Local grandparents successfully took on Bradford Council in the High Court
The High Court granted leave to appeal. Bradford Council finally backed down and agreed the child was a ‘looked after’ child. The grandparents have been awarded backdated financial support of £6,000 and financial support of £110.00 each week.
The case involves a child who should have been looked after by Bradford Council but the child and the grandparents were badly let down by them. The local authority made the arrangements for the child to move in with the grandparents because the child’s parents were unable to look after them. The call for the grandparents to care for the child came out of the blue. It is sometimes known as the midnight call syndrome. It turned the grandparents’ and the child’s lives upside down. ‘It was a social worker saying they had our grandchild they were putting the child into foster care – they wanted to see if we could look after our grandchild – preferably permanently. Of course we took our grandchild in.’
The grandparents have struggled financially to pay for basic necessities for the child, such as school uniforms. The grandparents want to be confident that the local authority ensures that the child is ‘cared about’ as well as ‘cared for’ and that they get the right sort of help to do well in their lives. They feel that an important part of this is to secure education and health care plans to help the child to come to terms with what has happened and to assist them to look to the future.
Proceedings were issued the High Court in March 2011 to judicially review Bradford Council’s decision not to put in place crucial education and health plans plus financial support. Leave to appeal to the High Court was granted, which means that the High Court takes this case seriously.
‘We are thankful to Ridley & Hall for fighting our case and bringing us this far. ‘This is a fight for the children we care for and for all the other children who may face this situation. Children in this situation are often in shock they have lived in a traumatic situation. They are upset and scared. They can show their feelings by being quiet and withdrawn, angry and rude, or they might follow their grandparent around and cry, wanting attention and reassurance. It is not the same as bringing up your birth children. Grandparents have to give up their retirement years, their freedom, independence, holidays with friends and their social lives. They do this because they love their grandchildren.
All across the country relatives have to step in and care for children let down by the system. These children are already damaged children and to be let down by the system in this way is unacceptable. Grandparents need help to care for their grandchildren. At 30 years old they can do this, but raising a young child and providing day to day care is much hard at 60 years and older. Social Services should meet their legal responsibilities.’
Ridley & Hall had been assisting both families in their fight against Bradford Council. Susan Cawtherley of Ridley & Hall represented the children and their carers. The carers can not be identified for legal reasons. They are pleased they have got this far. The families feel that this support should have been in place from the start and not put them in a position where they were forced to take legal action in the High court.
The Children Act places a responsibility upon local authorities to step in and care for children who can not be cared for adequately by their parents or those with parental responsibility. Often local authorities will side step this obligation by claiming that a ‘private arrangement’ has been agreed between the carer and the child, thereby avoiding long-term responsibility including financial responsibility. This inevitably places a financial burden upon carers, who are not always family members and ultimately it is detrimental for the children who have already faced considerable difficulty and upheaval.
Susan Cawtherley commented ‘This case concerns Bradford Council but this is happening all over the country and is not limited to particular local authorities. Damaged children and grandparents need to know that the authorities are there for them in times of crisis and not, as has happened, feel that they are instead trying to wash their hands of responsibility due to what comes down to monetary pressure from councils’ budgets. This financial support is vital for the wellbeing of the child where often the grandparents are on state pensions.’