Advice needed

JDY
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2021 12:29 pm

Advice needed

Post by JDY » Thu Jul 01, 2021 1:47 pm

have had my grandchildren now on my own since Christmas Day 2020 one my daughter died.<br/>
What I can’t understand is that social services didn’t place them with me because I was already living with them and their mum due to her illness issues. Owing to them not being actually physically placed with me but just left with me I am not being paid any financial support for them. I’ve only just found out six months on that this is not going to happen until I have a court order for the SGO. Social worker has spent the last six months saying not to worry about money because I will get a package of support which includes finance. I understood this to mean that I would get this as a allowance from the start of me taking them on fully from the day my daughter died. Only now is she saying this isn’t the case.
She always said that she is supportive of me keeping the children due to our relationship and their wishes +mums wishes. no one else has got PR for them and they have different fathers. She said she was the family social worker for all of us however this week she has now said that I will get a placement worker for assessing me and she will do an assessment on the kids as she is their SW. Previously she said her report was done. I am finding all this really confusing and overwhelming as she has always been quite nice and supportive regarding our situation. Social services have also said they will fund the SGO costs and Solicitor.
My problem is that whilst there were two adults in the house we shared the household bills now I have to do it on my own.
Any advice would be appreciated

User avatar
Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 771
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: Advice needed

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Thu Jul 15, 2021 2:16 pm

Dear JDY

Welcome to the Kinship Carers’ forum and thank you for your post. My name is Suzie and I am FRG’s online adviser.

Firstly, I am very sorry to hear of the loss of your daughter. I appreciate this must be a difficult time for you and your grandchildren.

You have told us that prior to the death of your daughter you were living in the family home due to her health issues. Since her passing on Christmas Day 2020, you have remained looking after the children in the family home.

Whilst children’s services do not appear to have explicitly ‘placed’ the children with you following their mother’s death, it is certainly arguable that the children have been ‘looked after’ by children’s services since you took on their care on this day. This is because:

• When their mother died, a legal duty arose for children’s services to find somewhere for the children to live. This duty is set out under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, and is known as a ‘voluntary arrangement’. There are four situations where children’s services must provide or arrange somewhere for a child to live so that they become looked after under a voluntary arrangement (see our website page here for information about each of these).
• The one that applies in your case is that, when their mother died, there was no-one with parental responsibility for the children (see section 20 (1) of the Children Act 1989). In addition to this, their mother, the person who usually cared for them, was no longer able to provide them with care (again, see section 20 (1) of the Children Act 1989). The duty for children’s services to provide the children with somewhere to live arises as soon as they become aware that, for example, there is no one with parental responsibility to care for the children.
• Once this duty to provide the children with somewhere to live arises, the children become ‘looked after’ by children’s services and section 22C of the Children Act 1989 places a legal duty on children’s services to place a child who is looked after in the care system with the people in a certain priority order. If there are no parents or people with parental responsibility for the child able to care for the child, then the next option is for them to be placed in the most appropriate placement looking first at wider family and friends.

It is important to note that children’s services’ duty to find somewhere for the child to live can arise prior to them actually taking any steps to place the child in an appropriate placement. So, it should not matter that children’s services did not specifically place the children in your care. A recent court judgment has made clear that “an offer or action by a relative or friend to care for the child after the duty [to look after the child] has arisen will not prevent the child being 'looked after' for the purposes of the Children Act 1989”. In addition, if children’s services are just helping to facilitate a purely private family arrangement, they should make it clear to the relative that this is what is happening, and that they need to look to the child’s parents for financial support (obviously not possible in your case). But at no point did the social worker make this point to you.

It appears likely from what you have said so far that children’s services are trying to argue that this is a private family arrangement (see here for more information about what exactly this is). But in fact the points noted above, coupled with the fact that the social worker has been involved with the children for six months, and has said that you will receive some financial support, indicates that the children should be considered looked after. You should therefore be assessed and supported as their kinship foster carer including by payment of a financial allowance.

Next steps – being assessed and supported as a kinship foster carer

Firstly, to help understand more about kinship foster care, you can access information and advice about kinship foster care on our dedicated kinship care advice page. This page provides information about the role of kinship foster carers and the support they can access.

