Monthly Archives: July 2014

Battling Northamptonshire grandmother secures pay out for unpaid allowances

Helen Jarvis

Helen Jarvis – Grandparents Legal centre

A Northamptonshire grandmother has won her long standing 3 year battle against Northamptonshire County Council to get money to help her care for her grandson. Northamptonshire have now paid her over £20,000.

Background

The 57 year old grandmother had her 3 year old grandson placed with her in August 2011 by the County Council. Her daughter was admitted to hospital due to a violent relationship.

Despite the professionals involved in the case admitting on numerous occasions in 2012 that the child should be classed as ‘Looked After’ and that the grandmother should be provided with financial support, no support was forthcoming. Commenting the grandmother who cannot be named for legal reasons said

“I had made numerous requests to Social Services. I never anticipated having to care for my grandson. I’d thought the days of being a parent were over.

I found it really hard to make ends meet. Things had become so desperate for me that I even had to resort to selling some of my jewellery in 2013 in order to buy my grandson a Christmas present. Up to then having the money to buy him a present was something I had taken for granted.”

Helen Jarvis, a specialist at the Grandparents Legal Centre in Huddersfield commented “I was shocked at the position my client was in. An initial letter was sent on 7th February 2014. It took the County Council almost two months to respond confirming the child is a ‘Looked After’ child. This means that the County Council must financially support the child. He should have been classed as one since he was placed with my client. It was not until three years after the child came to live with his grandmother on 3rd May 2014 when Northamptonshire finally agreed a figure which was to be paid to my client as back pay.

“The Local Authority was clearly sidestepping its duties towards my client and her grandson which resulted in my client being in a dire financial situation. This is completely unacceptable. My client should have been receiving £139.79 per week in fostering allowances from the day her grandson was placed in her care.

Had they assessed her as a foster carer there was also the possibility to her receiving additional allowances after completing training courses. She missed out on these opportunities. Had my client not been willing to suffer such financial hardship in order to care for her grandson, it would have cost the Local Authority substantially more if he had been placed with professional foster carers”.

The grandmother commented “I cannot thank Helen Jarvis from Ridley & Hall solicitors enough! After spending years battling with Social Services, I needed specialist advice. I finally sought advice from the Grandparents Legal Centre. Their professional advice and the quality of service was excellent.

Helen has managed to get the Local Authority to admit my grandson is a ‘Looked After’ child. They are going to pay me a weekly allowance plus a backdated payment to cover the last 3 years.

Helen has kept me updated every step of the way and I am absolutely delighted with the result”.

To get in touch with Grandparents Legal Centre, please call 0843 2897130 or email info@grandparentslegalcentre.co.uk

Kinship Carers Meet in Westminster to Demand Equal Rights to Adoptive Families

“We take care of kids in crisis too!”

Nigel Priestley, Senior Partner at Ridley & Hall, joined over 50 Carers at the Time to Care summit held at Methodist Central Hall in London

Commenting he said “It was inspiring to meet the unsung heroes who are providing the care that many damaged children desperately need. It was encouraging to find that the Grandparents Plus recent poll showed that the public backs charity’s call for paid leave for family carers and end to ‘hierarchy of care’.”

Grandparents Plus brought over 50 grandparents and family carers from across England and Wales for a summit with the Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson MP and other MPs and peers to challenge the government on their treatment of kinship carers who are bringing up children as a result of extremely difficult family circumstances.

The summit – #timetocare about kinship care – was held as the charity published new poll findings to show the public overwhelmingly supports their call for grandparents and kinship carers who give a permanent home to children to be entitled to the same employment rights as adopters which would give them paid leave for the first time, with 76% in support, 41% strongly supporting. Polled grandparents who care for grandchildren are also overwhelmingly in favour with 88% in support.

A hidden army of 200,000 family or ‘kinship carers’ are raising up to 300,000 children across the UK. This could be because parents have died or are ill, because of parental drug or alcohol misuse, abuse or neglect, domestic violence, imprisonment or a combination of factors. The charity has calculated that it would cost taxpayers £12 billion a year in care costs alone if those children were in independent foster care. Yet kinship carers are currently not entitled to financial or practical support from their local authority unless the children are “looked after” children.

Commenting, Nigel Priestley said “It was great to find the support many grandparent carers receive from being part of kinship care support groups. There were carers from all over England and Wales who showed a fierce determination to ensure that local authorities recognise the important role they are playing.”

