Archive for the ‘Grandparents’ Category

I am very pleased to see the outcome of this case reported in The Times, concerning the residence of a young boy known as H with his maternal grandmother. H had been living with his grandmother from birth and, after the mother left the home, grandmother was granted a residence order. Father was refused a residence order but successfully appealed to the High Court, with this decision being upheld by the Court of Appeal. Grandmother appealed to the Supreme Court- this was actually the first case to be heard by the country’s most senior judges in their new location.

The case raises an important issue about who should be caring for a child in such a situation, where there are grandparents who have been extremely involved in the child’s upbringing from birth. The High Court had said that, as long as Father’s care was ‘good enough’, then it made no difference that the grandmother could provide better care. Lord Kerr, however, ruled that “The court’s quest is to determine what is in the best interests of the child, not what might constitute a second best but supposedly adequate alternative.”

Absolutely the right decision, and a positive step from the highest court in the land towards recognizing the important role grandparents play in the lives of children.


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Grandparental Rights

The Daily Mail‘s front page article today is an exclusive interview with David Willetts MP, the Conservative Party’s spokesman for family policy. Willetts has said that a Tory government would introduce contact rights for grandparents when relationships end between the children’s parents. He has also said that the Conservatives would make local authorities prioritise grandparents over alternative foster carers should the parents be deemed unfit to look after their children.

A few thoughts came to mind when I read this article. Firstly, as I was searching on Google for a nice grandparent picture to accompany this entry, I realised how inaccurate the stereotypical picture is nowdays of a grandmother sitting in her rocking chair with a cuppa tea and some knitting. Apart from the fact that some girls become pregnant at a very young age, making their mothers very young grandmothers, people seem to take much longer to grow older nowadays. Grandparents are NOT all fuddy-duddy old people in nursing homes. I know plenty of men and women in their 50s who have become grandparents, meaning that they could well end up spending half their entire life with grandchildren.

In an era where many grandparents are financially assisting the upbringing of their grandchildren on a regular basis, it is absolutely right to give them formal recognition under the Children Act. And when I say financial assistance, I don’t just mean help with things like school fees and clothes. Grandparents provide hours upon hours of free childcare services to  parents, which would otherwise have to be paid for in the form of a nanny or babysitter.

Under the current law, grandparents have to have leave of the court to apply for contact. It is absolutely right that we finally recognise the huge contribution grandparents make to a child’s upbringing. To be honest, I am amazed this has not been introduced earlier. I just hope the Tories remain true to their word.

I just have one caveat with regard to the Tories’ proposal to make local authorities prioritise grandparents as foster carers when the parents are unfit to care for their children themselves. In such a situation, I still think it is important to treat every case individually. Of course, the grandparents should always be considered as an option, but in some circumstances it will not be appropriate to give them priority over alternative foster carers.

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