Assessment
• Ideally, relatives and friends will have been assessed and approved as a foster carer before the child comes to live with them. But sometimes the assessment will only take place once the child has moved in with them. Such as in an urgent situation, like yours.
• But children’s services will still need to complete an assessment of you as a children’s kinship foster carer. This assessment will look at what support you and the children need and how children’s services can best support these needs. The assessment should also look at long-term care planning for the children. We would suggest reviewing our becoming a kinship carer: the process advice sheet. This advice sheet guides you through the two-stage assessment process. It also includes possible questions the social worker will ask you when completing the assessment.

Support
• When a child becomes looked after, children’s services owe a duty to make sure they are safe and well cared for. There are a range of things that children’s services must do to meet this duty. This includes making sure the child’s physical, mental and education health needs are met by their care plan. When looking at how to meet a child’s needs, children’s services should look at the child’s individual needs and how best to meet them. You can find a detailed table of children’s services duties here here
• Each children’s services department will have their own process on how to assess a child’s needs. We would suggest requesting a copy of children’s services assessment procedure from the social worker.

Writing to children’s services
• You may then want to use our template letter to request to be assessed as a kinship foster carer for your grandchildren. This letter also includes a formal request for payment of a foster care allowance. This letter allows you to explain the circumstances by which the children came to live with you. Any allowance provided by children’s services will be backdated to the date that the children were ‘placed’ with you. In the circumstances, this would be 25 December 2020.

A possible application for a special guardianship order:

• You have said that children’s services have suggested that you can apply for a special guardianship order for the children. Special guardianship order gives the person applying parental responsibility for a child until they are 18. A person with parental responsibility is responsible for the care and wellbeing of the child. This includes, providing a home for the child, protecting and caring for the child and consenting to the child’s medical or dental treatment.
• A person with a special guardianship has exclusive parental responsibility. This means that when decisions need to be made for the child, a special guardian has the final say. In your circumstances, this is not relevant as currently there are no other parents who have parental responsibility for the child. You can find further information about special guardianship and parental responsibility in our special guardianship: an introduction advice sheet.
• If you make an application for a special guardianship order it will be considered a private law application. This means that you are the person bringing the application to court, rather than children’s services. You can find information about the application process, including:
o the notice that you have to give to children’s services before you can apply,
o how you will be assessed before any order is made, and
o what the court takes into account when making its decision to make a special guardianship order here
The role of the children’s fathers in any court proceedings concerning the children

• You have told us that other than your daughter, no one else has parental responsibility for the children. If you wanted to double check this, then you might find it helpful to look at information on our website about parental responsibility. parental responsibility you will have to notify them of your application for special guardianship. A father of the children will have parental responsibility if:
o He was married to the mother at the time the child was born, or married after birth
o He is named on child’s birth certificate
o His name was added to the birth certificate at a later date
o He entered into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
o The court granted a parental responsibility order
• You can find more information about parental responsibility here
• This is relevant when it comes to any possible application you are going to make in relation to the children, as whether or not they are respondents – this means they are involved in the court proceedings - depends on whether they have parental responsibility for the child.
• Even if they do not have parental responsibility, the fathers should be given notice of the proceedings. They will not be automatic respondents to the proceedings, but, upon receiving notice of proceedings, seek to become a party to proceedings .
• You can find more information about who will receive notification of your application at page 17 of our advice sheet

Legal advice
• You have said that children’s services will fund your special guardianship application and the costs of legal advice. You should ask the social worker how much children’s services will fund for your legal costs and find a solicitor as soon as possible. It is really important that you seek independent legal advice from a children law specialist who will be able to advise you on the special guardianship application process and legal implications of having a special guardianship order.
• To find a solicitor, search using the ‘how to find a solicitor’ function on the Law Society website. Look for someone who is a child law specialist. Or who has ‘Children Law Accreditation’ . For information about finding a solicitor and working with them, please see our top tips guide Working with a solicitor .

