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.”