200 Carers May Benefit As Derbyshire Grandma Celebrates Victory Over County Council’s Payment Policy
200 carers may benefit as Derbyshire grandma celebrates victory over county council’s payment policy.
A 68 year old grandmother from Swadlincote is celebrating today settling her claim against Derbyshire County Council. She brought a judicial review against the county council which was listed for a two day hearing starting on 14th May. The case was settled at the 11th hour by a settlement which will transform her finances.
The action had been brought to challenge the county council’s policy on paying residence allowances. She has been caring for her 13 year old grandson since 2000. She previously cared for her granddaughter. The children had been placed by Derbyshire after they decided the parents could not care for them. She had been encouraged by the county council to apply for a residence order. This gave her parental responsibility of the children. The county council agreed to pay her a residence allowance.
Commenting on the case, Nigel Priestley, Senior Partner of the specialist law firm Ridley & Hall, said “Derbyshire’s approach was shameless. On 26th July 2011 in an advice to the Cabinet they were warned that paying residence allowances at 58% of fostering allowances could lead to a legal challenge. Despite the advice they received Derbyshire ignored it and kept paying just over £70 per week to my client.
“The fostering allowance was £156 per week. It is now approximately £160 per week.
“What makes the local authority’s approach so scandalous is that my client tried to settle the case without going to court. The county council must have known that they were onto a loser but we had to start judicial review proceedings. These proceedings challenge a local authority’s breach of its legal duties.
“A judge decided that the county council had a case to answer and gave my client permission to proceed. Derbyshire defended these proceedings so the case was listed for a 2 day hearing.
“I am delighted that the county council agreed to negotiate a settlement. The county council have agreed to make a back payment to my client to pay her the equivalent of a fostering allowance and to pay her legal costs. Council tax payers in Derbyshire should be asking their local councillors whether fighting this case was the best use of their council tax.
He concluded “Within the last two weeks the Buttle Trust published research from the University of Bristol warning that kinship carers faced financial hardship when they offered to care for their grandchildren. This research was confirmed this week in research sponsored by Family Rights Group from Joan Hunt from Oxford University called ‘It’s Just Not Fair‘. These findings are hardly surprising when local authorities behave like Derbyshire
“I am told over 200 families are being paid residence allowances in Derbyshire. If they are being paid in the same way as my client, they need to act. They should be challenging the county council to pay them properly – or get in touch with me!
“My client is not alone. Across the country local authorities are paying limited residence allowances.”
The grandmother who cannot be named for legal reasons said “I’m delighted with this result. I love my grandchildren but caring for them has not been easy. Teenagers are expensive! I’m on pension credit. Money has been very tight. Every week I have had to make some difficult decisions about what I can and cannot afford. I know my way round the charity shops.
“These payments will make all the difference. I really hope that other grandparent carers in my position will challenge the county council. If I hadn’t had the specialist advice from Ridley & Hall I would never have won.
“I never understood the implications of having a residence order rather than being a kinship carer. I did what the county council suggested. For 13 years I have struggled financially. It should never have happened.”
The research report from Joan Hunt launched by FRG on 14th May commenting on the problems facing kinship carers concluded amongst other findings that “holders of residence orders appear to come somewhat lower down the support pecking order.” She commented that residence order holders may not have access to the same support services or may be paid at lower allowances.
For further information contact Nigel Priestley on 07885 430085 or 01484 538421.