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Family Rights Group secures significant kinship amendment to Covid Regulations

Published: 30th November 2020

3 minute read

Following a threat of legal action by the charity Family Rights Group, the Government has introduced an exemption to the new Covid Regulations. This will allow a child, who cannot remain safely at home, to meet with relatives, such as grandparents or a family friend, who have put themselves forward to raise the child on a temporary or permanent basis.

As a result of Family Rights Group’s actions, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 which come into force on 2nd December 2020 now allow in all Tiers gatherings that are “reasonably necessary (d) for the purposes of placing children, or facilitating children being placed, in the care of another person by social services, whether on a temporary or permanent basis.”

The Covid regulations that applied during the current national lockdown in England and those that previously applied to areas that were in Tier 2 and Tier 3 included exemptions that allowed a child who couldn’t live at home to be introduced to a potential adopter. But no similar exemption was made for potential kinship carers (i.e. family and friends raising a child who cannot live at home). So a baby who was subject to care proceedings could be introduced to a potential adopter but not to their own grandparents who wished to be assessed by the local authority to raise their grandchild. This could later impact on decisions made by the family court about the child and thus have lifelong consequences, directly affecting whether a child was able to be raised within their family or instead be permanently separated from them.

Family Rights Group considered the failure to provide parity between potential kinship carers and adopters to be discriminatory and unlawful. We therefore issued a pre-action letter in November requesting that the Department for Health urgently amend the Lockdown 2 Regulations and address this in any subsequent Covid restrictions. Failure by Government to do so, would have meant that the charity would have needed to pursue legal action.

Today the Government have issued Covid Regulations which specifically address our concerns and enable children to meet with relatives for the purpose of the child potentially being placed in their care.

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of Family Rights Group commented:

“This is an important amendment to regulations especially at a time when the number of children in care is at the highest level since 1985. Many children will have experienced trauma and tragedy during the pandemic, and it is vital that if they cannot live with their parents, where possible, they are able to have the opportunity to be safely raised within their family network, for example by a grandparent or aunt or uncle. That we had to highlight the need for this change and threaten legal action is an example of how too often kinship care is an afterthought amongst decision makers rather than their first thought. Nevertheless we appreciate that the Government has listened and has made these regulatory changes.”

“We are grateful to our brilliant in-house lawyers Caroline Lynch and Jess Johnston and to Alex Rook and Alice Cullingworth from Rook Irwin Sweeney and Steve Broach and Gethin Thomas of 39 Essex Chambers”.

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