Sunday, June 27, 2010
Grandparents leave to appeal for contact rights.
Sent 27th April reply 11th June. Better late than never.
Mrs Barbara I…
Castle View House East Lane Runcorn Cheshire WA72GJ
tel: 0870 000 2288 www.education.gov.uklcontactus
Our ref: 2010/0040042 Il June 2010
Dear Mrs I--------
Thank you for your Jetter of 27 April addressed to David Cameron MP. Your letter has been passed to the Department for Education (Of E) as we have responsibility for policy on child contact arrangements, including with grandparents. I have been asked to reply and apologise for the delay.
Firstly I would like to express my deep sympathy for the loss of you son. I appreciate this must be a very difficult time for you and your husband. As [ am sure you can appreciate, Government officials cannot comment on or become involved in the details of individual cases. If you have not already done so, you may find it helpful to visit the new BeGrand website at: www..b~-9rc:l.Dd:.o.et which provides information and advice for grandparents on a range of topics including family law and contact with grandchildren.
In your letter, you asked about the Government's policies to help grandparents and families maintain contact, particularly after bereavement. We believe that grandparents can play an important role in children's lives. Many grandparents are involved with the care of their grandchildren and most children see their grandparents as important figures in their lives.
In recognition of this important role, particularly in cases of parental separation or bereavement, the Coalition Government recently announced that we will conduct a comprehensive review of family law in order to look at how best to provide greater access rights to non-resident parents and grandparents. The Review is due to conclude in 2011.
In your [etter, you state that you are unhappy with the way in which you have been treated by social services. The Children Act 1989 places a duty on Social Services to safeguard and protect children. It is not clear if you are aware that you have the right to make a formal complaint under the 'Local Authority Complaints Procedure'. You may therefore wish to consider writing to either the Director of Social Services or the Designated Complaints Officer for the authority in which your grandchildren have been placed. They must then consider the complaint, appointing at least one person independent of the local authority to take part in dealing with the issues raised and provide you with a written response within 28 days. In addition, there is the option of applying for contact through the family courts. Under the current legal framework, grandparents and other family members usually need to seek the permission of the court to apply (known as seeking "leave" of the court).
The requirement for the courts permission is not designed to be an obstacle to grandparents or other close relatives but to act as an initial filter to sift out prejudiced applications that are unlikely to succeed. Experience suggests that grandparents (or other interested relatives) would not usually experience difficulty in obtaining permission where their application is motivated by a genuine concern for the children. While grandparents may seek the leave of the court to apply for contact, it is usually a more fruitful route to work with those other individuals and organisations involved in the children's care to ensure that they have ongoing
contact where it is in their best interests.
I hope that you find this information helpful. I am copying this response to Henry Bellingham MP.
Public Communications Unit