Category Archives: Residence orders

Battling Immingham Grandparent’s High Court Win – North East Lincolnshire Ordered to Pay £43,000

Immingham grandparents have won a legal challenge against North East Lincolnshire Council. The fight was over the failure of social services to provide  financial support after they took on the care of their grandchild.

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. Social services asked Mr and Mrs G to look after the child for 3 months. They then transported him to their house. Three months 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. They never told Mr and Mrs G that they would be entitled to apply for residence allowance.

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

It was not until they went to see specialist kinship care solicitors, Ridley & Hall in Huddersfield, that they discovered that they were entitled to be paid residence allowance.

Commenting, Rebecca Chapman, a specialist solicitor at Ridley & Hall said:

“The council had more than enough grounds to start care proceedings. They saved themselves a fortune placing the child with my clients. Care proceedings are costly and paying foster carers gets very expensive.

“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 the council stated that Mr and Mrs G were not eligible for an allowance.

“The local authority were asked to review the assessment but never responded. High Court proceedings were issued. The council did not provide a response to the proceedings.

“The High Court in Leeds has today ordered North East Lincolnshire to make a back payment of £43,000 and to pay Mr and Mrs G a weekly allowance.”

Mrs G said, “This is all my birthdays and Christmases on one day! It’s a fantastic result. We couldn’t have done it without Ridley & Hall.

“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.

“My husband is 69. He’s long retired. We are pensioners. We had not planned to take on the care of a child in his retirement and have spent our savings on looking after my grandson. At times we’ve found it difficult to meet the financial demands of raising a child at this time in our lives.

“Add to that, the fact that unfortunately our grandson had some serious behavioural difficulties, and I can truthfully say it’s been a challenging time.

“We were struggling to cope with our grandson’s behaviour. The local authority had failed him and then they just left us to it.  Our lives have been made more difficult with the council’s lack of action.  It’s vital that grandparent carers like us get specialist legal advice.

“The council totally failed to fulfil their duties both to us and our grandson.”

Rebecca Chapman said “It’s disappointing for Mr and Mrs G that they had to go to the High Court to compel the local authority to do what they are already supposed to do. The local authority failed this child.

“There was a bizarre lack of response from the local authority in relation this claim. Nobody from social services even attended the hearing. As a result of the council burying their heads in the sand, the judge has ordered North East Lincolnshire to pay my clients’ costs. It’s the hard pressed council taxpayers who have ended up with a large bill of legal costs.”

If you would like any more information about this or any other kinship care issue, please call Ridley & Hall on 01484 538421 and ask to speak to Rebecca Chapman.

Manchester Grandmother Receives Out of Court Settlement for Support

A 63 year old grandmother has received £4,400 from Manchester City Council in an out of court settlement in a battle to get support for her grandchildren.

In 2007 the grandmother took on the care of her two grandchildren, who were at the time aged 8 and 10, to avoid them having to go into foster care.  She has continued to care for the children for the last 7 years.

The grandmother had applied for and been granted a residence order in respect of the children. She was challenging the council as they were not providing her with any financial support to help her to meet the children’s care needs.

The grandmother commented, “Things came to ahead in January 2007. The social worker was at the hospital with the children whilst they were being checked over for signs of physical abuse. The social worker contacted the children’s father. She attended the hospital. The social worker rang me and asked me to care for the children. It was made clear if I did not take the children they would go into foster care. The social worker took all three of my daughter’s children to my home.

There was a further meeting on the 20th January 2007. The social worker directed what would happen with the children – one would go and live with a relative, my granddaughter would stay with me and the other granddaughter would go back to live with her father. She only lived with her father for approximately four or five days before she was brought to me and left in my care. I contacted social services about this and was advised to keep her with me.

Social services directed what would happen with the children but I was not given any financial assistance and was just left to get on with it. Taking on three children was a massive commitment and I was left struggling financially. I only became aware that there was something that could be done to help with my situation after speaking with friends who had been in a similar situation. They urged me to seek specialist advice.”

The grandmother contacted Ridley & Hall. They corresponded with Manchester City Council which led to a lump sum offer being made by the council.

The grandmother commented, “It has been a year long battle. I didn’t know my rights and Social Services never told me about their duty to pay a residence allowance. I am delighted with the pay out. My grandchildren can now participate in activities and socialise like other children their age. I can now afford to send my granddaughter on her school trip.”

Ms Ling of Ridley & Hall said, “All the children were “looked after” as the social worker had accommodated them with my client which triggered section 20 of the Children Act 1989. The agreement my client made with social services that two of the children would be accommodated with our client was as an alternative to the children being taken into foster care with strangers. My client subsequently applied for a residence order.  We firmly take the view that a residence order allowance should be paid in these circumstances.

I am very pleased with the outcome. Like many family and friends carers who suddenly find themselves in this position, this grandmother found herself in difficulty due to the lack of support from the council.  It is important people get the right advice when they need it.”

