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.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

10 minute Rule, result TC

Charlie Elphicke 10 Minute Rule Bill

On Tuesday 29th March 2011 Charlie Elphicke, MP for Dover and Deal, presented a 10 Minute Rule Bill in Parliament proposing that courts and local authorities be required to take account of the rights of children to have a relationship with both parents following divorce and separation.

Elphicke began by citing Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which states that children have the right to maintain a full personal relationship with both parents following separation and divorce, where doing so would not be detrimental to the child’s wellbeing. He was keen to stress that this was not a Bill concerned with the rights of mothers or fathers, but was for those who the Courts are duty bound to consider first and foremost in family law proceedings: the rights of the children.

Following a description of figures detailing the high numbers of those living apart from their children, including the shocking statistic that 1 in 3 children lose all contact with their father two years following separation and divorce, Elphicke lambasted the fact that contact orders are seemingly ignored with impunity by some parents. He described this as “simply unacceptable”, and a situation which has to be remedied. He also put forward the case for mediation as a strong, child-centred alternative to court, where the interests of children are often forgotten amidst bitter legal wrangling.

To conclude, Elphicke listed a series of case studies which illustrated the harm that the current system inflicts on children and parents alike. Particularly poignant was the story of Tommy, a soldier from Coventry denied by his case judge of the opportunity to even say goodbye to his 6 year old daughter before he went to risk his life for his country in Afghanistan. Whilst cries of ‘outrageous’ and ‘shameful’ rang out across a Chamber clearly appalled by what Tommy had endured, Elphicke derided both the judge and the inefficient, inflexible family justice system which allows cases such as this to occur. He finished by stating that this Bill was necessary to send “a clear message” to the public that the law will support families and the rights of children, rather than deny them the opportunity of maintaining loving relationships with their parents.

Opposing the Bill was Elfyn Llwyd, MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd. Llwyd drew upon his 35 years experience as a practicing solicitor and barrister in family law to argue that, despite the best intentions of the Bill, it would “fall foul of the law of unintended consequences”.

He agreed with Elphicke on the importance of both parents in a child’s life, and the position of this in both the Children Act 1989 and UNCRC. However, citing organisations such as the NSPCC, he opposed any changes to law which would alter the paramountcy principle in the Children Act, which ensures that child welfare is placed above all other concerns in law. Llwyd elaborated that the courts already operate with an informal presumption of contact, and that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Court Administration research found that this undermined child welfare by placing undue attention on contact rather than welfare issues.

Llwyd highlighted the fact that fewer than 1 in 10 separating or divorcing couples reach Court to resolve parenting arrangements, and that these were often the cases which involved the greatest threat to child welfare, including domestic violence, mental health issues and alcohol/substance abuse. He said that further research was needed on this issue to facilitate evidence-based policy, and that any potential findings on this topic in the Family Justice Review should not be pre-empted. Llwyd concluded with a cautionary tale in the form of a case study, where a woman with serious mental illness was granted unsupervised access to her two children after she was released from care, whom she subsequently killed. He made the point that children are the most vulnerable participants in these proceedings, and that their welfare should never be compromised in law.

Despite Llwyd’s opposition, the Bill passed with overwhelming support. It was ordered that Charlie Elphicke, Penny Mordaunt, Priti Patel, Charlotte Leslie, Kwasi Kwarteng, Margot James, Caroline Dinenage, Chris Heaton-Harris, Tracey Crouch, Nadhim Zahawi, Karen Lumley and Jane Ellison present the Bill, and Mr. Elphicke presented the Bill accordingly. The Second reading of the Children’s Access to Parents Bill will take place on the 13th May 2011,

Thanks to Becky from Families Need Fathers.


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