Category Archives: Grandparents Legal Centre

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.


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

Damning Report on Family and Friends Care from Local Government Ombudsman welcomed

The Local Government Ombudsman has launched a damning report on local authorities failure to support family and friends Carers.

A damning report on Family and Friends Care from Local Government Ombudsman can be seen here.

Commenting Nigel Priestley said “Family and friends cares contact us from across the country. Many Carers find that they suddenly have to take responsibility for grandchildren, nephews or nieces or friends children.

Only today I have seen a 70 year old retired pilot who has taken responsibility for his 11 year old grandchild who was abandoned by his mentally ill daughter at school. Out of the blue he took on a caring role with his wife. And then he ran slap bang into a local authority that was determined to view this a private family arrangement. His grandson has been emotionally damaged and needs special support in school.

He is typical of the Carers who contact us. At the moment we are getting 8-10 new contacts each week. As a trustee of the Family Rights Group I know the pressure that their telephone Advice Line is under.

Family and friends Carers simply do not know the rights and responsibilities of local authorities. In our experience it has been necessary to force local authorities to accept their responsibilities.

As a firm we have brought a series of Judicial Reviews in relation to the rights of Family and Friends Carers. Local authorities seem to prefer fighting Carers and spending council tax payers money rather than addressing the needs of the children and their Carers.

Ridley and Hall have been at the forefront of ensuring that local authorities fulfil their duties to family and friends Carers.

Of the 5 key cases that govern the rights of grandparent and kinship Carers , 3 have been brought by my firm -

We brought an action against Kent which went to the Court of Appeal on the issue of s20 Children Act.It is the leading case. It is vital that children are recognised as looked after children. It’s not simply in relation to guaranteed financial support. It ensures access to school and support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Carers have their own social workers. They get access to training and support groups.

We succeeded in the Court of Appeal in July in a landmark decision against Tower Hamlets which means that family and friends foster Carers are entitled to the same fees as foster Carers.

We successfully challenged Kirklees policy of paying Special Guardianship Allowances at 2/3 the rate of fostering allowances.

As a result of the need for accessible quality advice we launched the Grandparents Legal Centre

We have recovered over £1 million in back payments for family and friends Carers.

Nigel Priestley is a trustee of Family Rights Group and this year was named Legal Champion of the Year at Grandparents Plus Kinship Care Awards. He was awarded National Solicitor of the Year Award in 2010 in the Law Society Excellence Awards. You can find Nigel’s profile here.

For further information, advice or assistance please contact Ridley & Hall Solicitors on 01484 538421.

Ridley & Hall Review of the Care Leavers Charter

Many grandparent carers and family and friends carers will be caring for “looked after” children who are approaching 16 – or who may have already reached it. This briefing sets out the key responsibilities of local authorities for these children who will soon be leaving care.

What are the duties of Local Authorities?

Local authorities have a duty to support “looked after” children and provide services to enable them to live in a safe, loving environment. Children can be “looked after” until they reach the age of 16 and it is often a misconception that once a child turns 16, local authority involvement automatically ceases.

But in fact the local authorities duties extend further than this. There is support available for children who are leaving care at the age of 16 up to the age of 21, or 25 if they are in further education.

The Care Leavers Charter

In October 2012, the Department of Education launched the ‘Care Leavers Charter’, a contract between local authorities and young people leaving care setting out what support care leavers can expect.

A year later in October 2013 and over 120 local authorities have signed up to the charter, pledging to prioritise the needs of young people leaving care.

Around 10,000 young people aged 16-18 in England leave care each year. This is a vulnerable time as they transition into adulthood. Research shows that the quality of support offered to care leavers is often lacking and the transition to adulthood can often be an anxious time for young people. Many young people feel isolated and often struggle to find work which can lead to long term unemployment and involvement in crime.

