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Alison first came to Family Rights Group in 1993 in a part time role to develop the advocacy service. She subsequently became the charity’s legal adviser and served in that role until her death.
Alison combined her brilliant in-depth understanding of the child welfare and family justice legal framework with a wonderful ability to express it clearly in a language that non-lawyers could comprehend – a remarkable gift.
Alison was organised, competent, far sighted and didn’t take no for an answer. She was key to initiating Family Rights Group’s work to improve social care services for Black and Minority Ethnic families and children.
Later, she was the pivotal force behind Family Rights Group’s work to improve recognition of, and support to, grandparents who care for their grandchildren – what we refer to today as kinship care. When the Labour Government came to power in 1997 it issued a consultation document, Supporting Families, and requested responses about the role of grandparents in family life. Very little feedback was received but as you’ll have come to expect, Family Rights Group did respond, and it led the Government to fund Family Rights Group to carry out the first national survey of grandparents raising their grandchildren in order to identify their needs and experiences. Alison’s report was entitled Second Time Around. An article in the Guardian 13 September 2001 reported, ‘Tens of thousands of grandparents who take prime responsibility for raising their grandchildren are left struggling without state support or adequate legal protection, according to a report today by the Family Rights Group. Alison Richards, the group’s legal adviser, said: “Grandparents need to be on the political agenda in terms of financial and legal support.”’ Her subsequent publications included exploration of a financial allowance for kinship carers and a guide on how to set up and run local groups for family and friends carers who are raising children who cannot live with their parents.
Alison worked closely with Bridget Lindley: a 2006 book on Special Guardianship, edited by Bridget Lindley was the last piece of work undertaken by Alison Richards. Both women had considerable influence on shaping the framework for special guardianship orders, including primarily legislation, Regulations and Guidance.
Alison died in 2005, aged only 44 years old and mother to two young daughters.