Advice on informal arrangement

brightcandle
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Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:08 pm

Advice on informal arrangement

Postby brightcandle » Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:33 pm

I would welcome any advice regarding the involvement of social services.
My now 9 year old grandchild along with her unborn half-brother were placed on the 'at risk' register age 2/3 she came to live with me for 9 months.
In May 2010, age 7 she requested that she not live with her mother and her half brother was offered to his father. I had attempted to involve social services with the mother and they were reluctant to intervene despite the child's request.
I took the grandaughter in and the father took the brother. In September 2011 the father was being evicted from homeless hostel for anti social behaviour, I then took the boy in. So now have my daughter's two children without any involvement from social services. They were supposed to contact me but as I had previously complained about them (only initial complaint) imagine they were happy to take the child without their involvement.
My grand daughter is happy, settled and we discuss openly her complicated family, she has a good relationship with her father's family and her dad and his new wife. My grand son is being assessed for learning difficulties within the school - but has made enormous strides since being with me so think it is likely his background that has caused the difficulties. He too has positive relationship with father's family and dad.
My problem is that I am finding it difficult to cope, particularly financially! but also emotionally in terms of the practicalities of getting a break from both children. I am considering involving social services again but my last experience was not a success and wanted to get other's opinions before I decide.

brightcandle
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:08 pm

Re: Advice on informal arrangement

Postby brightcandle » Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:29 pm

I have an agreement with my daughter (drawn up by a solicitor) who has assigned me a share of her parental responsibility which means I deal with doctors/dentists/schools etc and receive child tax credit and child benefit. As you rightly say the SS have no interest in supporting me as they didn't see the need to get involved when they were told the situation was deteriorating. The children are from different fathers neither of them want the children to return to mother and are happy for me to have them but fail to recognise that to do this without an income is impossible. I do receive maintenance from both fathers. The youngest is in the process of being statemented and therefore requires extra attention and I am too old and too tired to keep doing this.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: Advice on informal arrangement

Postby Suzie, FRG Adviser » Fri Dec 30, 2011 5:04 pm

Hi Grandma Pen,

Welcome to the Family and Friends Carers Board. I’m glad to see that the children are thriving in your care and are able to maintain good relationships with many other family members.

Assistance from CS
As Irene has mentioned, due to the way the children came into your care, you would not be classed as a foster carer, it would be classed as a private arrangement and you a private foster carer. As such Children’s Services (CS), the new name for social services do not have to pay you a foster care allowance. However, what Irene has said here is not correct:

[quote="ied53"]Also you should be registered as a private foster carer or the local authority can cause problems for you.[quote]

As you a grandparent there is no need for you to notify CS of the private arrangement and no need for them to monitor it. This is only the case if you are not a close relative.

Despite you not qualifying for foster care allowance, you can still claim some financial assistance from CS where a child is “in need” to help protect vulnerable children. This would be under s17 Children Act and it is also known as family support services or s17 payments. Previously this was used for one-off payments for furniture, clothing etc but now can be used to provide carer in your position with ongoing support. It can also be used to provide respite care if you need it. If CS refuses to provide family support services then you can pursue a complaint to try to obtain it. More information about who would qualify and the process for obtaining these payments are set out in our family support services advice sheet, which can be found here: http://www.frg.org.uk/images/Advice_Sheets/4-family-support-services.pdf. Sorry I can’t do links at the minute as I am having a couple of technical issues. You might also want to point out pages 14-15 of the Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on Family and Friends Carers, here, https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/Family%20and%20Friends%20Care.pdf.

Parental Responsibility (PR)
The only legal way for you to obtain parental responsibility is to have either a Residence Order (RO) or Special Guardianship Order (SGO) for the children. The agreement that Mum has signed is just an agreement showing her intention and not a legal binding document. Schools, doctors etc do not have to accept it. It also does not take away Mum’s (or Dad’s if he has it) PR. Neither would a RO or SGO; that would only happen if the children were adopted. I can provide you with more information about both options – and we have very detailed advice sheets you can read – if it I something you are interested in.

Tying in with the financial considerations, if you obtain a RO or SGO you can claim allowances from CS but they are both means tested and discretionary, so not guaranteed. Again we can discuss this in more detail if it is something you want to consider.

Please get back in touch if you have more questions.

Best wishes

Suzie.

brightcandle
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:08 pm

Re: Advice on informal arrangement

Postby brightcandle » Fri Dec 30, 2011 9:49 pm

Thank you Irene and Suzie for the advice. I have been thinking about going for a residence order but at the moment am having serious doubts as to whether I am the best placed to look after them. The other sets of grandparents are couple with few financial worries, whereas I am a single parent who has just finished university and is embarking on a masters so money is a real problem.
My main worry about involving SS is whether the results would be worth the stress of dealing with them! and I am concerned that the children stay together rather than be split up.

brightcandle
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Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:08 pm

Re: Advice on informal arrangement

Postby brightcandle » Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:09 pm

More advice please! Today the father of my grandaughter has said that he and his new wife and considering offering a permanent home to the eldest, this has not come as a total shock and on the face of it appears a sensible solution. However, the two children are very attached and I am concerned that as he lives 400 miles away there will be little contact between them. The youngest is very attached to her but has different father. Anyone been in a similar position and if so what did you do?

LLB
Posts: 541
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Re: Advice on informal arrangement

Postby LLB » Sun Jan 01, 2012 2:16 pm

Suzie, FRG Advisor wrote:Hi Grandma Pen,

Parental Responsibility (PR)
The only legal way for you to obtain parental responsibility is to have either a Residence Order (RO) or Special Guardianship Order (SGO) for the children. The agreement that Mum has signed is just an agreement showing her intention and not a legal binding document. Schools, doctors etc do not have to accept it. It also does not take away Mum’s (or Dad’s if he has it) PR. Neither would a RO or SGO; that would only happen if the children were adopted.
Suzie.


