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Norfolk children's services investigation: The grandparents who can't see their grandchildren

PUBLISHED: 12:16 04 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:16 04 March 2017

Grandparents have been battling for years to see their grandchildren who were taken into care. Photo: Archant

Grandparents have been battling for years to see their grandchildren who were taken into care. Photo: Archant

ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC © 2005

"Solicitors have told us we have to 'play the game with children's services' but this isn't a game. It is children's lives."

Those are the words of a family, who took up their case with Norfolk MPs Sir Henry Bellingham and Norman Lamb, as well as county councillors, when their grandson was placed with his father, even though he had been convicted of domestic violence against the boy’s mother.

Meanwhile, their granddaughter was put with foster carers, despite the grandparents wanting to look after her.

When the grandmother, a nurse, retired in 2013 she was looking forward to family holidays and spending time with her grandchildren.

Instead she has been fighting with children’s services for more than three years to see her grandchildren after they were taken away from her daughter.

She said the case had “destroyed” her family and put huge stress on her and her husband.

Speaking to this newspaper as part of our investigation into Norfolk County Council’s children’s services department, she said: “I’m spending my retirement on this. I never expected to have to do all this.”

Her daughter had two children, a teenage daughter and a young son when her relationship ended with her husband, the boy’s father, amid a backdrop of domestic violence in 2013.

The father was convicted of assault against his wife and she had a breakdown after the relationship ended when she had both children taken away from her. Initially the children stayed with their grandparents. They were happy to have both of them, but the couple’s granddaughter was put into foster care and their grandson was returned to his father.

The grandmother said children’s services told them they didn’t have the “capacity” to look after their granddaughter.

The grandmother says she still has “no idea” why children’s services decided to put her granddaughter into foster care and why the family court decided to give the father custody of the child rather than them.

They see their grandson once every two months in a supervised setting, but are desperate to see him more frequently. North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb raised their case last year with the then head of children’s services Michael Rosen.

“It is really shocking if grandparents are excluded in this way,” he wrote.

The grandmother said: “It is like bereavement but with no closure. It is so very painful.”

•A grandmother denied access

A grandmother has described the pain of not seeing her two grandchildren for more than two years after they were taken into foster care.

Her grandsons were taken into foster care after her son and his partner had difficulties coping with them.

Again MP Henry Bellingham and former councillor Deborah Gihawi, pictured right, have been involved in their case.

She was previously seeing the grandchildren in a contact centre but the children’s new foster parents stopped contact and she lost a court case to adopt the children herself.

She said she had a meeting with then director of children’s services Sheila Lock in 2014. “I came out of there crying. She said they would reassess me,” she said.

She claimed she then had over six months of psychological assessments and checks.

“At the time it was showing that my assessments were going positively but the local authority position changed. They told me the foster carers wanted to adopt my grandsons.”

At Norwich court in 2015 judge ruled against placing children with their grandmother.

“I couldn’t win,” she said. “Once they don’t want it, you are not going to get it. I dread to think how many families have gone through this. My son still can not talk about it.”

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