Hi everyone and welcome to Bristol Grandparents Support Group blog. Although we are Bristol based we have grandparents from all over the UK and beyond as members.

It is estimated that over one million children in the UK are denied contact with their grandparents due to family breakdown which may have been caused by divorce/separation, alcohol/drug dependency,domestic violence,bereavement or family feud.
Every child has the right to have contact with their grandparents
if they wish and unless proven unsafe for them to do so. To deny contact from a parent or grandparent has to become as socially unacceptable as drink driving.
I hope to keep you up to date with what is going on in BGSG and I shall continue to campaign for the rights of children to have a loving and meaningful relationship with both parents and their extended family. So please join in as good to hear your views, not just mine!
I also will support via Skype.
There is no membership fee to be part of Bristol Grandparents Support Group.
Esther Rantzen says, " To every grandparent, links of love can never be broken in our hearts."

Please contact during office hours.

Friday 31 December 2010


So at the end of 2010, time to once again thank everyone for their support.
I am never sure that looking back is a good thing, as in any year you have good times and bad,happy days and sad ones.
I have certainly done things this year that I never thought I would, experiences that have come from something so tragic , not being able to see my granddaughter, the people I have met have been wonderful and my life is richer for knowing them.
And so to 2011, I will continue to raise public awareness on behalf of the million children in the UK who are denied contact with grandparents.
I will support non-resident parents with gaining contact with their children.
The children must have their right to access both parents and all extended family , recognised.
I wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year.

Monday 27 December 2010

Keep Believing.

When you look up into the sky,
Whether the sun is shining or the rain is pouring,
If I had wings that I could fly,
To see you, to hug you and stop this mourning,
The sky that you can see,
The birds that are flying and singing near you,
Is the same sky, are the same birds,
You have to believe because its true.
It is just one blue or grey sky,
Birds chirping and swooping high and low,
Lets close our eyes tight, you can if you try,
The earth is covered white ,where you are and here, with snow.
One day, we will look up at the sky ,together.
Watch the birds, flying high,
No longer alone, with your family forever,
So close your eyes tight, and do not cry.

Jane Jackson 
copyright 2010

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Global Interest.

According to the 'stats' on this blog it shows that people from the UK,United States,Germany,Slovenia,Belize and Norway are visiting the site.
The marvels of the internet.
If you are visiting my blog from afar I would love to hear your views and comments.
Thank you for your interest and I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and New Year.

They are not with their families.

As we begin to countdown to Christmas and those who are going to be with their families, remember the children who will not be seeing both their parents,due to conflict, or their grandparents,uncles,aunts or cousins.
The reality is that over one million children who are denied access to their families, over one million children unhappy,sad confused and isolated.
So just one minute of your time,to send your thoughts out to those children.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

What Do You Deserve As Children?

"As Children..........

We deserve a family that we can look up to,to love us unconditionally,
We expect our Mum and Dad to bring us up equally, our grandparents to love us , and our sisters and brothers to always be there for us when we need them.
Our family are our blood,our identity our history.
Sometimes our family doesn’t live up to out expectations, we are mistreated, we are not respected, we are not loved.
When any member of our family puts their needs first, they have let us down, we are isolated and alone.
And you wonder why we feel sad,angry and confused?
You are the adults, we are children.
Listen to our voices."


Top 10 Family Law Issues in 2010

Sunday 19 December 2010

Messages 2010

These 2 girls come every year to put messages on the tree for children who won't be seeing their grandparents.
They also gave me a Christingle candle from the service they had just been to. Thank you girls,you have no idea how much it means to me.

Thank you to everyone who has come and put messages on our 'Tree of Hope'.

Saturday 18 December 2010

What are you doing to the children?