The Care Leavers Charter aims to provide support and guidance to care leavers and for them to ‘expect the same level of care and support that other young people get from their parent’. The main areas which have been looked at are education, employment, financial support, health, housing, justice system and on-going support, for example;


The Department of Education found that 34% of all care leavers aged 19 were not in education, employment or training compared to 15.5% of the general population of 18 year olds. In addition, only 6% of care leavers went on to higher education compared to 23% of their peers. 80% of non-looked after children obtained 5 A*-C GCSE’s compared with only 37% of looked after children.

The Department of Education has placed a duty on local authorities to provide a personal adviser to all care leavers up to the age of 25 who wish to continue with education/training. Local authorities are to encourage care leavers to remain in education, take up training opportunities and undertake activities aimed at improving employability.

2. Employment

The Department of Education has teamed up with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to provide 18-24 year olds access to additional advice, support, work experience and apprenticeships. Job Centre Plus advisers are also to provide this support to care leavers who face greater difficulties in finding work.

3. Financial Support

16-19 year olds attending a furthere education course are entitled to a bursary of £1,200. Care leavers attending university are entitled to a higher education bursary of £2,000.

DWP has ensured that dedicated Job Centre Plus advisers can support care leavers in making a claim for benefits in advance of leaving care to prevent hardship when they first leave.

97 Local Authorities to date have signed up to pay at least £2,000 to care leavers by way of a setting up home allowance (leaving care grant). In the future it is hoped that statutory guidance will be issued to encourage all local authorities to pay this allowance.

4. Health

The mental health strategy ‘No Health Without Mental Health’ published in February 2011 highlights the fact that looked after children and care leavers mental health needs are often greater than the general population. The Department of Health is investing £54 million in 2011-2015 to improve access to psychological therapies and CAMHS.

5. Housing

Around one quarter of those living on the streets have a background in care and it is often difficult for care leavers to find suitable accommodation.

The Department of Education has revised leaving care guidance to encourage local authorities to consider introducing the ‘staying put’ provision. Some local authorities are using ‘staying put’ arrangements to ensure that care leavers can continue to live with and get support from former foster carers.

6. Justice System

Care leavers are a group at risk of being drawn into crime and are equally particularly vulnerable to becoming a victim of crime.

In October 2013, new guidance was published where a range of providers not just prison and probation staff will have responsibility for supporting young adults to make the right choices and reduce the rates of re-offending.

The Youth Justice Board funds dedicated social worker’s in all under 18 young offender institutions to meet the needs of looked after children and care leavers.

7. On-going Support

The Department of Education has issued guidance ‘Transitions to Adulthood’ which places a duty on local authorities to stay in touch and support care leavers until 21, and beyond if in education.

The Department of Education has pledged to open a savings account for all care leavers who have been in care for a year or more with an initial £200 which they can access when they turn 18.

What’s next?

Data collection is to continue and a further report will be issued in October 2014 to measure progress and set out what more can be done to support care leavers and helping them to improve their lives.

Helen Jarvis is a member the Grandparents Legal Centre legal team. If you have any questions about the Care Leavers Charter, “looked after” children, grandparent carers or family and friends carers, please contact Helen by telephoning 01484 538421 or by e-mail.

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.

Nigel Priestley wins Legal Champion of the Year

We are delighted to announce that Nigel Priestley, Senior Partner at Ridley & Hall Solicitors has won Legal Champion of the Year at the Inaugural Kinship Care Awards.

Nigel Priestley and Kathy Ashley, Family Rights Group

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus commented “Nigel Priestley recently won Legal Champion of the Year at the Inaugural Kinship Care Awards that we hosted jointly with Neil Stewart Associates.  He won because he is the country’s recognised leading legal advocated for grandparents and other family members who are in the position of having to raise a child who can no longer live with their parents, and who then often find they face the additional battle of having to challenge their local authority.”

“Nigel doesn’t just win cases for individual grandparents – important though that is – but the cases he is bringing have an impact far beyond that case and effectively change policy and practice for others as local authorities start to adjust what they do in light of his victories in order to avoid a legal challenge themselves.”

