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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.

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What happens when bills don’t get paid?

by Lorna – kinship carer

The major topic of conversation across the country is the cost-of-living crisis. As worrying as things are most of us accept that we’re all in the same boat, desperately fearing we’re about to sink. But recently I discovered that my situation was more dire than most because not only couldn’t I pay my own bills, but my local authority also couldn’t or wouldn’t pay theirs.

When I became a kinship carer in 2021 for my adopted daughter’s twin daughters, I was required by the local authority to stop working for a year. When I returned to work, they agreed to pay for the twins’ nursery fees.

Each month the nursery fees were paid with my special guardianship allowance, and I then paid them to the nursery. However, in August 2022 the fees were not included. I thought it was a clerical error and contacted the finance department immediately. They said they had revised their payment policy and they would be paying the nursery directly. I felt insulted, as if I couldn’t be trusted but I knew there had never been an issue, so I had done nothing wrong.

When I went to collect the girls the nursery manager was waiting for me to discuss their fees. I told her about the new policy.

I would never have believed that August, September, October, November, and December’s fees wouldn’t be paid. Both the nursery staff and I received constant excuses from the local authority ranging from the nursery details were not on their payroll, I hadn’t provided the figures for payment, despite the nursery repeatedly providing them. Then we were told the payment would be made this week, and the next but the best one of all was, it definitely had been paid, the nursery hadn’t checked their account.

At Christmas I was told the nursery couldn’t allow my granddaughters to attend anymore as my girls were not the only ones the local authority had failed to pay for. It was heart breaking for them to be put out but so worrying for me. I had to go to work as my other daughter is undertaking her Masters, so I am the only employed person in our home.

I contacted my local councillor who was assured by the local authority that payment was being made immediately. It was the twins’ 4th birthday on 7th January, and so I purchased their party bags, filled them for their friends and got their cake as nursery were arranging a party for them. It never happened as the payment was never made and they weren’t allowed into the nursery building.

That week things came to a head. The girls were upset and acting out. We had arranged for replacement windows and doors to be fitted at home months before, but I had to go to work. My eldest daughter had to care for her nieces at home. I received a frantic call from her saying one of the girls had ran outside after a workman had removed our front door. She thought it was a game and wanted to be chased. My daughter had to take the other child to our neighbours and then attempt to catch her, but she had disappeared.

Driving home I feared the worst as we live near a major road. Waiting to hear from the police was agonising but thankfully they found her outside a local primary school wanting to play with the children. She crossed two roads to get there.

Whilst I was extremely relieved, I was also furious, the girls should have been in nursery, especially whilst those major works were being completed. I rang the councillor who contacted the council immediately as they had given her false information.

Within the hour I received a call from the Council’s Head of service stating they had failed the children and that the fees had now been paid and wanted to know what they could give us as compensation.

I appreciate that local authorities, just like families are having difficulty paying their bills right now, but their policy change, to me at least, was simply a way to keep their money in their account and only pay it when they were forced to. If my four-year granddaughter had been injured or worse, as a result of these circumstances, would it have been worth it?

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