As grandparents denied contact due to family breakdown, our wish is only to be part of our grandchildren's lives, but have we thought further than that?
I have always said that this is not about grandparents rights it is about grandchildren's rights, I don't apologise for repeating that, what effect does being parted from both parents and grandparents have on over one million children?
Children who have not had any contact with members of their family for, in many cases ,over a period of 4/6 years are effected so badly, children who we remember as little people with the rest of their lives in front of them, full of excitement and promise only to have that dashed by adults who can't agree to put differences behind them for the sake of the children.
The children are used as weapons they have no say in the matter.
Children who plead with their parent they are living with, to be able to see their other parent and grandparents, are told that their family don't want anything to do with them and that they don't love them anymore.
So when they reach an age when they can make their own decisions, so much damage has been done, children who are so angry have problems at school and in some cases, find themselves excluded and are unable to interact socially with others as they don't trust anyone anymore.
How can we allow this to happen to our young people?
Those of us who are still waiting for that knock on the door, need to be aware that there is a long journey to take place, building up trust with sensitivity and patience.
And the 'Every Child Matters' agenda, I don't think so, we have over a million children who are and have been so unhappy some have contemplated ending their lives, and they have been let down by adults.


Sunday 12 December 2010

The true meaning of Christmas.

I have just opened the door to 2 little girls and their mum, who wanted to put messages on the tree.
This is the 3rd year they have called, I don't know them, except as my 'Christmas cheer', they have just been to the local church to the children's Christingle service and they bought me my own Christingle.
How fab people can be and their kindness means such a lot.
Also local paper have rung and are coming in to take a photo this evening.

Our Tree of Hope Star- Designed by Paul Jackson.

My Christmas and New Year Wish.

As we all approach Christmas it is a time for reflection for many of us. As the song says 'What have you done today to make you feel proud?'
That can be quite an uncomfortable question,if I am honest, how many times do I do things for me,not actually for others? Mmm.
It has been a busy year, laughter,tears and support.
The Bristol Grandparents Support Group has continued to grow, I have mixed feelings about that because it shows how many grandchildren and grandparents are going through such sadness and at a loss to know what to do. The unexpected occurrence is that I have made some very strong and true friendships for which I am very grateful.
I have been able to be a part of several grandchildren being reunited with their grandparents, and that is the goal.
So as I move forward towards another New Year I hope to be able to support grandparents in anyway I can and to rejoice in families who reconnect.
Do I feel proud of what I have done today? Do I need to feel proud? I am not sure. What about you?

Thursday 9 December 2010

Messages come rolling in.

The Tree of Hope is up, so if you want to put a message on it for the grandchildren who won't be seeing their grandparents at Christmas due to denied contact please let me know.
It is looking amazing already.

Local Mp's Response

Monday 6 December 2010

Christmas Present.

Today, I wrapped up my granddaughters Christmas present , it is a lovely warm coat for her and snuggly scarf that I knitted for her.
This is the 3rd Christmas that I have sent a parcel off, I never know if she gets it, or if she is told it is from someone else which happened in the past.
On Christmas morning if I close my eyes tight I can just see her smiling face , ripping open the pretty paper with excitement.

United Nations Children's Rights

What is the UNCRC?

All children and young people up to the age of 18 years have all the rights in the Convention. Some groups of children and young people - for example those living away from home, and young disabled people - have additional rights to make sure they are treated fairly and their needs are met.

The UK ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on 16 December 1991. That means the UK government now has to make sure that every child has all the rights outlined in the treaty except in those areas where the government has entered a specific reservation.

A convention is an agreement between countries to obey the same law. When the government of a country ratifies a convention, that means it agrees to obey the rules set out in that convention.

What the treaty means

From 15 January 1992, when the treaty came into force, every child in the UK has been entitled to over 40 specific rights. These include:

the right to life, survival and development

the right to have their views respected, and to have their best interests considered at all times

the right to a name and nationality, freedom of expression, and access to information concerning them

the right to live in a family environment or alternative care, and to have contact with both parents wherever possible

health and welfare rights, including rights for disabled children, the right to health and health care, and social security

the right to education, leisure, culture and the arts

special protection for refugee children, children in the juvenile justice system, children deprived of their liberty and children suffering economic, sexual or other forms of exploitation

The rights included in the convention apply to all children and young people, with no exceptions.

