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We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

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Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

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Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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by Marilyn

Marilyn is a Special Guardian with her partner Geoff to their lovely 10-year-old granddaughter. They live in South East England with their adult son (adoring uncle), elderly cat and two guinea pigs. Geoff delivers organic fruit and veg and Marilyn proofreads and writes. Their main focus is on their granddaughter, especially during this lockdown!

A big question is buzzing through many parents’, guardians’ and kinship carers’ minds right now; whether their children will return to school, especially if they are in Reception, Year one or Year 6. These are the children designated to return to school this week.

The decision is ours – so we can decide that our children will not be going back to school, and we won’t be fined if we make this decision. Many of us, especially grandparent/great aunt or uncle carers/guardians who are over 70 and who may have significant underlying conditions are afraid not only of their children contracting COVID-19 but especially of them passing the virus to them. Indeed, many of us are the only ones who stand between our children and the care system, so we must stay safe and well. And many of us – including younger parents and kinship carers have already made the decision not to send their children back to school. I absolutely respect their decision which is right for them and their children. Some kinship carers – notably the younger ones – have already sent their children back under the vulnerable children category because their child was having emotional difficulties due to the lockdown, which has taken from them all normal life and their friends and security. I respect their decision too, as it is right for them.​

My position is different. My partner and I are still under 70 and lucky in not having any relevant underlying health issues. Thus, I’ve made the firm decision to send my granddaughter back to school this week – because her mental and emotional health will definitely improve once she sees her friends and teachers again and gets her routine back. And her education will resume properly.

She’s been brilliant for the whole of the lockdown, doing her schoolwork and her beloved art. And she talks and plays games with her friends online, which is indeed a saving grace. As she’s in Year 6 the next two months will be the last time she sees her primary school friends and be prepared for the big transition to her secondary school. Inwardly, she’s pining for her normal routines of school, friends, and her social life.​

The virus is here to stay for some time, so, in a sense we do have to learn to live with it. This means staying safe, staying alert as per the government’s new slogan, and staying clean and vigilant.

I am confident that my granddaughter’s wonderful and outstanding primary school is doing its utmost to ensure full hygienic and social distancing/social bubble measures are adhered to, keeping our children and their families safe. As she is in Year 6 she is old and sensible enough to keep washing her hands and socially distance, and can walk a short distance on her own to and from school so we don’t have to mingle with the other parents and carers when we take her or pick her up. Her school was a very safe place before the lockdown with the virus raging and so it will be safe again. When she gets home, she will wash her hands and change out of her uniform which has to be washed daily at 60◦.​

My granddaughter knows it will be different – she will be in a smaller group, there will be many changes, but the children and teachers will adjust.

I know she will be much happier and that it is the right decision for us. Everyone must do what is right for them and there is no compulsion to attend. Those whose parents and carers decide to keep them at home will continue to be supported via home learning. This is yet another lesson in supporting and respecting each other’s decisions and not to make judgements either way.

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