For further information contact Nigel Priestley on 01484 538 421.

Liverpool City Council Fails to Give Adequate Support to 340 Carers

Around 340 carers in the Merseyside area will have their allowances backdated after an investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) discovered Liverpool City Council had been underpaying them for years. For full story click here

Court Ruling on Kinship Foster Carers: Lessons for Councils

A recent Court of Appeal decision, as reported in the Guardian, has re-affirmed that there should be no discrimination between related and unrelated foster carers.

Rebecca Chapman, a Community Care solicitor at Ridley & Hall commented “It is an important decision which recognises the importance of the services provided by family and friends carers as well as exemplifying the need for local authorities to follow statutory guidance.”

For further information or advice in this area, please contact Rebecca Chapman at Ridley & Hall Solicitors on 01484 538421 or by e-mail.


Landmark Ruling for Family and Friends Carers

In a landmark case with wide ranging implications for all local authorities who pay less to family and friends carers,  the Court of Appeal has ruled that kinship foster carers should be entitled to all the support and benefits as unrelated foster carers.

Rebecca Chapman of Ridley & Hall Solicitors, solicitor for the aunt who brought the case explained why the decision was so important:
“Since 2001 family and friends carers should have been paid the basic fostering allowance as unrelated carers. This payment only covers the basic cost of looking after a child. But most local authorities pay their own foster carers significantly more than this basic sum.”

“This can be a very large sum. In this case the kinship carer received around £600 per week to care for three disabled children, whereas an unrelated foster carer would have received over £1200 per week to care for the same children. North Yorkshire pays a premium to foster carers of between £46 to £81.82 per week which family and friends carers cannot receive. Blackburn with Darwen pays an additional £56 per week per child which is not immediately available to family and friends carers.

Kinship carers are now entitled to request the local authority to provide training and access to the fee scheme. Many local authorities operate schemes where unrelated foster carers can apply for extra fees for the children they care for due to their skills or qualifications. Kinship carers now can have access to training to allow them to develop the skills and qualifications in order that they can receive the increased fees.

In the case an aunt was looking after 3 very disabled children, who had previously been cared for by unrelated foster carers. Unfortunately the previous placements broke down due to the demands of the children and Tower Hamlets approached the aunt as a last resort to keep the children together.

The local authority recognised that the care and support provided by the aunt could not be replicated elsewhere but they refused to pay her the same as an unrelated foster carer. She did receive an enhancement on the fostering allowance due to the needs of the children but she was only entitled to half the allowance as she was a kinship carer. Unrelated foster carers would have received the full allowance. Altogether the aunt received around half the amount of money an unrelated foster carer would have received even though she was succeeding to care for the children were previous foster carers had failed.

Initially the aunt took Tower Hamlets to judicial review where the court found that they were wrong to discriminate between kinship carers and unrelated foster carers. Tower Hamlets appealed the decision. The appeal was heard and the judges gave their verdict on the same day. The appeal was dismissed with the detailed reasons to follow.

It was clear that where the Secretary of State provides guidance that there should be equity of provision and entitlement that the guidance should be followed unless there are good reasons for not doing so. The guidance in this case included Family and friends carers: statutory guidance

The aunt said:

“I am really pleased that I am now finally eligible for the same benefits and fees as an unrelated foster carers. This is now much fairer as before I was doing the same job as an unrelated foster carer without the benefits, the only difference was that I succeeded where the other carers did not.”

Rebecca Chapman said:

“It has been a long battle but I am absolutely delighted for my client. This means that she can now be treated equally compared to unrelated foster carer so she should be able to receive the same fees and training. This will have an enormous impact on my client as she will have enough money to be able to continue to care for the three very demanding children.”

It will also have an impact on other local authorities as they will have to make the same fees, rewards and training available to kinship carers. I am already aware of several local authorities who will have to change their policies in light of this decision.”

If you would like anymore information please contact Rebecca Chapman at Ridley & Hall Solicitors on 01484 538421 or by e-mail.