A Yorkshire couple are celebrating the payment of over £80,000 from a Yorkshire local authority. The payment represents 12 years of back payment due to them after the local authority failed to increase residence allowance payments.
The grandparents, Bill and Sally (not their real names), took responsibility for their two grandchildren in March 2003. The children were placed with them by social srvices after the parents were unable to continue looking after them.
A year later, with the support of the local authority, they obtained the residence order. The local authority began to pay £22.64 per week for each child. The children were aged 18 months and 2 months old at the time of the placement.
Commenting, Sally, the grandmother said, “We didn’t start caring for our grandchildren for the money. They came to us because we didn’t want them to be in the care of the local authority. We wanted them to have the love that they had missed out on. They needed stability and we could provide this.
Caring for the children has not been easy. The children are not at all straight forward. One of them is on the autistic spectrum. We have needed support for him.
“We had no idea that the level of the residence allowance could be increased. For 12 years we looked after the children and received the same amount of money.
“In 2013, we saw a story in the paper about the responsibility of local authorities towards kinship carers. My husband and I realised we needed specialist legal advice and went to see Nigel Priestley at Ridley & Hall.
“We discovered that local authorities annually increase the level of payment and, in addition, the payments go up depending upon how old the child is. Nobody from our local authority told us this.
“Our position was very simple. We trusted the local authority. They thought we should be the carers. They realised that we needed financial support to be able to care for our grandchildren. We had not expected to have to care for them and if we had not stepped in the local authority would have had to pay an allowance to foster carers.
“I am delighted that, after the local authority were challenged about the level of payment, they accepted that they had made a mistake. After a lot of correspondence they agreed to settle our claim without having to go to court.
“It was agreed between our solicitors and the council that we have should have been paid a total of £80,000 over the past 12 years.
“We are still caring for the children. The local authority have started paying the correct weekly allowance. This means our weekly payments have gone up from £22.64 per week to approximately £185 per week, per child.
“As you can imagine, having an additional £320 per week has made a significant impact on our family finances. I had to sit down with shock when Mr Priestley gave me the news!”
Nigel Priestley, Senior Partner at Ridley & Hall, a firm that specialises in supporting family and friends carers, said, “This is a record payment for Ridley & Hall. We have been fighting on behalf of family and friends carers for over 10 years.
“Some people may be shocked about the level of payment made to my clients. The fact is that they stepped in when they were asked to by the local authority. It meant a complete change in their lives. One of their grandchildren is particularly challenging. The local authority knew the grandparents needed financial support.
“The grandparents could reasonably expect that the local authority would increase their payments along with other similar carers, which simply didn’t happen. Like many grandparents, they didn’t go into caring for the children for the money. They could, however, expect the local authority to behave properly towards them.
“The case sends out a clear message to all grandparents who are receiving either special guardianship allowance payments, child arrangement order payments or residence allowance. They should check that their allowances are being annually up rated. They should seek specialist legal advice if they think that the local authority are short changing them.
“I was delighted that, in this case, we did not need to issue legal proceedings. The local authority accepted their mistake and, after working with them they calculated what sum should have been paid to my clients.”
Nigel Priestley has been shortlisted for Family Law Partner of the Year in the 2015 Family Law Awards.