14th December, 2009
Mr. David Cameron MP,
House of Commons,
We believe that if elected you intend to remove the need to crave the courts permission when grandparents seek access to their grandchildren. You will be aware that we are already in that position in Scottish law.
In our 10 years of experience dealing with grandparents who have been denied contact we have found that because there is no need to have the court decide if there is a valid case, too many solicitors take a case on when it doesn’t meet the required criteria i.e. the best interest of the child. We have many members who have been dissatisfied with the advice of solicitors shown by a questionnaire we sent to our members where 44.3% thought they were given bad or wrong advice by a solicitor. There is a danger that solicitors are thinking of the income from the case rather than the validity of the case, costing our members many thousands of pounds with unsuccessful outcomes. We fear this will happen in England if this goes ahead and suggest preventative steps should be taken to avoid this..
We have found that mediation, education for grandparents and bridge-building have been much more successful and much less expensive or traumatic for all involved, particularly the children. We have been asking for family education to try to prevent this for future generations rather than trying to ease the problem after it has occurred.
We believe that Equal Parenting, with both mother and father sharing parental rights and responsibilities, is in the best interest of the child. This would eliminate the possessive use of one parent using a child as a weapon or bargaining tool against the other. Children could then have access to and contact with both sets of grandparents and would not lose out on the support and love of extended family members. This is a particular concern where contact between the generations has been frequent up to the point when parents separate and children suffer the loss of contact with their parent or grandparents.
Any family has their ups and downs, but when the children are the priority and using common sense, most are able to sort things out without turning to courts etc. We would like to see investment in Family Information and Education Centres with Mediation, Counselling and Education all over the country to help families before problems escalate. Parenting education is becoming more necessary as many families have been divided by current policies and too often parents don’t know what to do for the best. How to make a decent meal, how to interact with their child or how their actions affect their child. Starting in schools would be essential.
Grandparenting is a new role for many and our education programme on how to be a grandparent has helped hundreds of families get back together again.
Children denied contact with a parent or grandparent generally learns selfishness; they are not taught compromise or negotiating skills. This simply compounds the problem for future generations.
We put our faith in the “Charter for Grandchildren” (copy enclosed) which focuses on the best interests of the child and the supportive role grandparents can play in the children’s lives. The Charter was created with our input by the then Scottish Executive in 2006 to accompany the Family Law Act (Scotland) 2006. Responsibility for following its guidance has been passed to local authorities so that professionals dealing with the welfare of children are reminded that grandparents are important to children. Continued contact with grandparents can be an important safety net for children when families have drug or alcohol problems. The NSPCC say that one child every week dies of neglect.
Children are growing up to have no pride in themselves, no sense of self worth and turning to drugs or crime to find ‘a family’ of similar friends. What does the future hold for these children and young adults if we don’t help them now?
Clearly there are occasions when contact with grandparents or extended family isn't appropriate for safety reasons and we fully support that situation.
Grandparents Apart UK
22 Alness crescent
Glasgow G52 1PJ
0141 882 5658