Once again the critical importance of carers having specialist legal advice was clear. Some of those who had been sent by their local authority to see a solicitor found that the person they saw simply didn’t understand the legal responsibilities of councils.

Fore more information, please contact us on 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of the kinship care team.

Battling Immingham Grandparents Win First Round in Fight for Financial Support

Immingham grandparents have been given permission to bring a legal challenge to North East Lincolnshire.  The fight is over the failure of social services to provide any financial support after they took on the care of their grandchild.

Background

In 2008, Mr and Mrs G were asked to care for their grandson by North East Lincolnshire social services.  Social services had been involved with the child for 2 years but repeatedly failed to step in to protect him.

Their grandson was just 4 years old at the time. They asked Mr and Mrs G to look after the child for 6 weeks.  They then transported him to their house. Six weeks passed.  Social services again asked them to look after the child for a few more weeks.

Around four months after social services had placed the boy with Mr and Mrs G, the social worker asked them to obtain a residence order.

Commenting, Rebecca Chapman, a specialist solicitor at the Huddersfield based Grandparents Legal Centre, part of Ridley & Hall Solicitors said, “The council had more than enough grounds to start care proceedings.  They saved themselves a fortune.  Care proceedings are costly and paying foster carers gets very expensive.

“Mr G is 68.  He’s not long retired and had not planned to take on the care of a chid in his retirement.  He and his wife are on a very low income.  They found it difficult to meet the financial demands of raising a child with emotional problems.  Unfortunately their grandson had some serious behavioural difficulties which resemble an attachment disorder and ADHD.  My clients think the council waited too long to act.

“At no point did the council offer any financial support to Mr and Mrs G, even though they had asked my clients to care for the child.  They had a duty to tell Mr and Mrs G that they were entitled to a residence allowance – but they stayed silent!

“Five years passed before the council were challenged to face up to their responsibilities.

“My clients asked the Council to conduct a residence order allowance assessment but the local authority did not respond to their request.

“Mr and Mrs G then instructed me and after a very detailed letter was sent, the local authority conducted the assessment.  The assessment appeared to be factually incorrect and stated that Mr and Mrs G were not eligible for an allowance.

“The local authority were not willing to review the assessment and high court proceedings were issued.  The high court in Leeds has now granted permission for the local authority’s failed to conduct an adequate assessment to be considered by a judge.”

Mrs G said “Like many grandparents we stepped in when the council asked us to help out.  When the social services then asked us to get a court order we did as we were told.  The council never told us that we should have been paid an allowance.

We were struggling to cope with our grandson’s behaviour.  The local authority had failed him and then they just left us to it.  We are pensioners having to cope with unexpected financial demands.  Our lives have been made more difficult with the council’s lack of action.  It is a total failure to fulfil their duties both to us and our grandson adequately.”

Rebecca Chapman said “It is disappointing for Mr and Mrs G that they have to go through the process of a judicial review in order to compel the local authority to do what they are already supposed to do.  The local authority’s actions are not consistent with their duties to this child.

“There has been a bizarre lack of response from the local authority in relation to this claim.  This means that they will be sleep walking into a hearing which could end with a large bill of legal costs.”

For more information kinship care, please contact Rebecca Chapman at Ridley and Hall Solicitors either by e-mail or on 01484 538421.

Spanish Tortilla in Meltham!

As part of our pro bono services, our Welfare Benefits Adviser, Sangeeta Enright runs a drop in session at the Crossroads Centre in Meltham, Huddersfield. She can be found helping people with forms, checking entitlement and ringing the DWP. She has links to contact the local MP, and can assist you to progress your appeal.

The drop-in session is held on a Tuesday morning from 10am onwards, with each session regularly attracting many visitors.

Recently; she helped a pensioner with claiming a little bit of Pension Credit to top up his state pension, help with his rent and his council tax thus making him £100 better off per week. He said he only went in to check what he was getting.

To show her how grateful he was for the help that he got from her and the volunteers at Crossroads, he made them some Spanish tortilla.

He said; “I was so surprised at how easy it all was; including the processing and payment of the claims.”

So, you never know what help you could be getting unless you ask for advice and the kettle is always on at the Crossroads centre!

Jacqui Scott is our Civil Litigation Adviser; helping individuals and businesses with advice on money they owe or are owed; and she runs her surgery on Wednesday mornings.

‘Pro bono’ means legal work undertaken without charge, or maybe in return for a little Spanish omelette!