For more detailed information on the treaty and the rights included in it, and to find out the reservations entered by each country, click on the link below.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Aims and Objectives of The Bristol Support Group.

I was asked on Friday by a new member of the group what were the aims and objectives of the group.

: To give support to others who are denied contact with their grandchildren due to family breakdown.
: To share experiences and ideas.
: To continue to raise public awareness.
: To continue to put pressure on government to make changes and to stop grandparents being called 'irrelevant people' in the eyes of the law.
: To eradicate the phrase Grandparents Rights, to be replaced to Grandchildren's Rights.
: To lobby our MP's

Our objective is to see our grandchildren.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Denied contact messages to grandchildren, on our 'Tree of Hope.'

I have removed names etc, just for the blog. Grandchildren's names are on the messages on the Christmas tree .

‘Dearest S and R, I will always love you and hold you close to my heart. I am your Nannie for ever.’

"We love you with all our hearts D and T" love Nana and Grampy xxxx

‘To my darling grandson W who I have missed every single day for the past four years.

Wishing you a happy 14th birthday on th December and a lovely Christmas.

I long to know what you look like and what you sound like and hope one day to catch a glimpse of you - as you live only two miles away.

And my wish is also for ALL grandparents who have to weather this daily grief.

With fondest love,

Grandma xxxxxxxxxxxxxx


‘For E

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

I Still Love You Wherever You Are

No Matter If We Are Near Or Far

I Love You You’re My Little Star


‘Dear M, all our love Nannie A and Granddad G we love you and miss you so much, have lovely time. Xxxxxxx’


‘Happy Christmas, Darling,love Granny B.’

‘To L and K, I hope you both have a Happy Christmas,with all my love, granny.’

‘With my love to E,L,R,and J, Grandma R.’

‘To H and S, Merry Christmas,always thinking about you both so much. Nan and Grandad.’

So sad that so many grandchildren not going to see their grandparents this Christmas,please change the law.’ X

‘Happy Christmas, L, lots of love from Daddy,Nanny, Greatgrandad D, H,R,and N.xx’

Friday 3 December 2010

Tree of Hope Messages.

Email me your messages for your grandchildren so that I can add them to our ' Tree of Hope', the Christmas Tree will be in my front garden, as it has been for the last 3 years.

Thursday 2 December 2010

End of year round-up.

Yet another 12 months has passed and it has certainly been a busy time.
Here is a list of what has been going on:
Interview on Radio 4.
Mature Times print my letter, several responses.
Facebook group set up.
Letter to local paper.
Bristol City Council response. On Purple pages data base.
Judith Masson, Bristol Uni came to talk to support group.
Letter from Dawn Primarolo MP
Seminar to be held in Bristol, asked to be involved-sadly never took place.
Probably as organisation concerned set tickets at £25!
Monthly adverts in local mags.
Attended a conference in Bristol on the affects of drug and alcohol on families,met lots of organisations who were very interested in The Bristol Grandparents Support Group, contact details given.
Posters in libraries, shops health centres etc.
Start hiring a hall for meetings.
Contacted by a counsellor, wants to give groups details.
Wrote to local MP, after she was elected.
Wrote Sarah Teather MP new minister for Children.
New government announced review to family law.
Wrote article for local paper, on grandchildren's rights.
Government setting up task force to look at contact and non resident parents and grandparents.
BBC rang for my reaction.
Daily Express article.
Went to London to do a podcast.
Presentation for using in schools, request to go and talk to teachers.
Social Services rang wanting groups details.
Letters to newspapers re The Family Justice Review.
Asked to do article for Take-a-Break mag.
Reply from Lambeth Palace giving support.
ITV Daybreak item.
Reply from Bishop of Bristol.
Charlotte Leslie MP attended our meeting ,very supportive.
Lord Chief Justice calls for reforms.
Trustee from Families Need Fathers contacted me.
TV True Vision rang ,re future programme.
Radio Bristol interview.
Bristol Kingswood MP backs motion in 10 minute rule for a Bill for grandchildren's access.
Aled Jones on Radio 2 read out a piece I wrote about our Tree of Hope.
3rd Dec last meeting of 2010.

