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Following the successful launch of our report in November 2023, GUfC has been invited to exhibit at the Houses of Parliament on

Tue-Thu 30 Jan - 1 Feb 2024.  

Please support us by writing to your MP, cc'ing in GUfC, highlighting the impact on both grandchild and grandparent when their relationship is suddenly interrupted and ceased.

Click to read our report to see why this is an growing and serious issue 

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This campaign is about changing policy, practice and law to secure the right of a grandchild to continue having safe, established contact with grandparents.

 

Our intention is:

  • to secure legal, policy and practice changes to enable a grandchild to hold and sustain a relationship with their grandparent

  • to protect children from adverse childhood experiences as a consequence of law and practice effectively permitting their parents to conflate their child's rights with their own

  • to highlight what appears to be an increasingly common phenomenon, often intensified and amplified via social media 

  • to raise awareness of the impacts of the living bereavement experience that both grandchild and grandparent experience following the forced cessation of their relationship

 

NB: we specifically exclude safeguarding situations where a grandchild is prevented from routine contact with abusive grandparents.  

 

A child can be impacted in different ways when a safe and loving family relationship is abruptly removed, including feeling forgotten, isolated and abandoned. There is more about this on our impacts page here.

 

Our report focuses on the needs of the grandchild throughout, recognising both the complexity of the interaction between family life, behaviour and decisions, policy, practice and law, noting the increasingly obvious need for change in grandchildren’s rights.

Messages to our much-missed grandchildren: the travelling quilt in the Houses of Parliament with newly honoured Lorraine Bushell OBE

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November 2023: Our report launch speakers
Click on our YouTube channel link on the left sidebar to view their presentations

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Jay Kontzle

Kinship Ambassador & Actor, Emmerdale Farm

Tragically, my mum died when I was four and my grandparents took me in, and raised me. I was very young and it was obviously a very confusing and upsetting time. Being raised and loved by my grandparents saved me. If I’d gone into foster care I don’t know where I would have ended up.

 

My nan and grandad have helped make me who I am and I owe them everything and want to honour the sacrifices they made. I may not have realised how much they sacrificed when I was a kid but I do as an adult and have huge respect and love for everything they did for me. They loved me and kept me safe and secure without receiving any support.  They were just left to get on with it. That meant my nan had to give up her job as a nurse to look after me and my grandad worked nights to bring in enough money. They spent what money they had and their pensions to look after me. 

This campaign means a lot to me as my grandparents played a pivotal role in my life and led to me being where I am now and truly understanding the core values in life. My grandparents fought tooth and nail to get custody over me and at times I took that for granted as a child. It’s now incredibly important to me to express how much that meant to me and how significant grandparents can be as a driving force for a child’s development and future in life.

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Jasvinder Sanghera CBE

GUfC report author & launch chair

She is a highly acclaimed international speaker and an expert advisor to the courts in matters of child, civil and criminal proceedings, is a chair of domestic homicide reviews and was instrumental in ensuring that all UK police forces are required to improve their understanding of honour based abuse and forced marriage by inspections conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Her memoir ‘Shame’ was a Times Top 10 Bestseller and described in the House of Lords as a ‘political weapon’. Jasvinder is recognised as bringing the issue of forced marriage into the public domain and Prime Minister David Cameron stated that her work ‘turned my head on the issue of forced marriage’. Her work is recognised as being pivotal to the creation of a specific UK forced marriage criminal offence in 2014.

She has received numerous awards including the prestigious Woman of the Year 2007. She was made an Honorary Doctor of the University of Derby in 2008. She was awarded The Pride of Britain Award in 2009 and was named Cosmopolitan Ultimate Woman of the Year in 2010. In 2011 she was listed in the Guardian’s top 100 Most Inspirational Women in the World and in 2012 received the Global Punjabi Award. She was awarded Commander of the British Empire in 2013 in recognition of her outstanding contribution for the victims of forced marriage and honour based abuse and in 2014 was awarded Legal Campaigner of the Year. Jasvinder is also listed as an entry in the 2016 edition of the book Who’s Who and in the same year received the International Woman Award for human rights from the Italian media. In 2018 she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law by De Montfort University, Leicester, Woman of the Year by Leeds City Council and in 2019 she was awarded the Robert Burns Humanitarian of the Year Award and also the Sikh Woman of Substance Award.

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Dr Charlotte Bendall

Associate Professor, Birmingham Law School

Dr. Charlotte Bendall is an Associate Professor at Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham. She is the author of several publications in the area of family law relating both to adults and children, and also leads, together with Dr. Rehana Parveen, on the Family Law Reform Now project, part of which has entailed liaising with the Law Commission seeking to influence their programme of family law reform.

