A LAW firm in Huddersfield has won two major victories for grandparent carers.
In one case, a London woman caring for the child of her son’s ex-girlfriend will get almost £23,000 from her local council for backdated special guardianship allowance.
In the second, a Derbyshire woman caring for her two grandchildren has won the right to challenge the rate of residential allowance paid to her by her local council.
Both cases were brought by Ridley & Hall, which specialises in pursuing local authorities for “underpaying” so-called special guardians.
In the first case, the grandmother, identified only as TT, had been asked by social services at Merton Council to care for her son’s ex-girlfriend’s child, identified only as C, who was the offspring of a different father.
Both the child’s parents had received long prison sentences after C was born and Merton Council had tried and failed to find him a permanent placement.
When the grandmother agreed to look after C, the council asked her to get a court order, known as a special guardianship order, giving her parental responsibility for the child. In certain circumstances when a SGO has been made the council has responsibility to provide support to the child and their carer in the form of regular financial allowance.
TT was also caring for her own granddaughter, who had the same mother as C. Both children had significant difficulties including post traumatic stress disorder and behavioural issues.
TT gave up her job to look after the children and was in receipt of benefits, but as she was struggling on a very low income, she asked the local authority to consider her for a SGO allowance for C.
The local authority’s policy for SGO allowances was based on paying two-thirds the rate of the core fostering allowance. This went to court in June, 2012, where the policy was found to be unlawful. The local authority was ordered to draft a new policy, under which the council has calculated that TT was due £22,978.08 as backdated pay.
Rebecca Chapman, of Ridley & Hall, who acted for the grandmother, said she was delighted with the outcome, but that TT should have been paid the correct allowance from the beginning.
Said Ms Chapman: “It is unfortunate that she had to take the matter to court, which has meant that the council have had to pay legal fees at a difficult financial time for councils.”
In the second case, a high court judge has given a 67-year-old grandma permission to challenge Derbyshire County Council’s policy on residential allowances.
The grandmother has been caring for her grandson, now aged 13, since 2000. At one stage she was also caring for her granddaughter. The children had been placed with her by Derbyshire Social Services and they had encouraged her to apply for a residence order.
The council agreed to pay her a residence allowance, but Ridley & Hall senior partner Nigel Priestley pursued the case because the payments were set at 58% of the allowance paid to foster parents.
Following an application for judicial review, the case will now come before a high court judge, who will rule whether the council’s policy is lawful or not.
Said Mr Priestley: “This is an important case. Derbyshire are not alone in paying grandparent carers with residence orders significantly less than foster carers.
“I am staggered that at a difficult time for local authorities the county council is spending council tax payers money to defend the indefensible.”