There are so many people to thank for their wonderful support over the last year, without them I would not be able to carry on. So thank you to all my family,all the grandparents and friends.
Things are moving forward, but we need to keep the pressure on.
There are still OVER ONE MILLION children in the UK denied contact with their grandparents, and we must keep working for them, every child has the right to contact with non-resident parents and grandparents.

The most important thing of all is that 6 grandparents in The Bristol Grandparents Support group have regained contact with their grandchildren. Thats what this is all about.

Tuesday 30 November 2010


The Special Story.

Today I watched the little ones, angels, kings and fluffy sheep,

Memories when my children were on stage, memories to savour and to keep,

Telling the story we hear, at this time of the year, carols ringing out,
Teachers saying with encouragement, that there is no need to shout!

I wonder what my Granddaughter is in the important tale,
I have no doubt, she will raise a smile without fail,
How I long to see her, perhaps a donkey or maybe a star,
That tiny babe, his mum and dad, three kings from afar.

I my garden standing proud, a special Christmas tree,
With messages from Grandparents, their thoughts will fly free
Straight to the hearts of their precious ones, hugs and kiss
Across the miles, over the water, to those we miss.


Meeting .

Last meeting of The Bristol Support Group on Friday 3rd Dec before Christmas, weather permitting.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Good Morning Sunday Radio 2

This morning Aled Jones on Good Morning Sunday read out my message about denied contact and about our 'Tree of Hope,' Christmas tree, thanks you to him. x

Saturday 27 November 2010

Commons Motion

Grandparents (Access Rights)

Motion for leave to introduce a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

4.33 pm

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): I beg to move,

    That leave be given to bring in a Bill to give grandparents rights of access to their grandchildren in certain circumstances; and for connected purposes.

Although this might be entitled the Grandparents (Access Rights) Bill, it could just as easily be renamed the Grandchildren's Rights Bill. If the Bill progresses, it will increase the rights of grandchildren to access their grandparents.

I want to thank many of the campaigners who were involved in this campaign, which has gone on for some time, including my predecessor as MP for Brigg and Goole, Mr Ian Cawsey, who moved a similar Bill a couple of years ago that was sponsored by you, Mr Speaker. A number of organisations are involved, including the Grandparents Association and I also want to draw on some of the work undertaken by the Centre for Social Justice. Above all, I want to pay tribute to my constituent, Dorothy Fagge, who has been a dedicated campaigner on this issue for a number of years, having twice been to court to access two different sets of her grandchildren. I shall talk about Dorothy's experience in a moment.

Some 1.3 million families in England use grandparents as the primary source of care for about 1.8 million children, offering a saving to the taxpayer of about £4.8 billion a year given the average cost of child care. That would equate to a cost of about £92 million a week to the public purse.

The Grandparents Association estimates that about 1 million children do not see their grandparents because families have separated or lost touch. For me, the role that my grandparents played in my childhood and until they passed away was incredibly significant, and its value cannot be quantified. There is strong evidence regarding the value of grandparental involvement, particularly in the lives of adolescents, in reducing adjustment difficulties when marriages or partnerships fail. That was reported a few years ago in a national study, "Involved Grandparenting and Child Well-being".

That view is shared not only by those who have an interest in this area and have campaigned in it, but by young people. A study that was quoted in the Centre for Social Justice's family law and children report showed that 75% of young people said that a grandparent was the most important person, or one of the most important people, in their life. A sample of 1,500 young people showed that grandparental involvement in schooling and education is linked to lower maladjustment scores and fewer contact problems and that being able to talk to a grandparent is linked to their having fewer emotional and behavioural problems.

As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, before I came to the House I was a schoolteacher. I taught in a number of very deprived communities in Yorkshire and we sometimes found that grandparents were the sole point of contact in a child's life, acting as an anchor or rock. Often, when all else around was failing, the grandparents were the only people left standing for
23 Nov 2010 : Column 190
that young person. Sadly, grandfathers are sometimes the only male role model whom many young people encounter.