If you would like to discuss the situation with an adviser, or need help in completing the template letter, please call our freephone advice helpline on 0808 8010366; the lines are open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 3pm. Or please reply to this post if you have further questions.

Best wishes

Suzie

JDY
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2021 12:29 pm

Re: Advice needed

Post by JDY » Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:27 am

Hi I’ve set the letter using your template but I’ve not had any response at all. I’m going to put in a formal complaint and would appreciate any further advice. My SGO assessment is currently happening via teams as the SW is isolating and this is taking forever, I’m concerned about the court process and delays from SS and any covid delays. The other SW for the children has left! Apparently due to ill health

JDY
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2021 12:29 pm

Re: Advice needed

Post by JDY » Sun Sep 26, 2021 7:15 pm

Please can you help?

User avatar
Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 771
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: Advice needed

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Wed Sep 29, 2021 10:34 am

Dear JDY

Apologies for not responding sooner. Welcome back to the Kinship Carers’ forum and thank you for your post. I am pleased to hear that you have tried to move matters forward with children’s services by using our template letter.

Complaints advice
I am sorry to hear you are still waiting for a response from children’s services to address the issues raised.

Please find details HERE about making complaints to children’s services. This page of our website explains:

• What the law says about complaints
• What complaints can be about
• How to make complaints
• How complaints are dealt with
• Complaining beyond children’s services (if, for example, children’s services do not deal with your complaint satisfactorily)

There are a number of ways to make your complaint. This page explains those methods.
You should be aware that there are three stages to the children’s services’ complaints process. These are set out below, with links which take you to explanations of each stage on our website, including what you can do if you don’t feel that your complaint has been properly dealt with at a certain stage

Stage 1 – Informal problem-solving
Stage 2 – Formal Investigation
Stage 3 – Review Panels

If someone has been through all three stages of the children’s services complaints process but is unhappy with the outcome, they can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman. See here for more information about how to pursue this type of complaint.

Your special guardianship assessment
Special guardianship assessment report timescales can vary between children’s services’ departments. Generally speaking, they should take around 12 weeks to complete although this timescale does slip sometimes. Inevitably, the pandemic has also impacted on services and delayed matters which is an added stress to an already stressful situation. You might find it helpful to read through this advice sheet 2d) DIY special guardianship orders : private law proceedings. Pages 8 – 9 explain what should be covered during the special guardianship assessment process. If you feel as though the assessment is not being dealt with in a timely manner, then you may want to raise this with the social worker’s manager. You could consider making a complaint about the delay, but it would be sensible to try to raise your concerns informally first.

Please do continue to access our kinship carer’s forum as it can be a source of information and support. You may also find the link HERE useful. It will take you to a page on our website that finds local kinship support groups in your area. All you need to do is to enter your postcode and a list comes up. The support groups are run by different organisations including local authorities or charities or are self-organised by kinship carers. They offer a chance for kinship carers to get together, meet new people and share experience.

I hope this information is useful to you.

Best wishes, Suzie

JDY
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2021 12:29 pm

Re: Advice needed

Post by JDY » Thu Oct 14, 2021 1:02 pm

Hi I sent another formal complaint which was registered as the 26 September so I should’ve had a response by the 8 October (10days) but I haven’t so I’ve emailed to inform them of this but still heard nothing back. What else can I do the councillor I got involved just says wait for response as they’ve told her they looking into complaints.

JDY
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2021 12:29 pm

Re: Advice needed

Post by JDY » Thu Oct 14, 2021 1:06 pm

Can you tell me the differences for the children if they are classed as looked after versus an SGO. I mean are there anythings that they would miss out on if they are never “looked after” allowances services etc

JDY
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2021 12:29 pm

Re: Advice needed

Post by JDY » Tue Oct 19, 2021 5:46 pm

Almost 2 weeks late I have received the following response not even addressing my request for a kinship foster assessment
I just don’t know what to do next my solicitor says I will get help after the SGO and to continue with it but I feel like I want to stop it. Surely no one with PR means that they have a responsibility and I don’t know who my private arrangement is with but I don’t think you can make one with a person who is not alive so who in the family could it be with? I’m confused

