Community Care posts an article about a recent judgment concerning a Local Authority’s financial duties towards kinship carers. Although the citation is not provided in the article I believe it is referring to the case of R (on the application of A) v A Local Authority –  All ER (D) 49 (May). In a nutshell: harder for Local Authorities to wriggle out of their responsibilities or to use granny as a cheaper option than foster care.
I have posted on this topic before. The One Show tonight ran a piece about Local Authorities advising kinship carers to seek residence orders in order to avoid their ongoing duty to a child, in particular to avoid an ongoing financial duty by way of carers allowance. I just wanted to briefly post about this because I think some people could have come away with a rather oversimplified view of the situation, namely ‘residence order = bad, kinship carers allowance = good’. As ever, it ain’t that simple.
The basic premise was valid – local authorities often do try to push cases in the direction of private law orders in order to close their files (and thereby focus resources on the families who have more acute need), and sometimes this becomes resource rather than welfare driven (and there are examples of this in the previous post linked above). However the situation is much more complex than is suggested by the piece. There are any number of reasons why a residence order may be the most suitable arrangement notwithstanding the potential financial disadvantage: not least the fact that it will give parental responsibility to the carer and NOT the local authority and will (all things being equal) leave the family to go about their normal lives in peace.
The report slightly missed the point about the entitlement to a kinship carers allowance – which is that entitlement is determined by whether or not the arrangment was set up by the local authority following their intervention to protect the child. If that is the case the allowance is payable for as long as the child remains in kinship care unless and until a residence order is later made. And special guardianship orders are another option which was not discussed at all.
The piece also suggested that where a residence order had been obtained the situation could be reversed to give the carer status and entitlement to kinship carers allowances. I am dubious about this as is Nigel Priestley, the solicitor featured in the One Show report and in one of the cases referred to in my previous post. See his comments as quoted on The One Show’s information pages.
Like the One Show report I have only touched the surface of this area of law which is quite complicated. I have highlighted one or two points which do not come through sufficiently clearly in the short tv piece. Anyone who is in the position of recently taking over care of a young relative and wondering what to do should get advice. The Family Rights Group factsheets highlighted by The One Show Info pages are a really good starting point. If you are in any doubt seek advice from a lawyer, and if they cannot afford a lawyer and cannot obtain legal aid they should ask the local authority to pay for a consultation with a family solicitor to clarify their rights and options. Some local authorities will agree to meet this cost as a one off.