Grandparents who take care of children could be included in an expansion of the parental right to paid leave, the Prime Minister has suggested.
Speaking at an event in London, David Cameron said he will consider including a promise to give grandparents the same legal rights as adoptive parents in the Conservatives’ next manifesto. This means that they would be entitled to nine months paid leave, which adoptive parents will be starting next year.
Mr Cameron said that there were 200,000 grandparents in Britain who were getting a “raw deal” because they took care of children whose parents have died or fallen ill.
“You do see sometimes grandparents stepping in and effectively bring up children, and of course under the rules they don’t get quite the same set of rights as others.”
The Prime Minister went on to say that if adoptive parents are going to have the same rights as birth parents, “couldn’t you do that for grandparents?”
This is not a new idea. In December of last year, TUC claimed grandparents should be given time off to help with childcare. This came a few months after two charities claimed that grandparents provide £7.3 billion worth of childcare a year.
However in English law, child centric experts have paid short shrift and outlawed automatic rights for grandparents in the same way they have outlawed rights for non-resident parents. All they care about, is the welfare test – the welfare of the child is paramount, and thus completely disregard any other member of the family unless somehow that person can demonstrate, often by having to go all the way to court, that it is in the child’s best interest to have contact with them.
I often wonder when I read of the complete disregard they have for members of the same family what kind of family lives these “experts” have lived. Have they been far more disjointed than most and perhaps coloured their own perspective?
So I was sorry that the government’s best efforts to get even the slightest recognition for non-resident parents in law was so dramatically watered down in the House of Lords. In the Children and Families Act 2014, the clause on parental involvement, Section 11 in the original version of the bill, was viewed as so utterly contentious that even the watered down version hasn’t seen the light of day yet. For all we know, it never will. The presumption of parental involvement appears to have been abandoned.
To be honest, neither version of Section 11 did much at all. But it was something, acknowledging that it was in the best interests of the children to have contact with both parents.
Grandparents didn’t even get a crumb of comfort. Yes, there are grandparents who are viewed with distrust by their son or daughter in law and even by their own children. But the vast majority, genuinely love and want to care for their grandchildren – and do unless and until it’s stopped and grandchildren can irreparably lose out.
It’s also correct that many thousands of grandparents help out with caring for their grandchildren on a voluntary unpaid basis and it is damned hard work. They have no automatic right to contact with their grandchildren if the relationship breaks down with their grandchildren’s parents.
Personally, I think it’s all very cruel. Older people can spoil and treat their grandchildren in a rather more special way, with the wisdom of their greater years to boot, in a way that busy financially strapped parents may not.
I don’t think it should ever be forgotten that a grandparent can be a very welcome port in a storm for a grandchild. So whatever can be done to strengthen and nurture a previous relationship should be done. I congratulate the Prime Minister on this initiative.