A GRANDFATHER who battled for three years with Kirklees Council to be paid the same rate as a foster carer for looking after his granddaughter has won his case – just before it was due to be heard in court.
The Huddersfield man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, fought for the right to be paid fairly for looking after the five-year-old girl since he took over her care at the eleventh hour in 2004 at the request of social services.
The grandfather, who gave up his job Cto look after the child at the age of 62, was receiving just £42.95 a week for her care – over £90 short of the average foster parent who gets around £135 weekly.
His case was due to appear before the High Court in London earlier this week, but at the last minute a settlement was reached with the council.
The decision means that he will now receive the same support as a foster carer and a five-figure sum of back payments from the council.
Nigel Priestley, of Huddersfield law firm Ridley & Hall, who represented the grandfather, said: “We’re delighted with the outcome.
“This should not have been necessary. This is going to cost Kirklees a five-figure sum in legal costs and back payments, but there is nothing quite like a court case to remind local authorities what they should and should not be doing.’’
Mr Priestley, who specialises in fighting cases for foster carers who look after relatives, said that the child in question had been looked after her mother, but social services had contacted her grandfather at 7.30pm on a Friday night to say “collect the child or she goes into care”.
He added that the council then took the “very unusual” standpoint that the grandfather’s care of the child was a private arrangement between the mother and grandfather.
Mr Priestley and his client launched a judicial review to challenge the decision of the authority. Kirklees conceded that the grandfather had a case and negotiations began, but it took years for a settlement to be reached.
Unfortunately the grandfather’s situation is the norm. According to Mr Priestley, a trustee of the Grandparents’ Association, because of a shortage of foster carers, “kinship” carers are increasingly being used. However, local authorities are not supporting them.
He said: “Grandparents and other relatives are stepping in to care for children because there is a shortage of foster parents and carers.
“They shouldn’t have to find themselves battling with the local authority for support.
“This man was asked by the local authority to step into the breach and he had to give up his own job to care for the child.
Mr Priestly added that his client is doing a fantastic job looking after his granddaughter, but he should not have had to seek legal advice.
He said: “He needed support from the local authority, but he found it lacking.
“I accept when people say that blood is thicker than water, but the fact is that when you are 62 you are not planning to look after a young child.”
The grandfather said: “I put myself out and expected the local authority to do the same but they did not.”
The Grandparents’ Association says it is concerned about the number of grandparents throughout the country who are looking after children without support.
Julia Chesterman, welfare benefits administrator with the association, said:
“Unfortunately this is all too common. It’s the norm for grandparents to be given no help at all.”
She added that she wants to see grandparents offered the same support as those who look after children in care, as they are struggling to cope financially living on a pension and bringing up children.
Mr Priestley said that he hopes that Kirklees Council will now endeavour to pay kinship carers the same amount as foster carers.
Kirklees Council said that it did not wish to comment on the case.