 

Dr. Bendall has recently co-authored a book chapter, together with Dr. Samantha Davey, on the potential held by mediation for grandparents involved in intrafamilial conflict (C. Bendall and S. Davey ‘The ‘grandparent problem’: Encouraging a more relational approach towards child arrangements via mediation’ in S. Davey and D. Lindsey (eds) Grandparents and the Law: Rights and Relationships (Oxford: Hart, 2023), pp.21-48). She has further presented on this topic at the annual meetings of the International Society 

of Family Law (Antwerp) and the Society of Legal Scholars, and held a research seminar for the Norma Research Group, Lund University.

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Lord Blunkett

Justice, and Home Affairs Committee

David Blunkett, Baron Blunkett, is a Member of the House of Lords since 2015, previously serving as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough from 1987-2015. During his time as an Labour MP, was Education and Employment Secretary, Home Secretary, and Work and Pensions Secretary. As a peer, he is a member of the Justice and Home Affairs Committee.

Lord Blunkett recognises the critical nature of the relationship between grandchildren and their grandparents, and has recorded a video sharing his views on this in the context of his own family.

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Professor Deveral Capps

Dean, Leeds Beckett Law School

Deveral is the Dean of Leeds Law School, joining Leeds Beckett in 2015.  As a legal academic he has taught undergraduate, postgraduate and professional courses and published widely on legal education, legal skills and eCommerce law. He is a barrister, a door tenant at Trinity Chambers, and has practiced in both civil and criminal law appearing in courts across the North of England.

Over the 25 years that Deveral has been involved in Higher Education, he has had significant input into the development of legal education and training in the UK. He has significant expertise in barristers’ training and between 2011 and 2013 was a member of the steering panel for the Legal Education and Training Review, the largest review of legal education in the UK ever held.  He is a consultant to the Bar Standards Board’s and sat on their Future Bar Training Programme Board between 2017 and 2019.  He is a member of the Bar Standard Board’s Curriculum and Assessments Review (“CAR”) group was directly involved with the development

of the new syllabuses and assessment strategy for all bar courses commencing in 2020 and led the Bar Standards' Board review of whether European Law should remain as a Foundation of Legal Knowledge for the academic component of bar training following Brexit.  He is currently reviewing the requirements for the mandatory training and assessment of advocacy and negotiation skills during pupillage.

 

As an expert in Quality Assurance, Deveral has a deep understanding of academic quality and assurance processes. He is an experienced external examiner, including lead external examiner, for all types of academic and professional awards and has been a member of Institutional inspecting panels on behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board.  Deveral was a panel member for the subject pilot of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) between 2017 and 2019 and was the deputy chair for the most recent QAA subject benchmark statement review for law.  He is the Honourary Treasurer for the Committee of Heads of University Law Schools (CHULS), which is one of the five learned societies of law.

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Dr Samantha Davey

Lecturer in Law, University of Essex

Dr. Samantha Davey is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex, where she teaches Family Law. She has published widely in the field of family law, with a particular interest in inter-generational relationships. She is the author of a well-known textbook, Family Law (Macmillan HE, 2020) and has published two other books. Her monograph, A Failure of Proportion: Non-Consensual Adoption in England and Wales (Hart, 2020) explored the importance of incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child within analysis of non-consensual adoption cases. Within her book, she also explored the importance of grandparents as an alternative measure of long-term care to adoption, for children who cannot be raised by their parents. More recently, she co-authored Grandparents and the Law: Rights and Relationships (Hart, 2023) with Dr. Jaime Lindsey, an Associate Professor at the University of Reading. Within this book, she co-authored a chapter with Dr. Charlotte Bendall (referred to

above) and was the sole author of another chapter within the book, entitled ‘Grandparents: Anchor in Uncertain Times, Alternatives to Adoption?’ This chapter explores the importance of grandparents in children’s lives via the lens of family constellation theory and considers the circumstances in which grandparent care may be in children’s best interests.

 

Along with Dr. Bendall, Dr. Davey is in the process of empirical research, funded by the Society of Legal Scholars. This research involves interviewing practitioners and grandparents to determine the efficacy of mediation as alternative to court proceedings, in resolving intra-familial disputes between parents and grandparents, over contact with grandchildren.

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Family Justice Young People’s Board

We are the Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB). We are a group of over 75 children and young people aged between seven and 25 years old who live across England and Wales. All of our members have either had direct experience of the family justice system or have an interest in children’s rights and the family courts.

Our overall aim is to support the work of the Family Justice Board to deliver improvements to the family justice system so that it provides the best experience and outcomes for children who come into contact with it.