The value of grandparents can never be underestimated. I cannot put that point better than Pam Wilson of the Grandparents Action Group UK, who has stated:

    "Grandparents are a link to the past and a bridge to the future, for family history and medical details. To give a child a sense of belonging from the roots of their family."

Similarly, Peter Harris who was formerly the Official Solicitor and is now with the Grandparents Association, has said:

    "Grandparents are known to provide care for grandchildren more extensively than other relatives, and we believe that this puts them in a special category."

I believe that grandparents should be placed in that special category.

Grandparents can face a number of legal problems, particularly when they have been denied access to their grandchildren as a result of bereavement or divorce. With bereavement, the surviving parent might find a new partner, which might involve the grandchildren being introduced to a new family. Over time, the family might move and grow ever more distant from the bereaved grandparents. With divorce and separation, the grandparents are often forced to take sides and it is human nature for them to side with their own child. That can lead to children being used as a weapon in particularly acrimonious divorces or separations. Access is often denied or, even worse, traded for financial reasons.

All that places grandparents in an incredibly difficult position. Currently, the law is not necessarily on their side. There is no automatic right for a grandparent to go to court to seek contact with their grandchild. In fact, they must seek the court's permission to seek access through it. The process can be long winded and very expensive. This morning, I spoke to Lynn Chesterman of the Grandparents Association, who told me that the average cost of such a process is about £20,000. That option might be accessible for better-off grandparents, but there would be no possibility of those from more deprived or poorer backgrounds pursuing it.

My constituent, Dorothy Fagge, whom I mentioned earlier, was able to go to court and use substantial amounts of her own finances to gain access to her grandchildren, which had been denied to her in two different circumstances, one of which was incredibly tragic. Despite all her resources and her ability to pay for legal representation, it took her more than a year to gain access.

This is not an easy situation to address. I understand that, and there will always be cases in which contact with grandparents is not desirable, but the courts must determine that. However, I seek through the Bill some changes to the law to protect grandchildren in gaining access to their grandparents. I would like to see an automatic right for grandparents to seek contact through the courts so that they do not have to go through the double process of having to seek leave first. I hope that, through the review undertaken by the coalition Government, there will be moves to establish some form of early mediation to sort out contact issues, which happens through the Australian family mediation centres.

23 Nov 2010 : Column 191

It has also been suggested that there should be a presumption in law that children have a right to their grandparents, subject to the appropriate protections I mentioned earlier. One recent proposal, which is worthy of further investigation, is that children should have, at the very least, an automatic right to letterbox contact with their grandparents while proceedings in the courts are progressing. In the case of a bereaved grandparent, there is a strong argument that the grandparent, who is often the child's only link to that side of the family, should inherit the right that previously existed for the parent.

I know that this is not an easy issue, and that the Government are already examining it through the family law review, which is due to report next year. As I said at the beginning of my speech, my own grandparents were incredibly important to me. I know that for many people the role that their grandparents play in their lives is one that they value for the rest of their lives. It is appalling when grandchildren are used as a tool in divorce or in separation. That is why I would like to see implemented the changes that I have outlined, so that we can better protect the rights of grandparents and of grandchildren.

Question put and agreed to.


That Andrew Percy, Tracey Crouch, Justin Tomlinson, Tom Blenkinsop, Mr Gregory Campbell, Karen Bradley, James Wharton, Greg Mulholland, Chris Skidmore, Martin Vickers, Mr Brian Binley and Craig Whittaker present the Bill.

Andrew Percy accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 17 June , and to be printed (Bill 110).

Thursday 25 November 2010

Radio Interview.

Marc and I went and did our interview this morning on Radio Bristol , the presenter had no idea that there are over one million children in the UK who are denied contact with their grandparents, and he dedicated the 'love songs' to Liandra.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Lobbying MP for Grandchildren.


