Launch of Grandparents Legal Centre

Thursday 29 September 2011

Breakfast time at Lucy’s will never be the same again. Her 2 bed roomed bungalow had always been so quiet apart from when her grand children popped in to see her.
Then Social Services asked her to take on the care of her 7 grandchildren because her daughter couldn’t care for them. At 61 that was a big decision for Lucy. She said Yes, was given a larger house – but no financial support.

Hannah’s house had always been a bolt hole for Rebecca. Her grand daughter knew the one place she was welcome whilst her mother went thro’ a number of different partners was her Nan’s. But suddenly the visits stopped. Hannah’s daughter started a new relationship, moved out of the area and stopped Rebecca seeing her Nan.

Jan and Bill found their granddaughter knocking at their door. They took her in and have been caring for ever since. Her father was a drinker who had been abusing his daughter. Care proceedings followed and Social services told the grandparents to apply for a Residence Order. They needed advice urgently.

These are all true stories of grandparents who found themselves floundering and needing expert advice
Ridley and Hall have responded to this need by launching a unique service the Grandparents Legal Centre. It will open on 3rd October 2011
It will be a One Stop Shop to provide across the board specialist advice.
.
Nigel Priestley heads up the legal team at the Centre. He has a national reputation fighting for Grandparents rights. The Centre will provide specialist legal advice to grandparents who need to represented in Court Proceedings about their grandchildren or who want to challenge a local authority for support

He commented: There are three key areas where grandparents may need specialist advice.
1. Fighting for contact for Grandparents
Lynn Chesterman from the Grandparents Association highlights the nature of the problem:
“A common difficult situation is where the grandparents, who have been a major part of the children’s lives, are denied access or not allowed any contact, perhaps because the son-in-law or daughter-in-law has a new partner or moved away.
Grandparents have often spent thousands in court fees trying to establish access. This may even have been agreed by the court, but if the parent doesn’t bring the grandchild as requested, the grandparents are back to square one and have to return to court.”

Nigel Priestley commented:
“Losing contact with grandchildren causes great heartbreak for grandparents.  Many have little or no contact with their grandchildren. They are not alone – up to 1 million grandparents are in the same position. Grandparents need skilled advice fighting for contact or for an order that their grandchildren live with them.

2.  Representation in Care Proceeding
“Grandparents are often left trying to pick up the pieces. They want to take on the care of the grandchildren who have been taken into care by Social Services.  Grandparents need to know how to become parties to care proceedings. Grandparents in Care Proceedings need specialist solicitors who are Children Panel members to represent them.
3. Kinship carers
“Most grandparents are not responsible for the situations they find themselves in, regarding their grandchildren. Their own children may have gone through divorce or separation. They may have been involved in domestic violence, drugs or alcohol misuse. They may have had problems with mental health. Sadly some may have died.
As Grandparent carers, they are not too old to care – but they need specialist advice to obtain the support they need. Family and Friends carers are increasingly relied on by local authorities. “
• There are 200,000 family and friends carers, most of whom are grandparents, who are raising 300,000 children who can no longer live with their parents.
• There is a national shortage of 10000 foster carers.
• Statutory guidance tells social workers to consider grandparents as carers alongside other members of the family. The grandchildren may have been physically emotionally or psychologically damaged.
•  Kinship carers are entitled to support for themselves and their grandchildren. Too often they have to battle for it. Advice from a battle hardened legal team with expertise in this field is vital”
The Grandparents Legal Centre
The Grandparents Legal Centre has a team of lawyers who are experts at working with grandparents.
• Ridley and Hall have obtained back payments for Kinship carers of over £700,000
• One of the key kinship support groups, Grandparents as Parents, states on its website that Ridley and Hall is “the leading firm in England and Wales for advice on kinship care’.“  It states: “Their commitment to human rights and their cutting edge legal work means that we can provide advice on the responsibilities of local authorities and we know how to hold them to account for their actions”.

He concluded “Many grandparents become carers again just as they are planning for retirement. They need skilled advice on financial planning. They may need to know about welfare benefits for the first time in their lives. The Grandparents Legal Centre provides a unique One Stop Advice Shop.

For more information contact Sarah Young, Adam Fletcher or Nigel Priestley on 01484 538421 or 07885 430085
Nigel Priestley is the Law Society National Private Practice Solicitor of the Year 2010. Sarah Young won the association of Women Solicitors (AWS) Award for Managing a Small Practice in September 2009 and was shortlisted for the Law Society Excellence Awards. Michael George has been shortlisted for the LAPG Legal Aid Family Lawyer of the Year 2011.