Date 19 October 2021
Thank you for your letter outlining your complaint which I received on the 27th September
2021. Firstly can I apologise for the delay in sending my response to you. It has taken me longer than anticipated to meet and discuss with the different workers involved and I wanted to ensure I had read all aspects of the file before responding. I have now completed all my enquiries and now in a position to be able to answer your queries.
Prior to providing my response can I express my condolence to you as a family. I appreciate this must have been a very difficult time for you all and you have assumed full time care of the children which I am sure has been important for the children.
I am also aware that you have made an application which is before the Court for a Special Guardianship Order and that the Family Placement Team are presently completing an assessment in respect to this. I have been speaking with Ms. J*** from our Family Placement team and she has informed me that she has had a number of conversations with you and has updated you as to the status of your application for Special Guardianship for the children. I understand from Ms J*** that there are a few outstanding financial matters to understand more fully before the assessment can be submitted and I hope this can be completed quickly.
In your letter you have asked for answers to the four particular questions outlined below which I hope my response will provide answers to:
1. Ensure that both the emergency and long term fostering assessments are carried out and completed as soon as possible (SGO started after delays) so that the children can remain with me lawfully. I am willing to co-operate with this fully
2. Begin paying me a foster care allowance, equal in amount to that you pay to unrelated foster carers
I have looked into the history of the case and how the children came to be in your care. In terms of the Local Authority meeting their duties to assess your circumstances, I believe this assessment was carried out. However, this assessment did not involve the placement of the children by the Local Authority. For example, if the Local Authority had placed the children with you then you would have been assessed as a connected person or family carer and as such had the same status as a foster carer. However, from looking at your case the Local Authority did not do this and that this was an agreement between the family that would come under a Private family arrangement.
To help clarify for you what I mean by a Private Family arrangement the definition is to be found in section 105 of the Children Act 1989 where the definition is;
 A private family arrangement is where a close relative steps in to raise a child without the prior involvement of children’s services and without the involvement of the Family Court.


A close relative in this situation means any of the following:
 Grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, or aunt (whether full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership)
Stepparent (a married stepparent, including a civil partner).
Therefore, given the above private family arrangement a fostering assessment would not be appropriate and as a result no fostering allowance could be made.
3. Please provide me with details about the local fostering allowances in this area
Allowances are calculated at £548 per week, however these would not apply given the private family arrangement.
4. Back-date my foster care allowance to the date the children first came to live with me and pay me a lump-sum equal to the amount I should have already received.
As outlined above in looking into you undertaking the care of the children, this understandable decision to provide a home for the children was a private family arrangement and as such did not require a fostering assessment to be completed and as a result does not enable for any fostering allowances to be paid. I am aware that monies have been provided to you when you have requested support for activities for the children and I am assured by Ms J*** that once the financial assessment is completed then they can file the report with the Courts.
We continue to be involved as the children remain open under Child In Need plans which enables you to have access to a Social Worker should you need any further assistance.
Yours sincerely
J** H******
Strategic Lead for First Response and Assessment Teams Strategic Lead for North and West Locality Teams
I understand that this decision is not what you would have wanted, but I hope it does outline the reason for my decision. If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me on the above telephone number or via email.
If you however remain dissatisfied with how I have responded to your complaint please contact the Integrated Customer Engagement Team at ICE@****.gov.uk who will advise you of the next steps within the complaints procedure.
****edited by Suzie to ensure confidentiality

User avatar
Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 771
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: Advice needed

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Wed Oct 20, 2021 1:53 pm

Dear JDY

Thank you for your updating posts.

I see that you have now received a response children’s services in response to your letter to them regarding the status of your grandchildren.

The letter from the Strategic Lead states that they do not have a responsibility to the children because they do not consider them to be ‘looked after’ as they did not place the children with you because of the circumstances in which you started to look after them. Children’s services do not seem to accept their responsibility to your grandchildren who have no one to exercise parental responsibility for them.

I suggest that you consider continuing with your complaint to Stage 2. It appears that although the social worker was supportive of you continuing to care for the children and to apply for a private law order so you would have parental responsibility it was never explained to you what their responsibility was or the legal framework under which you were continuing the care of your grandchildren.

