It’s been quite a week in our Family Team. We have received these very kind messages from kinship carers in the last week. In each case we have been working with grandparent carers or representing kinship carers fighting to get their loved ones placed with them in the face of hostility from the local authority and in one of the cases both the Social Worker and the Children’s Guardian.
“Hi, we just wanted to say from the bottom of our hearts thank you! You will never know how amazing and appreciated you are! We are so happy with yesterday’s outcome and feel justified that the right decision was made! The children were totally delighted when we told them the amazing news!! We’ve never known a solicitor’s like yours that actively helps people in desperate situations and against the odds!! Also I am sharing your information on our support group every opportunity I can so others have your professional service in the future!!”
“I just want to send you a quick e-mail to say for your help and support over the last few months. I do not know what would have been foisted upon us as a family without your guidance
I know we are at the start of a long road, but at least we now have the direction and support to perhaps find the correct destination for everyone involved in the journey.”
“I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to both yourself and the rest of the team at Ridley & Hall for assisting me in negotiating the shark infested waters of the past year.
From my initial contact with Rosie and my subsequent dealings with all the support staff and professionals I have been treated with care and consideration, in my view, above and beyond the norm.
I would have absolutely no hesitation whatsoever about recommending the firm to anyone who will listen.”
I’m only sending this text at this unearthly hour because you will (hopefully) probably be asleep and hence not be disturbed.
As always you have given us as much time as necessary and been kind and understanding of the situation in which we found ourselves.
In my view (even at your relatively young age!), you not only have the knowledge but also the experience and wisdom to deal with complicated, challenging matters as ours.
Once again, we are indebted to you for the kindness and consideration which you have showed.”
“Thank you for everything, and do not a shred of doubt that this could not have gone as well as it has without guidance.”
“Hi Nigel, as you know, it is with GREAT pleasure that I can announce the forthcoming return of my grandson to his rightful place within his family following the local authorities application being rejected by the judge ……it surely couldn’t have been achieved without the intervention of one particular FANTASTIC solicitor who believed I was worth fighting for – I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart Nigel for all your hard work in helping to achieve this outcome xx”
ALL THE CASES WERE DIFFERENT BUT THEY THERE ARE LESSONS FOR FAMILY AND FRIEND CARERS WANTING TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR LOVED ONE
- Don’t be put off if there is a negative viability assessment of you. There’s no uniformity across the country to say what should or should not be covered. FRG with the endorsement of a number of organisations including Social Services Directors have now produced a template as what should be covered by the Viability Assessment. It’s yet to be applied nationally. It’s a great document to put alongside the viability Assessment from your local authority. Most fall short of this standard.
- Even if there’s a full assessment which is negative, it may be capable of a challenge particularly if the local authority plan is for a placement order and adoption. In one of the cases both the viability and the full assessment were negative but they were challenged. The case moved up from the Magistrates to the County Court. The judge made his views about both the Social Worker and the Children’s Guardians reports and assessments very clear. He wasn’t impressed. The child in question is on a planned return to the family.
- If you aren’t entitled to legal aid to fight the case up to and including the final hearing – don’t despair. We may still be able to help. In one of the cases we simply got the carers party status to challenge the Assessment. That was all they could afford. But it set them on course for their voice to be properly heard.
- Be ready to challenge the local authority plans for the order under which the child is to be placed with you. In one case this week the family had had the children as foster carers. They were about to be approved as Level 3 carers. The local authority were so keen to move the children onto an SGO that they reached an agreement to pay this fee on top of the normal SGO allowance. Sometimes it’s possible to negotiate a discrete agreement with the local authority.
- Be ready for a surprise! I went to court for a kinship carer who had had 2 children placed with her. She wasn’t being paid any allowance as the local authority had said it was a private arrangement. They then started Care Proceedings. I threatened them with a Judicial Review about the lack of payment. Social Services immediately agreed that they were looked after children and accepted a back payment had to be made. In addition they agreed that as long as the children remained looked after, if the carer signed up for 4 training courses they would immediately pay her an additional professional fee of £200 per week. I’ve never had that before!
- It’s vital that kinship carers get specialist legal advice. Ridley & Hall Legal Limited is acknowledged as the leading law firm in the country representing kinship carers. Whether you live in Cumbria Croydon or Cornwall and with our links with specialist barristers, distance isn’t a problem. We don’t always achieve what our clients’ hope for. At the end of the day it’s the judge who decides where the child should live and under what order. That’s how it should be. But are determined where possible that the voice of the kinship carer is heard!