Giving grandparents a legal right to see grandchildren could be 'dangerous', says campaigner

Giving grandparents a legal right to see grandchildren could be 'dangerous', says campaigner

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Some MPs are calling for grandparents to have their rights to see grandchildren enshrined in law.

Conservative Nigel Huddleston and Labour’s Darren Jones are among those who say that grandparents who are estranged from their grandchildren could feel like they’re suffering a “living bereavement”.

Dame Esther Rantzen also backs the proposals, which suggest an amendment to the Children's Act to include contact rights for grandparents.

But a charity set up to support people who are estranged from their families says the proposals may be “more sentimental than realistic”.

Becca Bland founded Standalone UK after becoming estranged from her own parents, and has written on the issue of grandparents and contact before.

She explained in a blog post in 2015 that her decision to cut contact with her parents was made to “safeguard my mental and physical wellbeing”.

“Parents need to have the right to decide who their child sees and doesn’t see,” she tells talkRADIO.

“There may be a variety of reasons grandparents aren’t in touch with grandchildren.

“Cases of divorce are very different to abuse, so there’s a danger of making a broad brushstroke on this issue.”

She says that, if grandparents are actively being denied contact with their grandchildren, this is likely not a decision parents have taken lightly.

“There are very valid reasons - not all families are straightforward nuclear families,” she explains.

“It may be that there was abuse in the home, or someone has been rejected for being LGBT, for example.”

She says mediation, rather than a law, would be a better way to mend familial relationships and would address the root causes of the estrangement in a way that a law never could.

“This proposed law, would, instead of doing some of the work that people need to do to reconcile these differences, would mean that grandparents by force would be able to see children,” she says.

“I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.

“People need to take the time to work things out with a mediator rather than getting the law involved and thinking ‘I can see the child whether my son or daughter likes it or not’.”

She said there could, in some cases, also be a detrimental effect on people’s mental health, if they were forced by law into contact with estranged parents once they had children of their own.

“You have to think of the health of parents,” she says,

“If someone is forced to see a toxic relative, how’s that going to impact the upbringing of that child?

“This is a really unpopular law among many family charities and I know we will be lobbying against it.”

“I don’t think they’ll get support across the House for it,” she added.

“I think the impact of this hasn’t been cased out or explored - if they’re going to pass legislation they’d be doing it without any impact assessment which I think is very dangerous.”

The issue of grandparents' rights was last raised in 2011, with the outcome being that no change was made to the current law.

The Ministry of Justice is "looking at" the proposals, and told the BBC: "The welfare of a child is the primary consideration for the family courts and steps are taken wherever possible to reduce the impact of family conflict on children when relationships end."