Nearly Legal flags up new guidance following two judgments in the European Court concerning the rights of the children of migrant workers to education. This is important because where the right exists the parent and primary carer of the child will be entitled to benefits and homelessness assistance that they might otherwise not have been able to access. This is not the sort of stuff you want to read for fun unless you really need to get to grips with the issues for the benefit of a particular client (and I don’t so I haven’t), but do be aware that these judgments may give clients in a vulnerable financial position access to financial and other assistance that a local authority / benefits agency might have refused them in the past.
I initially didn’t pay much attention to the proposals made this week by Grandparents Plus that grannies* should receive financial recognition for their childcare of grandchildren. I had gone so far as to wonder why parents should not be able to receive working tax credit for childminding provided by extended family as well as registered childminders, but this seemed too susceptible to fraud to be ever likely to happen. But today I read an interesting article by Melanie Reid which I don’t entirely agree with but which provoked a little further thought on my part.
Firstly she points out that if grandparents were to be treated as equivalent to childminders for the purposes of the childcare element of the working tax credit they would have to be demonstrably offering an equivalent service and yet the regulatory framework for even a poorly paid small business like childminding is monstrously complicated and not something that would be welcome, appropriate, practical or cost effective to apply to informal extended family arrangements. So that adds another layer of difficulty.
More substantively Melanie Reid opines that ‘what is depressing about this campaign is that in attempting to highlight the undoubted importance of grandparenting, it distorts what is precious about it. It reduces one of the closest of family bonds to a financial transaction, and tries to put a value on it. That’s very sad and ultimately destructive.’ I find this statement difficult. I agree at face value with what is said, I know my own Mum offers childcare because she wants to spend time with her beloved grandson as much as anything else and I wouldn’t want to sully that or insult her by offering to pay her – but the dynamics are complicated and like many working parents we are constantly anxious not to abuse the babysitting that is on offer. Like many grandparents these days my own parents still work and have little time for themselves. And the joy of being a grandparent is supposed to be that you can give them back when they grizzle or need a change.
Helpful suggestion from a District Judge the other day: when making a shared residence order couple it with a condition pursuant to s11(7) Children Act 1989 providing that the parent in receipt of Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits / Working Tax Credits pay to the other each week / month a sum representing the pro rata proportion of those benefits commensurate with the proportion of time the other parent will be spending with the other. This is a useful if artificial mechanism for apportioning the finances between parents who are each incurring the costs associated with having a child live with them in circumstances where the relevant authorities will only treat one parent as being entitled to benefit. Child Tax Credits can’t cope with shared residence, so these orders can help to realign the position to make the unworkable workable. Of course it would be easier for HMRC to agree to pay a lower rate of CTC to each parent but hey ho. Alternatively a consent pps order could be made.
When made under s11(7) such an order would be prima facie enforceable like any other s8 order, although who can guess how keen a court would be to enforce this kind of order in practice when parliament has deliberately taken most issues of child maintenance out of the hands of the court.