Battling Grandma wins Court fight for support
Bradford Council is facing a double financial whammy after an order was made in the Administrative Court today in Leeds following a 3 year fight by a battling grandmother.
Permission had been given to challenge the Council’s failure to properly fund the care of a child by her grandmother.
Leave was granted by His Honour Judge Langan QC to bring a judicial review against the council in October 2009 and the case was listed for hearing on 10th March. Bradford finally agreed the terms of settlement late yesterday afternoon.
The child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, came to live with her grandparents in February 2007. Social Services asked the grandparents to care whilst the mother was assessed by them. The assessment concluded that the mother’s chaotic lifestyle and drug use meant she was having a negative and detrimental effect on the child’s upbringing.
Nigel Priestley, Senior Partner at Ridley & Hall, Huddersfield, specialises in working with grandparent carers, and is the grandmother’s solicitor. He commented
“By April 2007 it was clear to Bradford that the mother couldn’t meet her child’s basic needs. The council started paying towards the child- minding costs. Bradford had legal responsibilities towards the child but, typical of many local authorities, it tried to get rid of these duties. It pushed the grandmother to apply for a Residence Order. They could then have washed their hands of the child. Thankfully the grandmother sought legal advice and the application was stopped. It’s vital first to get the council to accept its’ responsibilities and start talking of how they will support the placement before taking on parental responsibility for a child.”
He went on:
“What happened next is doubly shocking. First Bradford stopped paying anything for the child’s support. Secondly when we started writing to Bradford, they simply ignored our letters. We first contacted the council in April 2008 looking for answers and asking for documents. 2 years later I am still waiting. They never even responded when the Judicial Review application was served on them”
“ This case sends a very important message to carers. If the local authority wants them to apply for a Residence Order – stop! Get legal advice! In this case my client was pointed in the right direction by the Bridge Project in Bradford. If the grandmother in this case had done what the local authority wanted her to do, both she and her granddaughter may have missed out on the support she desperately needed. She will now get a significant back payment and a weekly allowance for the child.”
He went on:
“More than 200,000 children are living away from their parents and being raised full time by grandparents or other relatives. According to a recent study by the charity Grandparents Plus, 93% of children are in the care of relatives due to abuse, neglect, parental drug or alcohol misuse or domestic violence”
“I am a Trustee of Family Rights Group. Experience from FRG’s national advice line confirms research studies that family and friends carers are living in financial hardship. A Grandparents Plus’s survey reveals that 66% of family and friends carers are on a weekly net income of less than £300, one in four also cares for an older or disabled relative and 80% describe themselves as “isolated” or “worried”. The grandparents challenging Bradford in this case would certainly fall into this category.”
“ Analysis by Family Rights Group shows that many grandparents and other relatives are left to struggle on their own both financially and practically. The vast majority (69%) of local authorities do not have a written coherent approach to family and friends care, and only 10% are committed to providing family and friends carers of children the same level of non-financial support as unrelated foster carers. Who knows what Bradford’s policy is – they simply don’t answer letters to tell us!”
His Honour Judge Langan QC warned Bradford that the Council’s failure to engage in “any meaningful correspondence” placed the council “at serious risk of an adverse costs order”. His warning came true.
As result of the settlement Bradford have a bill for back pay. They also have to the meet the grandmother’s legal fees. And they must pay her the allowance she was always due.
Commenting the grandmother said
“I am 60 this year. Taking on the care of a child at my time of life is not easy. My granddaughter has had a difficult start in life. Sadly she’s been damaged by her carer’s neglect. She’s a very challenging 5 year old. I love her but I made it clear to Bradford that our financial circumstances would make it difficult to care without their financial support. They turned on the financial tap a little for a short time – then switched it off without telling us why. Now they’ll have to pay.
They have avoided having to explain themselves in court. This case could have easily been settled. As a result of the Council’s approach, it will cost the council tax payers of Bradford even more money.”
For further information please contact:
Mr Nigel Priestley
Ridley & Hall LLP
35 Market Street
Tel: 01484 538421
Fax: 01484 533076