It’s Grandparents Day on 2 October, a celebration founded by the charity Age Concern to recognise the role of grandparents within the family.
Increasingly however, we are advising grandparents who are becoming more involved in their grandchildren’s lives – including those who take over the full-time care of their grandchildren, often known as kinship carers.
In 2011 there were around 180,000 children living with relatives, a high proportion of which were grandparents. These arrangements can vary immensely, from Child Arrangement Orders (“CAO’s”), Special Guardian Orders (“SGO’s”), Care Orders as kinship foster carers or even private arrangements, with no legal framework in place.
These carers make huge personal sacrifices, often taking on vulnerable children sometimes at short notice with no preparation, emotional or financial support. Government support can be sparse.
While keeping children within the extended family is usually seen, by professionals and the courts, to be in the child’s best interests in the long term, they are more likely to:
- Report health problems
- Have more caring responsibilities
- Have lower income
- Be in social grades D and E
- Be living in social rented accommodation
These children can therefore face deprivation, poverty and disadvantages in the education system, leading to poorer long-term outcomes.
Earlier this year a private members bill was introduced under the 10-minute rule by Muniera Wilson MP, the Kinship Care Bill – “A bill to provide for a statutory definition of kinship care; to make provision about allowances and parental leave for kinship carers who take on responsibility for children whose parents are unable to care for them; to make provision about education in relation to children who are looked after by a kinship carer; and for connected purposes.”
The bill has had its first reading but is still awaiting its second reading, which, with current turmoil may mean it is some way away from reaching the statute books. In the meantime, it is essential that in advising grandparents who are looking after their grandchildren the correct legal framework is carefully considered.
Grandparents can acquire parental responsibility with CAO’s and SGO’s, but different orders will provide differing financial support. A careful review of the family dynamics is required to understand issues of contact and risks associated with that, decision making and the financial needs of the carers.
Funding for such advice can be from the potential carers themselves, or from local authorities, particularly as families taking in children can often prevent such children falling into the ‘looked after’ sector.