As stated in the response to your previous post a duty arose when the children’s mother died, copied here for ease of reference:
"• When their mother died, a legal duty arose for children’s services to find somewhere for the children to live. This duty is set out under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, and is known as a ‘voluntary arrangement’. There are four situations where children’s services must provide or arrange somewhere for a child to live so that they become looked after under a voluntary arrangement (see our website page here for information about each of these).
• The one that applies in your case is that, when their mother died, there was no-one with parental responsibility for the children (see section 20 (1) of the Children Act 1989). In addition to this, their mother, the person who usually cared for them, was no longer able to provide them with care (again, see section 20 (1) of the Children Act 1989). The duty for children’s services to provide the children with somewhere to live arises as soon as they become aware that, for example, there is no one with parental responsibility to care for the children.
• Once this duty to provide the children with somewhere to live arises, the children become ‘looked after’ by children’s services and section 22C of the Children Act 1989 places a legal duty on children’s services to place a child who is looked after in the care system with the people in a certain priority order. If there are no parents or people with parental responsibility for the child able to care for the child, then the next option is for them to be placed in the most appropriate placement looking first at wider family and friends.

It is important to note that children’s services’ duty to find somewhere for the child to live can arise prior to them actually taking any steps to place the child in an appropriate placement. So, it should not matter that children’s services did not specifically place the children in your care. A recent court judgment has made clear that “an offer or action by a relative or friend to care for the child after the duty [to look after the child] has arisen will not prevent the child being 'looked after' for the purposes of the Children Act 1989”. In addition, if children’s services are just helping to facilitate a purely private family arrangement, they should make it clear to the relative that this is what is happening, and that they need to look to the child’s parents for financial support (obviously not possible in your case). But at no point did the social worker make this point to you."

Children’s services should have explained to you their duty and why they were not carrying out a connected/kinship foster assessment.

In response to your question relating to the difference between ‘looked after’ and special guardianship order. Children can be ‘looked after’ in two circumstances, Firstly, under a voluntary arrangement where a person with parental responsibility agrees to children’s services providing accommodation. Secondly, this would be where children’s services has a court order which gives them parental responsibility. In your grandchildren’s situation, the duty arose for them to be treated as looked after by children’s services. They, wrongly failed to do so.
In addition, where a child is looked after prior to a special guardianship being made, children’s services must consider paying a special guardianship allowance (means tested). If a child is not looked after there is a discretion for them to pay the allowance and can be requested to do so by someone looking after the child.

It is important to discuss with your solicitor the support package that children’s services is offering as part of the special guardianship assessment.

Please look again at the information for making a complaint on our website as well as the complaints policy of your local authority and, as suggested by the Strategic Lead in her letter to you, continue with your complaint.
If you wish to speak to an adviser, please telephone our free confidential advice line on 0808 801 0366.
I hope this is helpful.

Best wishes

Suzie

JDY
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2021 12:29 pm

Re: Advice needed

Post by JDY » Wed Nov 03, 2021 6:36 pm

After sending in the stage 2 complaint. I have now had a meeting with the head of service and SSW placement manager. They are basically saying that because ***** said she wanted me to look after the children if she past way that is why it’s being treated as it is so they believe that they don’t have any legal obligation or duty. An SGO had been discussed with her after she had a head injury and when the drs thought she wouldn’t make it through. She survived however but had a few care needs issues.
Also they seemed to be bribing me with the SGO support plan to drop my complaint as they said it’s discretionary. But apparently I won’t pass the panel for fostering (they are trying to save me from the intrusions and difficulty’s) because of my health and also previous involvement with them so after discussion they will not support me foster. I am not the same person I was 35 years ago. Until Illhealth I had a good job with LA for 20+ years a BSc psychology and PG qualifications at level 7 but they don’t care about any of that or my commitment to my family and the way they have been badly treated in the past, which has caused my mental and physical health to deteriorate.
I said that’s discrimination and
I know of lots of people who have fostered kids with own health issues and previous SS
Any more advice on what to do now?

**edited to remove name for confidentiality, Suzie FRG Adviser

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