We work hard to help ensure that the work of the Family Justice Board is child-centred and child-inclusive. We do this by participating in all its meetings to enable young people to have a direct say in its work. In doing this we work closely with other young people’s groups and stakeholders within family justice. 

Ben is happy to support this campaign, as alienation not only affects the child and parent directly targeted, but frequently cascades outwards to other family members including grandparents. Moreover, the growing literature on grandparent experiences suggests not only profound but also unique experiences when alienated that deserves our attention.

Ben Hine is Professor of Applied Psychology at the University of West London. Since joining the School of Human and Social sciences in 2014, he has worked in collaboration with the charities SafeLives and The Mankind Initiative to conduct large scale case reviews to illuminate the needs of domestic violence victims, specifically hidden victims such as LGBTQIA+ and male survivors. More recently he has begun to explore post-separation abuse, specifically in the context of high-conflict separation.

 

This work has led him to a specific form of violence: Parental Alienation (where one parent will work to attack the relationship between their child and the other parent). This has included work with a wide range of charities, organisations, and parents, as well as reflective work on his experiences written with his father, that has begun to explore the experiences of family breakdown and abuse, including PA and the involvement of the family court system.

Ben Hine

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Professor of Applied Psychology at the University of West London
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Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Archbishop of Westminster

Cardinal Vincent Nichols studied for the priesthood at the Venerable English College in Rome from 1963 to 1970, gaining licences in philosophy and theology at the Gregorian University. He was ordained priest in Rome in December 1969 for the Archdiocese of Liverpool, then studied an MA degree in theology at Manchester University. In 1971 he was appointed assistant priest in St Mary’s Parish, Wigan and chaplain to the Sixth Form College and St Peter’s High School.

 

In 1974 he studied at Loyola University in Chicago and was awarded an M.Ed. In 1975 he was appointed to St Anne’s parish in Toxteth, Liverpool with particular responsibility for education. Since then, with various appointments prior, he was installed on 21 May 2009 as the 11th Archbishop of Westminster following the retirement of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. He was elected President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales by unanimous acclamation on 30 April 2009.

Cardinal Nichols has kindly recorded a video for the Grandparents United for Children launch reflecting Pope Francis's stated importance of grandparents in children's lives. 

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Ella Savell -Boss

Independent Safeguarding Consultant in Education

Ella is an NSPCC accredited safeguarding trainer and Gestalt and Person Centred Therapist. Ella has over 20 years’ experience working in education and held the position of Director of Safeguarding for a large MAT. Ella provides safeguarding consultancy and training to education and other organisations supporting children. She has keynoted and chaired a number of safeguarding conferences and provides training both nationally and internationally. Ella is increasingly asked to provide support through supervision, audits and wellbeing training.

Ella is a Home Office approved Prevent trainer and has led on FGM education and support. Working in a wide variety of local authorities allows Ella to create a number of specialisms which include, wellbeing, DSL support and supervision, Domestic Abuse, FGM, Forced Marriage, CCE and CSE, managing disclosures and online safety, to include a few. 

Ella offers a range of services covering safeguarding and child protection and is delighted to have so many repeat bookings and invitations to provide training and support. Her bespoke training and consultancy services ensure you have an understanding required in all areas of child protection and remain up to date with the latest legislation and remain compliant in all areas. The most popular service is currently the DSL and Deputy DSL Safeguarding Supervision to support the safeguarding teams. 

 

Ella’s services span the whole range of education from nurseries through to primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges, universities, the voluntary sector and businesses. Ella is also able to provide support and training for adult safeguarding. 

As a trained therapist and NSPCC Accredited Safeguarding Trainer with 20 years’ experience in the education and safeguarding sector, Ella is well placed to advise and support through a range of tailored training and consultancy programmes.

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Jonathan Whettingsteel

Partner & Head of Family, Dutton Gregory LLP: grandparent legal support lead

Jon is a partner and head of the family law department. As winner of the Hampshire Law Society "Lawyer of the Year" in 2019, Jon works tirelessly for his clients, who value both his expertise and personable manner. Jon joined the firm in June 2018 after spending a number of years practicing in family and children law at a local firm. Jon graduated from Southampton Solent University obtaining a LLB Honours Law Degree in 2008 before studying the LPC at Guildford College of Law the following year and qualifying as a solicitor in 2011. 

