Kinship Care is a term given to carers who are looking after relatives. Kinship carers are Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Brothers, Sisters and family friends to name a few. Children may have been removed from their parents due to neglect, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, drug and alcohol misuse, mental health issues, domestic violence and other issues which prevent them being cared for by their parents.
Many relatives and friends agree to care for a child often at a moment’s notice. Such decisions are life changing. Many carers do not realise that both they and the children have legal rights. Local authorities often claim they have no legal responsibility and press carers to apply for private law orders such as Child Arrangement Orders or Special Guardianship Orders without having access to legal advice.
Ridley & Hall can assist you in ensuring you receive the correct legal, practical and financial support. Kinship carers need to be realistic about what they have taken on. Often, they fear what others may think if they ask for support. Children cost money and, in an age, where local authorities are increasingly reliant on agency foster carers, a family placement will ultimately cost less.
What Is Kinship Care?
Ridley & Hall’s Kinship Care team have unique expertise to provide specialist, holistic advice to carers.
- We understand the challenges carers face.
- We have a proven record of ensuring that carers receive the support that they are entitled to.
- As a result of judicial reviews brought by Ridley & Hall, carers across England & Wales have benefited from changed Local Authorities’ policies.
Carers are the unseen and often unsung heroes of our time. They come in many different forms and it is important that they are provided with the appropriate support and assistance and that they are fully informed of their legal rights.
What Is Kinship Care?
Carers need expert legal advice. They need to know what the local authority’s duties are: what assessments should be carried out; what financial – and other -support they are entitled to.
Ridley & Hall are at the forefront in defending kinship carers. The Kinship Care team has a national reputation for working with friends and family carers. We work closely with a number of organisations including Family Rights Group and Grandparents Plus as well as a number of smaller organisations and charities such as Kinfest.
Special Guardianship Orders
Special guardianship is where you take on the responsibility of caring for a child until they are 18 years of age.
It gives you parental responsibility (PR) for the child over and above that of the parents.
Under a special guardianship order (SGO) the child can retain a link to the parents and other family members but it provides stability and security for the remainder of the child’s youth.
A special guardianship order is usually most appropriate when the parents have significant problems of their own and are unlikely to agree with decisions about the upbringing of the child and when the child is unlikely to be returned to the care of the parents.
Special Guardianship Disruption
Many Kinship Carers face difficulties following the making of Special Guardianship Orders. We have heard from a number of Kinship Carers who have received abuse from both parents and children, who feel that they are struggling to manage a child’s behaviour, that the child is refusing to attend school, is stealing or running away and that they are not being supported by the Local Authority. These difficult behaviours cannot be accepted especially for carers who have taken the selfless decision to care for children who cannot be cared for by their parents.
If you feel that for whatever reason a child’s placement with you is breaking down, whether this is due to the child’s extreme behaviours, violence or a general change in circumstances, you can ask the Local Authority to intervene and assist. Asking for help early can sometimes prevent the relationship and/or placement from breaking down in its entirety.
If a placement does break down the Local Authority may issue Care Proceedings, please see our separate page which gives more detail about this process.
Special Guardianship Allowances
Under a Special Guardianship Order, it is extremely important that you agree a Support Plan with the Local Authority prior to the making of the Order. All financial support under and SGO is discretionary and often subject to an annual review. If you do not ensure that you have a robust plan in place prior to the Order being made, it can be extremely difficult to get the Local Authority to agree to introduce support at a later stage.
At Ridley and Hall, we are able to liaise with the Local Authority to obtain some funding from them in order for us to advise you about the content of your support plan.
Judicial review is a form of court proceedings where a judge will look at the lawfulness of a public bodies action or decision.
We are experienced in judicial review proceedings. As a result of actions taken on behalf of kinship carers, it is estimated that Ridley & Hall has secured over £1million in backdated fostering allowances for kinship carers across the country. We have brought fundamental changes in the kinship fostering policies of some local authorities.
Judicial Review can only be accessed if there is no other adequate way of challenging a decision. Sometimes it may be more appropriate to engage in the local authority’s complaint procedure or complain to the Local Government Ombudsman than to bring a judicial review. It does not involve the court deciding whether the public body has made a right or wrong decision but rather that they have implemented the correct decision-making process.
A judicial review can be brought for the following reasons:
1. Illegality. This can include:
• Where a person does not have the power to make a decision or uses the power in an inappropriate way
• Error of law or fact
• Relevant and irrelevant considerations
• Fettering discretion
3. Procedural Impropriety.
This can include failure to follow statutory procedures, bias and failure to provide reasons for a decision.
If you wish to make a claim for judicial review you have 3 months from the date of the decision to issue the claim.
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Frequently Asked Questions
There can be support for special guardians. Under section 14(f) of the Children Act 1989 (as amended) the local authority must make arrangements for the provision of special guardianship support services.
Support could take the form of:
– Counselling advice or information
– Therapeutic services for the child
– Group meetings for children, special guardians or parents (before or after the making of a special guardianship order) to discuss matters relating to special guardianship
– Assistance for the child in relation to contact with significant people, including mediation
– Advice and support to the child and special guardian, including respite care
– Financial support
For more information on child arrangements orders and special guardianship orders go to www.frg.org.uk. This has very detailed advice sheets on both orders.