Judge gives grandma the right to challenge Derbyshire County Council’s residence allowance policy
A high court judge has given a 67 year old Derbyshire grandmother permission to challenge a key policy of Derbyshire County Council.
The grandmother has been caring for her grandson who is now 13 since 2000. At one stage she was also caring for her grand daughter as well. The children had been placed with her by Derbyshire Social Services and they had encouraged her to apply for a residence order.
The County Council agreed to pay her a residence allowance. This was on the basis that if the grandmother had not stepped forward the children would have gone into foster care. The children’s’ parents were not able to properly care for the children.
Commenting on the case Nigel Priestley Senior Partner at Ridley and Hall, the specialist grandparent carers solicitors said
“The grandmother was caring for 2 very demanding and damaged children. For over 12 years she worked closely with Social Services to get them the support they needed.
“I enquired as to the level of payment my grandparent carer was receiving. Alarm bells began to ring. I was surprised at how low the residence allowance payments were.
It was then that I found, firstly, Derbyshire County Council’s payments in respect of fostering allowances and secondly, a report dated the 26th July 2011.
Foster carers who are “mainstream fostering” for children aged 11-15, get a fostering allowance paid by Derbyshire of £156.00 per week.
I found a report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Strategic Director. A decision was made in July 2011 to increase the special guardianship allowance to the same level as the fostering allowance. The report contained a warning that the cabinet chose to ignore. The county council made a decision, that
“all other adoption and residence order allowances will be maintained at 58% of fostering allowances although it is possible that these allowances will be subject to future legal challenge”.
If this was a prophetic remark by the Deputy Chief Executive, it is a prophecy that has come true!
Derbyshire appear to have a habit of moving grandparents caring for their grandchildren onto residence orders within care proceedings. The county council at best then pays a residence allowance, is 58% of the fostering allowance, just over £70 per week. Derbyshire has deliberately chosen to get child care on the cheap.
I wrote to Derbyshire about their policy. It’s my view that their policy is unlawful. The letter back failed to address the issues in the case.
We then issued a judicial review application. The county council’s response again failed to deal with the central issue.. His Honour Judge Behrens sitting as a high court judge has granted permission for the grandmother to challenge the county council’s policy.
This is an important case – Derbyshire are not alone in paying grandparent carers with residence orders significantly less than foster carers. I bam staggered that at a difficult time for local authorities the county council is spending council tax payers money to defend the indefensible.”
Commenting the grandmother who cannot be named for legal reasons said “I am 67 and survive on my pension. I am shocked that the county council can treat me and other carers like me in this way. I have to count every penny. It would have cost the county council a fortune if they had had to put my grandchildren into foster care.”
For further information please contact Nigel Priestley or call 01484 538421.