A London grandmother, aged 60, has forced the London Borough of Hackney to pay over £30,000 in an out of court settlement after they failed to pay her the right allowance for years.
The grandmother is a kinship carer. She has been caring for her two grandchildren now aged 8 and 10 since they were babies. Hackney social services placed the children with her. This was as an alternative to foster care or adoption. Hackney had decided that their parents were unable to care for the children.
The grandmother said, “Social services told me I had to get a court order to give me legal rights over the children. The court granted a residence order to me in respect of the first child and later a special guardianship order in respect of both children.
Hackney Council had been paying me a special guardianship order allowances since 2007 at a set rate without any increase or up-rating. This means that when other carers were paid more as their children got older I kept being paid the same amount. Hackney seemed to think that trainers and clothing, food and gas were the same in 2015 as they were years ago when the children came to me.
The council broke a promise. We had an agreement confirming Hackney would pay me the same special guardianship allowance they paid for other children with the same order for one child and the equivalent of the foster care allowance for the other.
When I discovered I wasn’t being treated fairly I knew I had to get specialist advice. Ridley & Hall Solicitors have a reputation as experts in providing advice to kinship carers. I instructed solicitor, Tracey Ling, because I needed financial help. The cost of caring was going up year on year but my allowance from Hackney stayed the same.”
Tracey Ling explained, “Local authorities must comply with government guidance unless there are exceptional reasons which stops them doing so. They have to increase payments for all carers when the local authorities put them up each April.
“Many kinship carers are given the impression that they should be expected to care without financial support because they are family or friends carers. They are made to feel that they should be grateful for any financial support that they receive. Without the right advice, many accept this and they can easily get into financial difficulty and debt. This is not helpful if a grandmother is dealing with the pressures and challenges of caring for a child.
“The grandmother knew our reputation. We work to hold local authorities to account where decisions on financial support have been incorrectly made or where the incorrect rate of allowance is being paid.
“I challenged Hackney about the way they were acting. Thankfully they saw sense. They agreed to pay a back payment of over £30,000. They also began to pay the correct weekly allowance. This means that instead of £186 per week, my client will now receive £279.60 per week.”
The grandmother stated, “This is a lifesaver for me. This settlement could not have come sooner. It’s a very early Christmas present! I am so grateful for the assistance received from Ridley & Hall. Without this, I would have been left struggling financially to care for my grandchildren. The local authority played on my ignorance.
“I expect that there will be many other kinship carers in a similar position. I would encourage them to seek good legal advice. This can make all the difference.”
For legal advice relating to kinship care, please contact Ridley & Hall on 01484 538421.