Today is Grandparents Day in the UK; a wonderful opportunity to celebrate those amazing people in our lives. Pictured below are my granddads (paternal and maternal) and I at my wedding in 2009. Both of my grandmothers have sadly passed away now but they are never forgotten. My granddads continue to be an important part of my life and have been there for me as I was growing up, providing support to my parents, babysitting and taking an interest in my life.
My situation is a lucky one. I see my granddads when I can and we have positive relationships. Some grandparents however, go above and beyond for their grandchildren and it is to them, that I dedicate this post. Nearly 200, 000 children are looked after by kinship carers in England (The Independent 2015), the majority of whom are grandparents and who live in poor and deprived circumstances (Nandy and Selwyn, 2013). These are grandparents who provide care to their grandchildren when their parents cannot. At present, there are a number of legal arrangements that kinship carers can apply for to become formally recognised as a kinship carer, including a Residence Order, Special Guardianship Order or Adoption Adoption Order (*see definitions below). These offer varying degrees of parental responsibility and varying degrees of financial support. More recently the number of Special Guardianship Orders has been rising (Community Care, 2015a, b) but this has raised concerns across the care sector because the role of kinship carers is often overlooked. A key issue is that many of these orders are being placed without an attached support package or any guarantee that existing support from local authorities will continue for longer than a number of years (Wade et al, 2014). In a climate of continued austerity and tightening local authority budgets, families are paying the greater price. The need for improved rights and support for those taking on full-time custody of family members has only recently being recognised (Community Care, 2015c).
This study aims to understand the experiences of men’s care responsibilities in low-income localities and men who provide kinship care have been included in the sampling strategy in order to find out more about how different family members might step in to provide care when parents are unable to do so. I have already interviewed three men of four (two grandfathers and an uncle) who are providing this kind of care and who are seeking to be formally recognised. It is a difficult thing for them to do and in low-income localities means men are having to stretch already limited resources to do what they think is right by their families and by their children.
On this day, please let us remember those grandparents and make this the year to fight for their rights – see the Family Rights Group for more up to date information about kinship care.
Legal orders for kinship carers
* A Residence Order is a court order that decides where a child shall live. It gives holders shared parental responsibility with the parents and can be revoked (Hunt and Waterhouse 2012).
A Special Guardianship Order, introduced in December 2005, is more legally secure because a parent cannot revoke it unless they have permission of the court. Carers have more power with an SGO because they can exercise greater parental responsibility for the child (Hunt and Waterhouse 2012).