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The Custody Minefield

Basic Needs of Grandparent Carers

1. A non-means tested nationally agreed allowance (like a child benefit) paid automatically to any grandparent who takes on the long term care of a grandchild. This should start after 28 days.

2. Finance for the first 28 days should be immediately available, if requested , from the Local Authority. This may need to cover clothes, general keep, furniture and a variety of other costs.

3. Most grandparent carers are in need of good, independent legal advice – often urgently. The Local Authority should always be prepared to cover the legal costs of grandparents getting a residence order or special guardianship, if requested. We would expect the Local Authority to do police and other checks to make sure that the grandparents are fit to care.

4. If the presence of grandchildren long term means that it might be better to move to a more suitable house, there should be public money available to help.

5. It is inevitable that grandparent carers should compare their situation with that of foster carers, since in most cases the children would have to be fostered if not with grandparents or other family members. A similar allowance would make all the difference to quality of life for most of them.

Financial Problems experienced by Wirral “Grandparents Activist Partnership” members.

1. All savings spent on legal costs

2. Savings spent on the general costs of bringing the children up.

3. Older people having to go on working longer hours for more years to get enough money

4. Terrible overcrowding, without funds to move

5. Difficulty sometimes in even getting child benefit

6. Lack of information about things such as tax credits and other financial benefits

7. Problems with things like costly school clothes and equipment, school trips, holidays, things the children want and often need to keep up with their friends.

8. It is difficult to pay for childcare, babysitting or even respite while the grandparents have a break.

9. Child poverty is said by the Government to be a national priority problem. There is plenty of evidence of household poverty in our group.

Other problems experienced.

The children have often been traumatised by events leading up to the loss of parents. Grandparents themselves have suffered some of the same grief. Support services are not easy to find. There should be a priority for these to be readily available from the Local Authority and the local NHS.

Currently there is a real lack of knowledgeable information and advice available locally, from the Local Authority or elsewhere. Such advice can often be needed in an emergency.

There is a lot of research (including a very recent 2009 survey commissioned by Grandparents Plus) to tell us that everyone thinks that children should remain within the extended family if parents cannot bring up children. 8 out of 10 people think that public money should be there to support this.

There is also a lot of research to tell us that children brought up within the family by grandparents or other relations, have a good childhood and do well, compared with children who are in care.

We ask the Government to urgently look at the situation, and legislate to meet the rights of all grandparent carers and their grandchildren.

This has been produced by Wirral Grandparents Activist Partnership (GAP)

We can be contacted via the Chair; Joe Lee

Live Wirral Wardens, Community House, 2-4 Laird St., Birkenhead CH41 8DH. Helpline 0151 652 3214

Or via Brian Christian, Coordinator, Wirral Older People’s Parliament, Age Concern Wirral, 42-44 Market St, Birkenhead, CH41 5BT

0151 666 2220

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