be entitled to a welfare benefit through the Department of Work and Pensions.

The potential dangers of informal arrangements where the suitability of carers has not been assessed has prompted suggestions kinship carers should be offered similar training to foster parents, leading to a more formal arrangement and allowances. It appears such training is not geared toward the challenges of damaged children.

Mrs Harvey says: "They wanted me to take a training course, which involved learning how to cook mince and potatoes and change a nappy." At 58, with four children and six grandchildren, Mrs Harvey mastered those skills long ago and can't help being angry at what she sees as a misuse of public money so desperately needed by so many kinship carers.

They have been a marginalised group, but their voice is increasingly being heard by people with influence. The process began with a presentation to the Poverty Truth Commission set up to bring together people from some of Scotland's poorest neighbourhoods with influential figures from government, churches and universities. They have just put their case to the Minister For Children, Adam Ingram.

They emphasise they feel cheated after expecting to receive payments related to foster allowances last April, as a result of money released to local authorities.

Scottish Government policy now states councils should move towards paying the same as fostering allowances, minus child benefit, by 2011. The carers have been heard.