Please contact Sangeeta or Jacqui, on 01484 538421, for more details including whether your organisation could help individuals in the community in this way.

La Grande Cycling Soiree Tonight!

The Tour de France is literally around the corner and the final preparations for our Grande Cycling Soiree are underway. The yellow bike and bunting have been hoisted up to show our support for this weekend of cycling entertainment.

Ridley & Hall Solicitors are hosting a soiree where attendees can enjoy food and drinks with a French-Yorkshire fusion and watch the Huddersfield Criterium Cycle Race as it takes place right outside our office. All proceeds will be going to the Hollybank Trust and Brake (the accident charity).

We have been overwhelmed by the number of attendees but there are still a handful of tickets available which can be purchased via the eventbrite website.

With rain forecasted this afternoon, why not enjoy the spetacle with food, drink and a roof over your head. Formidable!

For more information, please visit our Grande Cycling Soiree webpage.

Builder Negligence Leads to Call for Mandatory Regulation

A Huddersfield woman Pamela Ciceri, who suffered serious injuries when a garden wall collapsed on her, has won her 2 ½ year legal battle to hold her builder Lee Marsden to account.

On 9th September 2011 Pamela (61) went into her back garden to take photographs of a retaining wall that was being built as she was making an album to show the reconstruction of her garden.  The aim was to create a large patio area with a wall to retain the remainder of the garden, leading by steps up to a lawned area at a higher level.

Lee Marsden of MWK Complete Building Services had drawn Mrs Ciceri’s attention to the crack in the wall that morning and he assured Pamela and her husband that the crack was nothing to worry about, but as she was standing next to the 60 ft wall later in the day it partially collapsed on her and she was buried under concrete breeze blocks and rubble, trapped from the waist down.

Her husband Alan said “I cannot forget her screaming as I called the emergency services”.

Pamela sustained a fractured jaw bone and had to have titanium strips implanted permanently.  In addition she suffered facial injuries, a head injury, a double fracture of her right lower leg and a crush injury to her right foot as well as fractured ribs and severe lacerations to her face and body.  She also suffered from flashbacks and post traumatic stress for months after the accident.

On 9th April 2014 Lee Marsden pleaded guilty at Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court to health and safety breaches leading to the accident.  After the hearing HSE inspector Dave Stewart said “Construction work should only be undertaken by those competent to do the job safely in accordance with a design that deals with specific risks.  Mr Marsden did not recognise the dangers posed by the structure he built which was incapable of retaining the forces exerted upon it.  He also failed to prevent access to the wall when cracks appeared”.

He went on to say “The wall did collapse and sadly the householder was in the garden at the time and seriously injured.  Building contractors should engage competent engineers to advise on suitable designs for structures that will be subject to considerable loads.  Inadequate design is a major cause of structure failure, the consequences of which can be serious and often fatal”.

Janet Watson, specialist personal injury lawyer with Ridley & Hall Solicitors who pursued a civil claim on Pamela’s behalf said: “Electricians and gas fitters have to be qualified – but rogue builders can carry out work and put up structures that are not structurally sound.  Regulations that apply to buildings do not apply to gardens.  When I took on this case I was astonished to find that there is no mandatory registration for builders in the UK.  The largest voluntary builders’ registration body is the Federation of Master Builders.  It currently has 10,000 members – but when you think that there are about 180,000 construction companies across the company that means potentially a lot of dodgy builders.”

She went on to say “money can never adequately compensate someone who has been through such a traumatic experience but I am glad that, alongside the criminal prosecution that was brought, I was able to negotiate a substantial out of court settlement for Pamela”.

In a final word of caution Janet said: “Unless and until the government introduces mandatory registration for builders, it is vital that consumers should do their best to ensure that any builder is competent and experienced and where necessary consults an engineer.  Always check that your builder has insurance cover.  But really the moral of this story is that mandatory regulation must be introduced now”.

Janet Watson is a chartered legal executive and has worked in civil litigation for over 20 years. She now specialises in personal injury law acting mainly for claimants handling a variety of cases from road traffic accidents on a fixed fee basis to complex accidents at work. Janet specialises in accidents involving cyclists. Janet is a member of APIL and has achieved senior litigator status. She is committed to achieving maximum damages for the appropriate injury taking into account the needs of the particular individual. Janet believes that it is important that each client receives a personal service – At a time when the injured person is most vulnerable they should be able to speak to someone who knows their case and to have face to face discussions whenever possible.

For more information on personal injury please phone 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of the personal injury department.