Please may I add to this. An SGO is different to an RO in that a Special Guardian can exercise PR to the exclusion of all others. On top of this if there are any disputes the parents have to get Leave of Court to take it back to court.

We have SGOs and have been exercising our right to exercise parental responsibility to exclusion of all others for some years now. There are obviously some areas that quite rightly birth parents can have some say but we are able to sign all forms for school and doctors. An SGO order is also a legally binding document and is better than ROs.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: Advice on informal arrangement

Postby Suzie, FRG Adviser » Tue Jan 03, 2012 2:06 pm

Thanks LLB for adding that information about the PR of a Special Guardianship Order. There are differences when a special guardian comes to exercising it and when there are certain disputes between the parents and the Special Guardian. See also our advice sheet on SGO’s which gives a helpul comparison of the two orders.
DIY Special Guardianship Orders
The later pages also details the support that may be available with an SGO.

Dear Grandma Pen,
Thank you for posting back. These are certainly difficult decisions to be made about where the children will live. Whether siblings remaining together is better to a child living her father, is a very difficult question to answer and will depend on the different facts in each case. It will also raise the question about contact between the children.
When the court decides these issues (in residence order or special guaridanship order applications) (if they are not agreed by the parents) the court refers to what is known as the "welfare checklist" to help them make the right decision. You might find it helpful to have a look at the welfare checklist. it is on page 5 of the advice sheet on Special Guardianship Orders.

Also, given their ages, it is still important that whoever cares for both children has parental responsibility. This can only be granted to grandparents or other relatives by court order. Dad may already have it-if he was married to mother or if he signed the birth certificate (if she was born after December 2003) or mother signed a PR agreement or the court ordered PR, if your granddaughter was born before December 2003.
During any application to court the best interests of the children will be considered. Such questions about siblings remaining together will be relevant. Usually, in a residence application a CAFCASS officer will prepare a report that will investigate the family and the children involved in the application. Here is a link to CAFCASS.
cafcass

In an application for a SGO, children’s services instead of CAFCASS will be asked to prepare a detailed report about the child and family. Again have a look at our advice sheet on SGO's which gives information about the report. Post again if youhave any questions.
Best wishes,
Suzie

brightcandle
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:08 pm

Re: Advice on informal arrangement

Postby brightcandle » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:45 pm

Thanks for the links to advice sheets. I have been reading them but think I am too late to start applying for RO or SGO! I am fairly certain the child will want to live with the father and new stepmother.
The eldest is spending time at the moment with her father for them to decide whether to offer her a full time home. I have no worries about her safety with them.
My worry now is, as we are out of the system of SS or courts, if the father decides not to return the child to me what are the options available to me? and also how can I ensure contact is maintained with myself, mother and brother? Although the child has regularly stayed with paternal grandmother, it has been very much on the basis of a grandmother having care of a child rather than respite care for me. I therefore think the intention will be to remove the child and gradually cut all contact with this side of the family including her brother.
Due to problems with financial assistance from father of second child I am tempted to allow the second child to go to that family thus widening the gap between the children even further.
As you can probably tell I am at the end of my tether and am now working towards just maintaining contact between children and my family.
Is there any way I can get both children an independent advocate who will protect their best interests?

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: Advice on informal arrangement

Postby Suzie, FRG Adviser » Thu Jan 05, 2012 12:53 pm

Dear Brightcandle,
I can see that you are the lynch pin in the different arrangements between the 3 families. That is a very important position to be in. But is no doubt a very difficult and thankless position to be in as well. I can see why you feel that you are at the end of your tether!
I assume that you will still expect to see your grand children and will be involved in the organisation of contact. The fathers if the different arrangements go ahead, may value the respite they get by you having contact- so your concerns of contact stopping may be unfounded.

However, it is still worth drawing up an agreement about contact if you feel this may help. Although it is not legally binding-it is good evidence of agreement and can be shown to the court if you or the children had to go to court for a contact order in the future. A mediator can be involved in drawing up an agreement between the family about contact and residence.
Here is a link to the national family mediation
National Family Mediation

The grandparents association also have useful resources about contact on their website here
Grandparents Association

Ultimately, without any court order, the people with parental responsibility will have the final say about decisions that are made in respect of the children. Both children and grandparents can approach the court for contact orders if contact was not taking place.

Have you thought more about seeking support from children’s services? There may also be support available from a family group conference this is where a meeting is convened with an independent coordinator to find out what support is available within the family around supporting children–Here is a link to our advice sheet
family group conferences

There is the national youth advocacy service-they can give advice and can take instructions from children who are old enough to give instructions
Children can also instruct solicitors through an adult if they needed to go to court for contact order.
Please post back if you have more questions.

Best wishes,
Suzie

brightcandle
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:08 pm

Re: Advice on informal arrangement

Postby brightcandle » Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:28 pm

This situation is now moving swiftly - the father of the eldest has decided he wants to take on full time parenting (he has parental responsibility), the mother has accepted this will happen but is concerned she will be written out! I am devastated but know it is in the best interests of the child, however I think that the mother and her family ie me will be marginalised. It is too late for me to apply for residency or SGO without a fight, which is not in the best interests of the g/d. So now I just want to make sure that contact with the maternal side cannot be dropped - is there anyway I can do this without fighting and going to court?


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