Anyone out there know someone who would like to donate our Christmas "Tree of Hope" for The Bristol Grandparents Support Group? Only a small one!

Your memories of your Grandparents?

Think of the word 'grandparents',what do you first think of?

What are your memories are they good ones?

I know when I smell sweet peas I think of my grandfather, as he grew lots of them in his beautiful garden and I remember a tiny doll my Granny Jo gave me called Isabelle.

Please share your thoughts.


Monday 22 November 2010

Who should take responsibility?

It took me nearly two years to set up a support group for grandparents , in Bristol, who have lost contact with their grandchildren. I have spent a great deal of time considering why it has been so difficult for grandparents to put their heads above the parapet, I believe there are lots of reasons, it could be that they are involved in a court case so of course they don’t say anything for fear of jeopardising their case, they are afraid that if they speak out it could make a heartbreaking situation even worse and for me I feel as a grandparent I should be able to make it better and to have failed fills me with shame.
When you find yourself in this situation, when all lines of communication have broken down you start to explore the different options open to you. You will soon discover that as a grandparent you have no automatic legal rights to see your grandchildren, but you will also find solicitors who are only to willing to apply for leave (permission) to the court for you to then apply for a contact order. It is necessary to apply to the court for leave to apply, as a grandparent, as set down in ‘The Children Act 1989.’
In the eyes of the law grandparents are referred to as “irrelevant persons.’

Complicated, it is indeed.

I read with interest a newspaper article recently, where a retired judge had gone through this process and all the anguish it involves for everyone concerned, he and his family decided to withdraw their application as the emotional strain was too great but he also concluded that even if an order for contact was agreed it would lead to turmoil of a kind that would be detrimental to the children. He also stated, that he believes that the approach of the family court ,in cases such as these is fundamentally flawed. And that the welfare of the children should not involve a court battle between to factions.
I speak to grandparents daily, all with their own very painful experiences, causes are family breakdown, alcohol, drugs, bereavement and grandparents who have been full time carers to their grandchildren, for years, only for mum/dad to decide that she/he wants the children back , what would you do if you opened your front door one morning to find two policeman and a social worker there to take your grandchildren away?
In some of these cases the children are returned to drug and alcohol users, lives that are full of dangers.
What ever happened to child protection?

Are we never going to learn by past experiences, when people ring alarm bells to the authorities, they must act, they must listen, saying sorry after a tragic event is not enough. Take responsibility.

I must make it clear that of course if mum/dad have decided that they do want their children back everything must be done to make it happen. But not like this. These children had never seen their mum/dad, had no contact at all, mum/dad were complete strangers to them.

It has to be handled sensitively , slowly and with love.

Of course this issue does not only involve grandparents, many fathers /mothers are going through similar experiences, having no contact with their children , and yes fathers/mothers do of course have rights but so often ,like the retired judge they feel to battle on with court cases etc is detrimental to their children.

Children have to continue to live their lives with whoever the resident parent may be, and it may not always be the life that the non-resident parent or grandparent would choose for their children/grandchildren but to continue through the courts will make life more difficult for them than it very probably is already.

If a retired judge could not break through, then what hope do we have with no knowledge of the law at all, putting our trust in very highly paid solicitors who tell us ‘you have a good case, and to help you with our fees, here’s a paying in book dated every month until 2012!’

Sunday 21 November 2010

The role of grandparents.

When you are faced with the heartbreaking situation we find ourselves in, you think it is only you, that no-one else is experiencing your feelings of desolation,but of course you are not alone.The grandparents that I have spoken to, all say the same thing that to be able to talk to others who are denied contact is so helpful, before they felt so isolated.
Like being a parent for the first time, no-one tells you how to do it, you do it by making mistakes and learning by those mistakes. Being a grandparent is no different, no-one tells you how to play this important role, the trouble is that when you make mistakes it can have catastrophic consequences.
A wrong word, a misunderstood look is sometimes enough for it to start to fall apart.In a perfect world we would all be respectful of one another, make allowances be caring but sadly this is not a perfect world, people are busy, they are anxious, the outlook is uncertain, but we ALL still need other human beings in our lives.
As a grandparent remember how it was when you were a parent for the first time, be there to be supportive never to interfere allow your children to make the same mistakes you made and to learn from them, think your own thoughts but leave just as thought not the spoken word.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Legal Aid Limit

