On Christmas Eve 2015, *Joan and Harry Castle’s life was turned upside down (not their real names*). After receiving a call from a Social Worker asking them to take care of their grandchildren, life would not be the same.
“We were looking forward to spending our retirement together when we suddenly received the telephone call. The Social Worker made it clear to us that the children were not safe in the care of their mother and the only alternative was foster care” commented Mrs Castle. “It wasn’t the way we were expecting to celebrate Christmas”.
Mr and Mrs Castle took on responsibility for their 2 grandchildren then aged 16 and 13 and a great grandchild aged just a few months old.
The Local Authority assessed Mr and Mrs Castle as foster carers for the children and they began to receive payments for all three children. One of the children left to go to boarding school in around January 2016. Payments for that child and their great grandchild ceased in May 2016.
Mrs Castle explained, “We were told that we were no longer entitled to those payments. The explanation we were given was that our grandson no longer resided with us full time and in relation to our great grandson, we were told that we should never have received any payments in the first place. We continued to receive the basic fostering allowance for our granddaughter. This didn’t seem quite right so we contacted Helen Jarvis at Ridley & Hall to see whether there was anything we could do to challenge this”.
Miss Jarvis commented, “This was an unusual case but when I looked into it, it was relatively straight forward. There were 3 issues here. Firstly, the grandchildren were clearly and still are “looked after” children. The fact that one of them is at boarding school does not mean that the Local Authority is totally absolved of their responsibilities towards him. My clients confirmed that he does spend holidays with them.
Secondly, only a basic fostering allowance was being paid for the granddaughter who lived at home with the clients. Upon looking at the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham’s (LBHF) website, it was clear that additional allowances are paid to foster carers of £237 per week.
Lastly, I saw on the website that the Local Authority has a policy whereby they pay additional allowances where a mother is placed in care with her child.
Miss Jarvis wrote to the Council to ask that they accept that all the children be classed as “looked after” regardless of the fact that their grandson was at boarding school. “I decided after looking at the Local Authority’s policy, there should have been either a separate allowance for the great grandson or an enhanced allowance for a mother and baby placement. There were also additional allowances due in relation to the granddaughter of £237 per week”.
A month later, the Council agreed that the carers should have been receiving the additional fostering fees of £237 per week for their granddaughter. They agreed a backdated allowance to the date that she was first placed in the clients care of just under £12,000 and agreed to pay the allowance weekly.
Miss Jarvis went on; “The authorities also accepted that the clients grandson is a “looked after” child and it was agreed that payments would be received for him as per how much time he spends with the carers at home from boarding school”.
Finally, the Local Authority agreed that a parent and child placement attracts two fees and therefore a backdated payment was due and a weekly allowance is to be paid moving forward.
“In total, my clients received backdated payment of almost £23,000. Moving forward they will now receive an additional £237 per week for their granddaughter, monies for their grandson when he is in their care and £237 per week for their great grandson” advised Miss Jarvis.
Mrs Castle commented, “To go from £216 per week to almost £700 per week and extra when our grandson is home is just brilliant. I cannot put into words how much stress this will take away from us. I cannot believe that we were entitled to these monies from the date that the children were placed with us and yet the Local Authority did not inform us of the full picture. I just hope that our story encourages other carers to review the support they receive”.
Helen Jarvis is a solicitor at Ridley & Hall who specialises in kinship care and obtaining support for families from the Local Authority. If you consider that you are in a similar position, please do not hesitate to seek advice on 01484 538421.