LAWYERS in Huddersfield have hit the £1m jackpot for kinship carers.
In a six-week period, solicitors at Ridley & Hall have helped achieve more than £165,000 in awards from the courts for grandparent carers and two kinship carers.
The money is back payments of fostering allowances to help to them care for children placed with them by local authorities.
The latest payments take the total won for kinship carers by Ridley & Hall since 2004 to more than £1m.
Commenting on the latest cases, solicitor Susan Cawtherley said: “The grandparents and the kinship carers have finally been awarded the financial support that they were due from four local authorities
“The background to these cases is the parents were unable to care for the children. The local authorities made arrangements for the children to move in with their grandparents or relatives.
“Social services are leaving children with grandparents or siblings and this is happening all over the country.
“We are very pleased that these local authorities have agreed to pay the financial support our clients richly deserve.”
She said: “If our clients had not taken these children into their care, they would have been placed with stranger foster carers.
“The cost to the local authority for foster carers could have been much higher. Research by the Fostering Network shows it costs more to look after a child who has had a chaotic lifestyle and has had to be fostered.
“Local authorities have now to pay grandparent and kinship carers the same as unrelated foster carers.”
Ms Cawtherley said research showed that children looked after by family members fared much better than those in the care of stranger foster parents.
She said: “Local authorities need to acknowledge the vital role grandparent and siblings play in the lives of these children.
“Financial support should be provided at the very start to ensure the stability of these families.
“In all these cases the carers have had to come to us to get legal advice because they’ve been banging their heads against a brick wall trying to get the local authorities to pay what they are meant to. Our clients have struggled financially to pay for the upkeep of the children.”
Nigel Priestley, senior partner, said Ridley & Hall was the leading firm in the country fighting for the rights of grandparent and kinship carers.
“We represent carers from across the country,” he said. “In these cases, they were from the Midlands, the North West and from Yorkshire.
“Carers come to Huddersfield from all over because they know we understand their problems and will fight for them.
“Since we began challenging local authorities to comply with their legal duties in 2004, our clients have been paid back-pay of well over £1m.
“These recent payments have come at just the right time for hard pressed families. On top of these back payments, carers have begun to receive weekly fostering allowances.”