One local authority has today reported that in their area the council’s social services department have taken 12% more children into care this year and are looking desperately for more foster carers.  Their fostering department is already “overwhelmed and underfunded”.  There are now 855 children in care up from 765 at the same time last year.

Local authorities are increasingly relying on family and friends carers to fill the gap by the shortage of foster carers. Fostering Network reports that nationally there is a shortage of over 7,500 foster carers.

Ms Ling commented, “In these circumstances, local authorities should value kinship carers and pay them appropriately.”

For more information contact Tracey Ling on 01484 538421.

Tick Tock – The Time is Now for Family Members

“There is no time like the present” is an old saying but it could not be more appropriate for family and friends carers and the support groups that work with them.

Frequently when local authorities issue care proceedings, there has been reluctance by family members to put themselves forward as carers in the early stages of the case.

This can be for a variety of reasons. Often it is due to grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends not being aware of the seriousness of the situation. They don’t want to undermine the parents’ chances of resuming the care of the child. The impact has been that family members have come forward at the later  stages of a case when they realise that the child may be heading for adoption or long term fostering. This has led to final decisions in where a child should live being delayed.

However, from October 2013 the government’s Public Law Outline pilot scheme was implemented nationally. Cases will be expected to be completed within a strict 26 week time period.

The implications for family members is that by the 12th day after an application by a local authority for either a care or supervision order has been made,  parents must have nominated alternative family and friend carers so the case can be fully timetabled.  If family members are not nominated by this date then there is a real likelihood that they will not be considered, unless in the most exceptional of cases.

Grandparents and other family members must act quickly to make sure they are going to be considered as carers. Family members can no longer take a back seat and see how the parents do prior to coming forward as in doing so may mean they are not assessed and their grandchild, niece/nephew is placed outside the family.

Commenting, James Cook, Partner with Ridley & Hall solicitors said “They urgently need expert legal advice. Family and friends carers play a significant role in the care of children. The Public Law Outline timetable is tough. And with courts making clear that every avenue of care must be explored before they will support a plan for adoption, it’s vital that kinship carers and those who work with them act quickly.”

For more information on the Public Law Outline, please phone 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of the Care department.

Aunt Wins £11,000 from Sefton Council to Care for Children

An aunt from Southport has been paid almost £11,000 from Sefton after she had two children placed with her by the council. Their mother had died and the father was deemed unable to care for them.

The children, initially went to live with the father when their mother died. The father had a new girlfriend but the relationship involved violence and alcohol abuse. Social services were aware of the problems in the family. The aunt was contacted by the new girlfriend as they could not cope with the children. The aunt then contacted social services to find out what she should do.

The children came to live with the aunt in April 2007, when they were 12 and 9 years old. Social services visited and made it clear that the children could not go back to their father due to issues of alcohol abuse, violence and police involvement. They asked the aunt to continue caring for the children. The aunt had her own child, who was aged 3 at the time. Social services said that if she did not look after the children and get a residence order then they would be placed into foster care. The aunt did not want the children to go into foster care so decided to care for the children. A residence order was granted in 2007.

She was on a low income when they first came to live with her and she had difficulty finding enough money to pay for their school uniforms. She asked for some help from Sefton Council. She was provided with a £100 to cover the cost of new school uniforms.

Rebecca Chapman of specialist law firm Ridley & Hall commented, “My client was not told of the possibility of a residence order allowance and when she asked for further financial assistance she was told that none was available.

The aunt who does not wish to be named said, “Although I wanted to care for the children my house was not large enough and so I had to move to a bigger house. This meant incurring higher rent, in order that I could care for the children. The children did not come with any essential items and I had to purchase these items on my credit card. I was not provided with any help from the local authority apart from the initial £100 to cover the school uniforms.

“As well as caring for two children who came from a difficult background, the elder child also had toileting issues which had to be worked through until they became more settled. No support was provided by the council in order to help me deal with this problem.

“Fortunately, the elder child made good progress and left home in 2011 to attend college. That’s the benefit of being a kinship carer – enabling a child to be brought up within the family.

“I couldn’t have done this without Ridley and Hall. Not only have I got a lump sum I’m also getting a weekly allowance which makes all the difference.”

Ms Chapman went on, “Although our client, who is now 37 years old, had approached social services for assistance, she had been told that none was available so she sought my advice as she continued to struggle to pay for essential items for the child who remained with her.

The local authority were approached in February 2012 and asked to complete and assessment for a residence order allowance. This eventually took place in April and she was awarded a weekly allowance of £127.70. However, there was a delay in payments starting with the regular payments starting at the end of December. Due to the delay starting payments, the local authority awarded a backdated sum to cover the period of time from when the request was first made. This sum came to just under £11,000.”

Miss Chapman concluded, “I am very pleased that my client now has enough money in order to pay for the essential items for the children who were placed with her by social services. However, I think it is a disgrace that it required the assistance of a solicitor to obtain an allowance instead of the local authority automatically complying with their lawful duties.”

For further information please contact Rebecca Chapman by email or telephone on 01484 538421.

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

Front page of Derbyshire Telegraph: click here to view