It is clear from FNF, Families Need Fathers, that there is a very real concern that if/when Legal Aid limits are changed that there is a loop hole for more accusations of Domestic Violence being made as Legal Aid will then be granted.
It occurs to me, that it is nearly always women who are portrayed as being victims of DV, but I know that it is not always women, so my question is, 'do men who are victims of domestic violence consider Legal Aid?'


I am at present unable to write comments so am looking into what the problem is now.

Thursday 18 November 2010


A TV production company contacted me today re further programme.


Take-a-Break mag featuring an article today re denied contact grandparents, myself and one of The Bristol group are featured.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

When will it be my turn?

The phone rings ,it rings and rings,

‘Hello, how are you, what did you say?’

Oh that’s fantastic news, how did it happen,

He asked you to be his friend on Facebook ,you accepted,

He said he thought you had forgotten him,

He was told that you didn’t care,

But you have always been waiting there.

I smile and cry along with you,

Its been a good year for lost ones being found,

It is why I do what I do , we hope together,

We support each other, we fight,

And speak to those we think can make a difference.

Inside I cry out loud ,who is listening to me,

When will it be my turn, when will I make someone’s phone ring,

And say, ‘Hello, it’s happened?’

When, oh when.

Monday 15 November 2010

Special Guardianship.

A special guardianship order is an order appointing one or more individuals to be a child's 'special guardian'. It is a private law order made under the Children Act 1989 and is intended for those children who cannot live with their birth parents and who would benefit from a legally secure placement. It is a more secure order than a residence order because a parent cannot apply to discharge it unless they have the permission of the court to do so, however it is less secure than an adoption order because it does not end the legal relationship between the child and his/her birth parents.

Who can apply?

The following people may apply to be special guardians:
  • Any guardian of the child.
  • Any individual who has a residence order or any person where a residence order is in force and who has the consent of the person in whose favour the residence order is made.
  • Anyone with whom the child has lived for at least three years out of the last five years.
  • Anyone with the consent of the local authority if the child is in care.
  • A local authority foster parent with whom the child has lived for at least one year preceding the application.
  • Anyone who has the consent of those with parental responsibility.
  • Anyone who has the leave of the court.
  • NOTE: You must be over 18 years of age and you can apply on your own or jointly with another person.

Who cannot apply?

A parent of a child may not be appointed as the child's special guardian.

The court's decision

The court must decide that a special guardianship order is the most appropriate order to make in the best interests of the child. The court must consider whether, in addition to the making of a special guardianship order, a contact order should be made and whether any existing Section 8 Orders should be varied or discharged.The court must have the benefit of the local authority report dealing with the suitability of the applicant and any other matters that the local authority consider relevant before it can make an order (Children Act 1989, section 14A(8), (9).

What is the effect of a special guardianship order?

This order discharges any existing care order or related section 34 Contact Order. It confers parental responsibility, which can be exercised to the exclusion of any other person with parental responsibility apart from another special guardian. The special guardian has responsibility for day to day decisions relating to a child's care and upbringing. This order allows a special guardian to remove a child from the UK for up to three months without consent of others with Parental Responsibility or the leave of the court. The court can give permission for the child to be taken out of the jurisdiction for longer than three months.On making a special guardianship order the court may give leave for the child to be known by a new surname.

The role of the local authority

The regulations say that the local authority report should include certain key information about the child such as:
  • Whether the child has brothers and sisters and details of both parents.
  • The relationship a child has with other family members and the arrangements for the child to see or keep in touch with different family members.
  • Details of the child's relationship with his/her parents.
  • The parent/s' and the child's wishes and feelings.
  • The prospective Guardian's family composition and circumstances.
  • Parenting capacity.
  • Medical information on the child, prospective special guardian and the birth parent(s).
  • An assessment of how a Special Guardianship Order would meet a child's long term interests as compared with other types of order.

