A battling grandmother caring for two grandchildren has won her fight to get Middlesbrough Council to pay allowances.
A grandmother has been caring for her grandson aged 4 since 2012. His mother had mental health issues and social services had concerns about her capacity to parent. Following assessment, he was removed from his mother’s care and placed in foster care.
The grandmother, who cannot be named for legal reasons (named Claire in this article), said:
“I put myself forward to care as I knew it was in his best interest to stay within the family and that I could give him the love and care that he needed. I knew it would not be an easy thing to take on as I was already caring for two of my own children, aged 9 and 10, but I was prepared to do it to ensure that my grandson was safe and well cared for.”
“It soon became apparent to me that it was going to be even more of a challenge caring for my grandson than I had first anticipated. He had challenging behaviour, would wake during the night screaming, did not like change and found it traumatic if he was cared for by anyone other than me.
I was on Income Support and could not return to work as I could not leave my grandson with anybody else. My partner had a zero hour’s contract and at times was without work. Cost of contact with his family was expensive but no financial support was provided to me by the Council even though they had a legal duty to pay me
“Middlesbrough Council were involved from early on and were well aware of my circumstances. They were quite happy to leave me caring for my grandson but never told me that it may be possible to get some help financially by way of a weekly allowance.”
15 months after taking on the care of her grandson, his half-sister was born. Claire was contacted by Social Services while the mother was still pregnant. They had concerns about the mother’s ability to care and, after the baby was born, they started care proceedings and with Claire’s agreement, placed the child with her until the outcome of the care proceedings were known.
It was decided by the court that Claire and her partner should continue to care for their granddaughter and a Special Guardianship Order was made in January 2014.
Claire contacted specialist Solicitor, Tracey Ling, at Ridley & Hall who helped her to challenge Middlesbrough Council’s decision to stop paying SGO allowance for the 2nd child and requested they also start paying Child Arrangement Order allowance for the 1st child.
Tracey Ling said:
“Claire is an amazing woman. She is an unsung hero! She took on the care of a very challenging grandson and she then began to care for her granddaughter. Her granddaughter has disabilities and a life limiting condition. She has experienced a number of complications and additional health issues.
“Since being in Claire’s care, she has had to undergo a life-saving operation and will need further surgeries in the future. Claire is required to take her to numerous medical appointments.
She also has speech and language difficulties, is unable to walk or stand and has behavioural problems. Her needs require very specialist care by Claire and has meant that it has not been possible for her to work.”
In July 2015 Claire was informed of the Council’s decision to stop paying the Special Guardianship allowance for their granddaughter.
These were outrageous decisions! I’m delighted that we were able to take up the battle with Middlesbrough – and win! She’s saving the Council thousands of pounds and providing the loving care both children need.”
The local authority agreed to start paying Child Arrangement Order allowance and to reinstate the Special Guardianship Order allowance.
It was also agreed that they would pay lump sums for backdated allowance totalling over £10,000.
Ms Ling commented:
“This was a fight we had to win. Claire now receives a Child Arrangement Order allowance in respect of her grandson, aged 4, and a Special Guardianship Order allowance in respect of her granddaughter, aged 2.
This was a family that had their own lives turned upside down and made a huge amount of sacrifices in order to care for these children.
Unfortunately, they did not get the help and support that they really needed from this local authority to help them to do this difficult job.
It is important that kinship carers are aware that local authorities often still have responsibilities and duties towards the children, even after court orders have been made. Where there is a discretion to provide financial support, they must exercise this reasonably.
“I would personally recommend Ridley & Hall to anyone who is having issues with support from the local authority…A personal huge thank you to Tracey Ling my solicitor for supporting me and my family. They’ve been amazing and patient when things were difficult for me and I am so glad I made that step and called. We can enjoy being a family for the first time in months.”
Ridley & Hall are able to provide advice on legal aspects of family and friends care (kinship care). This covers both financial support and general support needs which the child or carer may have.