 

In December 2015, Jon obtained the Law Society’s Family Law Accreditation and then in August 2019 the Law Society’s Advanced Family Law Accreditation. In December 2016 Jon was accredited on the Law Society’s Children panel. These are in recognition of a high level of understanding and ability in family law. Jon is also a member of Resolution, signing up to their codes of practice in trying to resolve family and matrimonial matters in a non-confrontational

manner. In December 2021, Jon continued to demonstrate his high level of expertise and knowledge by writing his first book ‘A Practical Guide to Internal and External Child Relocation’ published by Law Brief Publishing.

 

Jon has experience in dealing with a wide variety of contentious and non-contentious matters including divorce, children and financial cases as well as protective measures such as non-molestation and occupation order proceedings. Jon also has experience in drafting and advising on various documents, including consent orders, separation agreements and pre-nuptial agreements.

So, what's next?
Actioning the report's 12 recommendations

Following the report’s launch in November, the work programme underpinning the twelve recommendations is the vehicle intended to progress the necessary change for grandchildren's rights. 

Several methodological approaches have been undertaken to inform this report including gathering data, evidence, identifying issues and solutions, and documenting the experiences of those affected. Key areas that inform the report are:

 

  •         A literature review of key research and findings

  •         An independent survey conducted by Savanta Comres, commissioned by Lloyd Platt & Co Law Firm

  •         An analysis of Change.org petition comments 

  •         The Voice of the Child: a review of a significant number of grandchildren's letters following BBC's The One Show item highlighting the problem

  •         The mapping of support services to grandparents

Recommendation 1

The Children Act 1989 - makes no specific reference to grandchildren or grandparents. We seek an amendment to include references to these significant relationships.

Recommendation 3

Cafcass Separated Information Parents Programme includes the experiences of grandparents. The Cafcass website includes awareness of grandchildren separated from grandparents and signpost support available. In response to our request that CafCass include grandparents in the Separated Parents' Information Programme, they advise us that the new Planning Together for Children course (which replaced SPIP in April 2023) places far more focus on the voice of the child and the wider family network, including grandparents. They also re-launched our website and, as part of this, have reviewed the information about the role and importance of grandparents in the separated / divorced parents' typology. We are delighted that this content is now on their website here Information for grandparents who want to help | Cafcass

Recommendation 2

The Children’s Commissioner undertakes research in the form of a review or survey to hear the unrepresented voice of children impacted by having their grandparents abruptly removed from their lives.

Recommendation 4

The Judiciary, which includes court staff, judges and magistrates are made aware of the increasing challenges and Court Orders sought by grandparents, including understanding that respondents make unsubstantiated false allegations and seeking to slow court processes to frustrate contact.

Recommendation 5

Government reinstates 2018 plans agreed by parties receiving full parliamentary backing of all MPs to consider a presumption in law for grand-parents to have access to their grandchildren.

Recommendation 7

Recommendation 6

Recommendation 8

The Ministry of Justice provide updated numbers related to applications for Contact Arrangement Orders, including repeated breaches of Enforcement Orders. This is an area that requires immediate improvement so that children do not experience gaps in contact.

Cafcass state an increase in numbers of grandparents applying to the Courts. There is now a need to explore the numbers of Court Orders, last recorded in 2016. This is clearly outdated. Cafcass (www.cafcass.gov.uk/ support the family court system with children and families going through their cases. The intention is generally to ensure that the outcome of legal proceedings benefit the child or young person. This is in both public and private law cases. We asked them for information on the numbers of grandparents applying to family courts (under private law usually) as the last known figures were published in 2016.

Applications for a Child Arrangement Orders, whereby Cafcass evidence no safeguarding concerns, that contact, be it indirect or direct, continues and is prioritised. This will prevent long gaps for children thereby acting in the best interest of the child.

Recommendation 9

Applications for a Child Arrangement Orders, whereby Cafcass evidence no safeguarding concerns, that contact, be it indirect or direct, continues and is prioritised. This will prevent long gaps for children thereby acting in the best interest of the child.

Recommendation 11

Applications for a Child Arrangement Orders, whereby Cafcass evidence no safeguarding concerns, that contact, be it indirect or direct, continues and is prioritised. This will prevent long gaps for children thereby acting in the best interest of the child.

Recommendation 10

Applications for a Child Arrangement Orders, whereby Cafcass evidence no safeguarding concerns, that contact, be it indirect or direct, continues and is prioritised. This will prevent long gaps for children thereby acting in the best interest of the child.

Recommendation 12

Applications for a Child Arrangement Orders, whereby Cafcass evidence no safeguarding concerns, that contact, be it indirect or direct, continues and is prioritised. This will prevent long gaps for children thereby acting in the best interest of the child.

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We believe that by supporting grandparents, we can help ensure that every child has a strong and loving family network to rely on. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of families and communities.

Grandparents United for Children, 2023.

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