Campaigning for the rights of Grandparent carers and all Kinship carers in the U.K.
You are not logged in.
HAVE YOU BEEN LEFT HOLDING THE BABY?
By Christine Morgan The Mirror
BRINGING up a child when you're in your 50s and 60s does have its rewards, but there are serious challenges to overcome too.
IF you reckon your parenting days will be over when your kids grow up and eventually flee the nest, you could be in a for a surprise.
With working mums the rule rather than the exception these days, a growing number of older people are sacrificing dreams of a cosy retirement to bring up their children's children.
Figures show that during the past two generations the number of children looked after by their grandparents has soared from 33 to 82 per cent.
And we're not talking helping out occasionally - more than a third of these grandparents spend around three days a week regularly caring for their offspring's little ones.
And an increasingly high number are being raised full-time by relatives such as grandparents because of the rise in family break-ups and teenage pregnancies, which means that gran often has to step in.
The charity Family Rights estimates that up to 300,000 children are being raised by grandparents and other relatives.
"Some children can't live with their parents, but they need to feel secure and want to be raised and protected by those they know and love," says Cathy Ashley, the charity's chief executive.
"Grandparents are often best placed to take on this role, yet they often have to face tremendous emotional, financial and legal hurdles as they battle for their grandchild's interest."
If you've become a second-timearound parent, then here's what you need to know about your legal rights and any money you're entitled to claim.
Know your rights
IT'S important that grandparent carers understand what their legal position is because this has an impact on what financial support you can get, and also makes clear your responsibilities.
THIS is an arrangement between the child's parent and yourself. You won't have parental responsibility, the child's parent will - so will make decisions about where they live, which school they go to, what religion they follow and give consent for medical treatment.
You will be able to make day-to-day decisions but the important decisions have to be referred back to the parents.
THIS is a common type of legal order that covers grandparents with live-in grandchildren. It means that both you and the child's parents have parental responsibility, and can make almost all decisions about the child independently of each other. If you disagree, you may have to go to court to get matters settled.
THIS is a relatively rare arrangement. You can become your grandchild's guardian if their mother or parents have died and they appointed you in writing.
If only their mother has died, you can only become their guardian if the father does not have parental responsibility.
To find out more about your legal rights, including what happens when your local authority is involved, read Wider Family Matters - A Guide For Family And Friends Raising Children Who Cannot Live With Their Parents (£8, Family Rights Group, see below).
Get more cash
Advertisement - article continues below »
BRINGING up kids is no joke if you're surviving on a low wage or a pension. According to Family Rights Group, the majority of UK grandparents bringing up grandchildren have money problems. There is help available though, depending on your circumstances. Here's how to claim.
If your grandchild is living with you under an official fostering arrangement...
You're eligible for a fostering allowance. The amount varies from one local authority to the next but next year there will be a minimum national allowance.
If you don't have a fostering arrangement, but your local authority has placed your grandchild in your care, you can argue that you should receive a fostering allowance. You won't, however, be able to claim child benefit or child tax credit if you get a fostering allowance.
If you have a private arrangement...
If you're looking after your grandchild through a private arrangement with your son or daughter, there's no specific help available unless you're particularly badly off - in which case you can apply for a one-off emergency cash payment from your local authority under Section 17 of the Children's Act of 1989. You can, however, claim child benefit and child tax credit if your grandchild lives with you.
If you have a residence order or special guardianship...
If you have a residence order for your grandchild, you can ask for a residence order allowance. But you must prove that you and your grandchild need the money as your local authority isn't obliged to pay.
If you have a special guardianship order there is an allowance available - but again payment is discretionary. In both instances, you can also claim child benefit and child tax credit and if one or both parents are dead you may also be able to claim for guardian's allowance.
Depending on your age and whether or not you're working, you may also be able to claim income support, housing and council tax benefit, working tax credit and pension credit... The benefits system is complicated, so contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (see the phone book or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk).
Family Rights Group: 0800 731 1696 (Mon-Fri 10am-12pm and 1.30pm-3.30pm), www.frg.org.uk
The Grandparents Association: 0845 434 9585 www.grandparentsassociation.org.uk
Grandparents Plus: 020 8981 8001 www.grandparentsplus.org.uk
Parentline Plus: 0808 800 2222 www.parentlineplus.org.uk
CAN'T DO YOUR HOMEWORK?
ONE problem some grandparents face is helping their grandkids do their homework. Many feel left behind, especially when it comes to subjects like computer studies. But it's never too late to learn. Brush up old skills and master new ones by joining a local class. Your library has information on courses available at your local adult education college, or contact the Campaign for Learning on 020 7930 1111 (www.campaign-for-learning.org.uk).
NEED TO FIND A SCHOOL?
IF you need a new school for your grandchild because they've moved away to live with you, the quickest way to find the schools in your area is to log on to www.direct.gov.uk Another website, www.parentscentre.gov.uk, has loads of advice on choosing where to send them. If you don't have internet access, ask your local authority's children services for information on schools in your area.