Victory: Extension of legal aid to all parents in court proceedings whose children may be adopted
Family Rights Group is delighted that Ministers at the Department for Education and Ministry of Justice have agreed to extend non-means and non-merits tested legal aid to all parents subject to court proceedings whose children may be adopted. The Charity in conjunction with the Your Family, Your Voice Alliance had drafted amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill to address the extreme injustice some parents face because they are legally unrepresented in proceedings for a Placement Order which could result in the adoption of their children.
Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of Family Rights Group, said:
“We are extremely grateful to peers in the House of Lords and to Emma Lewell-Buck MP for tabling amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill aimed at addressing the injustice that some parents could be legally unrepresented in court proceedings that could determine that their child was to be adopted.
We would like to thank Edward Timpson MP and officials for listening to us and taking such concerns seriously and negotiating with the Ministry of Justice for an extension of legal aid so that all parents can be legally represented in hearing which could result in the adoption of their child.
It is particularly apt that the Government’s decision was made this week. Today is the first anniversary of the death of Bridget Lindley, Family Rights Group’s Deputy Chief Executive and Principal Legal Adviser who consistently highlighted injustice faced by parents whose children had been removed. The funeral was also held this week of Peter Leevers, a social worker who in retirement had advocated for many parents in similar circumstances who could not afford private legal representation. We dedicate this legal amendment to both Bridget and Peter.”
For further information about the current situation prior to the extension to legal aid which will come into place later this year see page 6 of the briefing.
Family Rights Group's intervention to The Supreme Court
Appeal against order for transfer of care proceedings relating to two children born in England to Hungarian parents, to Hungary. Appeal allowed.
This is the first time that Family Rights Group has intervened in a supreme court case.
Campaign to ensure the continuation of Family Rights Group's Advice Service
Thank you all for emailing your MP to support the continued funding of our unique advice service for families who are involved with children's services. We are very relieved that funding had now been agreed and the service is safe until the end of March 2018.
Family Rights Group's new report entitled Doing the right thing: a Report on the experiences of kinship carers, 13 October 2015 has been covered in both the Independent and the Guardian.
The story is also covered in Community Care here .
“The Children Act remains a landmark piece of British child care law which has truly stood the test of time. Various politicians will claim credit for its success but the key figure responsible was a shy and unassuming civil servant called Rupert Hughes”.
Press release on new report from Family Rights Group on 'Could do better...Must do better: A study of family and friends care local authority policies' by Mercer A, Lindley B and Hopkins A, 27 March 2015
Articles on polling data commissioned by Family Rights Group, thanks to funding from Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, on public backing for children in family and friends care getting the same support as those who are in care or are adopted.
New report published by Family Rights Group entitled Young parents' involvement In the child welfare system : Findings on young parents whose children are involved with the child welfare system, June 2016
The report is based on:
- Calls by kinship carers to Family Rights Group Advice Service in the financial year 2014/15.
- An online survey of 579 kinship carers.
Key findings are:
- Almost half (49%) of kinship carers have had to give up work permanently to care for the kin child, and a further 18% had to give up work temporarily.
- 22% of kinship carers' households had 3 or more children aged 18 or under, suggesting that the Government's proposed limit on child tax credits will have a detrimental effect on kinship carers.
- 80% of kinship carers felt that when they took on the child, they did not know enough about the legal options and the consequences for getting support to make an informed decision.
A new report based upon research by Family Rights Group which reveals that 26 (17%) of English local authorities, including 30% of London local authorities are failing to comply with the most basic requirement of statutory guidance issued in 2011, to have a published policy setting out their approach towards promoting and supporting the needs of children living with family and friend carers.
The study analyses 53 family and friends care policies, to identify how they are complying with statutory family and friends care guidance and to highlight good practice. It includes a check list to assist local authorities to develop and improve their policies.
A new report by Family Rights Group (Ashley & Roth 2015) investigates the experience of siblings in the care system. It found that half (49.5%) of all sibling groups in local authority care are split up and that 37% of children in care who have at least one other sibling in care are living with none of their siblings. The research also found although relatively few looked after children live with kinship foster carers, it appears to particularly be conducive to supporting siblings to be able to live together. The report sets out a series of recommendations to enable more siblings in care to live together, when it is their welfare interests.
The article challenges the assumption that the primary role of the child welfare system is to change families.
Agenda for Action 2015 – please support our campaign
The Kinship Care Alliance has published an Agenda for Action setting out recommendations that we think need to be implemented following the general election 2015.
We want to see the following changes:
- That children who cannot live with their parents are able to grow up within their wider family wherever possible, taking account of children's wishes and feelings.
- That children living in family and friends care are not overlooked and have their needs met.
- That family and friends carers have access to free legal advice and information services to protect the children.
- That family and friends carers are enabled to stay in work and not forced to give up their jobs when taking on the care of the children.
- That family and friends carers are not plunged into poverty nor penalised by the benefits system.
Today, Tristram Hunt MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education has announced measures that he plans to introduce to improve support for children in kinship care, should Labour be elected into Government. Please see more information about the announcement.
Commenting on the announcement, Cathy Ashley, Family Rights Group's Chief Executive said "Kinship carers go to enormous lengths, often at considerable personal cost, to care for children who cannot live with their parents, and have often previously suffered considerable trauma or tragedy. They do what is right by these children, so should society. It is essential that they be given greater support, including children in kinship care being given the highest priority in the school admissions system. This is an important step forward." - Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive, Family Rights Group.
Later today Family Rights Group will be hosting a meeting in which children raised by their kinship carers and the carers themselves will discuss their experiences with Tristram Hunt MP.
You can read more about the Agenda for Action that Family Rights Group, as members of the Kinship Care Alliance, is promoting so that more children who cannot live with their parents, are able to live safely and thrive within their wider family.
When children are unable to live safely with their parents, then their family and friends should be the first port of call to provide them with love, care and security. These family and friends carers should be recognised and valued. Both the carers and the children should have their voices heard and needs met so that the children can flourish.
We would love to hear the views of children being raised by grandparents or older siblings or in other family and friends care arrangements (also known as kinship care). This is the first national survey of its kind. The results of the survey will be published on the website and will influence Family Rights Group's work including what we try and get funding to do and that of the Kinship Care Alliance.
We have not put a closing date – instead our aim is that at least 100 children and young people complete the survey.