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Charity hails amendment that means in-person contact to facilitate kinship care not prohibited by lockdown restrictions

The Family Rights Group, which last month sent a pre-action letter to the Department of Health and Social Care over the lack in lockdown restrictions of an exemption for children to meet potential kinship carers, has welcomed changes to new Covid regulations that come into force tomorrow (2 December).

The charity said the exemption in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 would 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”.

The regulations 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.”

Family Rights Group said 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.

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It said that no similar exemption had been made for potential kinship carers. “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.”

The charity claimed 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 said it considered the failure to provide parity between potential kinship carers and adopters to be discriminatory and unlawful.

The latest Covid regulations specifically address its concerns, it said.

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of Family Rights Group, said: “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.”

Family Rights Group was advised by in-house lawyers Caroline Lynch and Jess Johnston, Alex Rook and Alice Cullingworth from Rook Irwin Sweeney, and Steve Broach and Gethin Thomas of 39 Essex Chambers.

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