Support services

Each local authority must make arrangements for the provision of special guardianship support services which may include:
  • Financial assistance (means tested).
  • Assistance with the arrangements for contact between a child, his/her parents and any relatives that the local authority consider to be beneficial.
  • This assistance can include cash to help with the cost of travel, entertainment, and mediation to help resolve difficulties on contact.
  • Respite care.
  • Counselling, advice, information and other support services.
  • Services to enable children, parents and special guardians to discuss matters, this might include setting up a support group.
  • Therapeutic services for the child.

Residence Order.

A residence order is a court order ‘settling the arrangements ... as to the person with whom a child is to live.’ An order made in your favour will mean that your grandchild will live, or continue to live, with you. It will also give you parental responsibility for your grandchild as long as the order continues.
This means that you can take most of the decisions that a parent can take about a child’s care and upbringing. However, no one who has a residence order may take the child abroad for more than a month or change the child’s surname unless everyone with parental responsibility agrees in writing or the court gives permission.
The residence order will not affect your grandchild’s legal relationship with his or her parents nor will it take away their parental responsibility. This means that you will share parental responsibility with the child’s mother and also with his or her father if he has ever been married to the mother or he has acquired parental responsibility if they were never married.
Even though you have parental responsibility, some decisions can still be taken only by parents with parental responsibility. These include the right to agree or refuse to agree to an adoption order being made and the right to appoint a guardian for the child.
Do grandparents have a right to apply for a residence order?
Certain people, for example, parents, are automatically entitled to apply for residence orders and you would be entitled to apply if a child had lived with you for three years. If you do not fit into any of the groups of people who have a right to apply, you must obtain the permission of the court before you can apply.
Can a residence order be made if my grandchild is in the care of a local authority?
Yes. If a residence order is made in these circumstances the Care Order will be discharged.
How will the court decide whether to make a residence order?
The court will have your grandchild’s interests as its paramount concern in deciding whether or not to make a residence order. It must bear in mind that delay is likely to prejudice the child’s welfare. The court must not make the order unless it considers that making the order is better than making no order at all.
The fact that the order will give you parental responsibility for a grandchild who is living with you may be sufficient to satisfy this requirement. In cases where another party to the proceedings objects to the order being made, the court must have regard to the ‘welfare checklist’ which includes how capable a parent or any other relevant person is of meeting the child’s needs and the child’s wishes and feelings.
How long will the order last?
An order can be made for a specified period, but in any event, it will not continue beyond the child’s 16th birthday unless there are exceptional circumstances. The court has power to discharge the order in 'family proceedings' (a particular kind of court hearing) whenever a question about the child’s welfare arises or in a separate proceedings where an application for discharge is made. The court applies the same welfare criteria as it did when the order was made. A residence order ends automatically if a care order is made.
I am worried about the cost of applying for the order and about the expenses of caring for my grandchild. Can I get help?
You may be able to get financial help to apply for a residence order. Ask your solicitor or Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) if you satisfy the conditions for public funding.
Sadly, if you have put savings aside for your retirement, you may find this prevents you from getting help, but you could carefully consider presenting your own case in court. The primary responsibility for the maintenance of children remains with their parents. However, it is likely that you are caring for your grandchild because your daughter or son is unwell or has disappeared and other avenues of finance need to be explored. You are eligible for child benefit if your grandchild lives with you. You may also be entitled to other benefits or tax credits.
If you have been receiving payments from a local authority because you are a foster carer for your grandchild, you will lose these payments if you are successful in gaining a residence order. You will need to weigh up the financial loss against the additional security that you and your grandchild will experience from the stability afforded by a residence order. Local social service authorities have power to pay allowances to the holders of residence orders.
Unfortunately, whether or not these allowances are paid is at the discretion of the local authority and the amounts that are paid vary. Any amounts paid are unlikely to be as much as you received as a foster carer.