My thanks to everyone who signed the Grandparents' Rights Petition on the Prime Minister's Website. The government replied to the petition on 18 February 2008. A copy of their reply and our response will be available on The Custody Minefield Website soon. Our response will also be made available in pdf format for the media.
1,673 individuals and representatives of organisations signed our petition, and my sincere thanks goes (in no particular order) to the following organisations for their support:
Grandparents Association, Grandparents Apart, Grandparents as Parents, Families Needs Fathers, the Mature Times, oneUp Magazine, the Grandparents Action Group UK, Mothers Apart From Their Children (Match) and JUMP (Jewish Unity for Multiple Parenting) for supporting this petition and its aims.
The petition read:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to introduce legislation granting legal rights to grandparents.
Grandparents play a substantial and vital role in the care of children, providing 60% of childcare, but their role is not recognised in law. A grandparent may have provided daycare for the children 5 days a week, but has no right to apply for contact in the event parents separate or die.
We propose an amendment to the Children Act granting the automatic right for grandparents to apply to the court for Contact or Residence Orders.
Grandparents should automatically be granted Parental Responsibility in the event of the death of the holder(s) of parental responsibility.
We ask for the automatic right to involvement in care and adoption proceedings and the automatic right to apply.
We ask that the Adoption and Children Act 2002 be amended to include grandparents alongside parents and guardians.
These measures recognise the role and importance of grandparents while adhering to the principle that the child’s welfare is of paramount importance.
Why are these measures necessary? There are times when officials don't follow procedures. I've assisted parents who were illegally prevented from seeing their children by social workers. I've know grandparents who weren't informed that their grandchildren had been taken into care. Fathers whose children were adopted without their knowledge. Social Workers who refused grandparent care which forced the grandparents to undertake a 2 year legal battle to have their voices heard and the children come to live with them.
In 2006, Labour (with good intentions) brought in adoption targets for social services departments. Good intentions without robust safeguards leads to cases of injustice and social workers can be too quick to literally take the law into their own hands and ignore best practice procedures. Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, the right to family life, is too readily being ignored.
1,400 newborn babies taken into care in 2005-06, compared with 540 in 1995
2,800 children under 12 months taken into care in 2005 compared with 1,600 in 1995
2,700 number of children adopted in 2000
40% percentage increase in adoptions demanded by Tony Blair in 2006
3,700 number of children adopted in 2006, an increase of 37 per cent on 2000
£18m payout shared by 30 local authorities for meeting the target to increase adoptions in their areas