Julia McIntyre is a member of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) group in Cardiff.
She recently influenced changes to the Adoption Leave and Pay Procedure Policy at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (CVUHB), after she attended training by Diverse Cymru on Challenging the Public Sector.
This led to kinship carers in the organisation being able to access the same leave as those adopting or fostering children.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Cardiff is a Cardiff-based support group for grandparents and other kinship carers caring for a child full-time.
All of the committee are grandparents with personal understanding of these situations.
What is “kinship care”?
Kinship care means an arrangement where children live with a relative or a close friend, not their birth parents. These children may have already suffered some kind of loss or trauma.
The only alternative to kinship care is local authority care – and possibly adoption.
Julia went along to a Cardiff Health, Social Care and Wellbeing network meeting, and met Diverse Cymru’s engagement officer.
“At one meeting, Diverse Cymru mentioned that they were putting on training, focused around challenging the public sector and I went along.
“If I hadn’t received that training from Diverse Cymru, I wouldn’t have dreamt of taking action. The knowledge I gained from the training really stuck with me and gave me confidence to challenge. Grandparents often contact Grandparents Raising Grandchildren with regards to special guardianship. On this particular occasion, two NHS employees came to a GRG meeting for help and advice.
“These individuals had been awarded a Special Guardianship Order for their grandchild. This process was not easy as it involved a court case costing them over £23,000 in fees, working with a social worker and CAFCASS Children’s Guardian. It was hard on them, dealing with the situation itself and the trauma associated with it.
“If I hadn’t received that training from Diverse Cymru, I wouldn’t have dreamt of taking action.”
“The individuals had asked for special release at work, because when the child arrived, time was needed to accommodate their much wanted grandchild. This was a very precious time for them to adjust and settle into a new lifestyle and continue working. With adoption there is a leave and pay procedure with rights in regard to this, this didn’t exist with kinship care. The individual was given special leave as her ward manager persisted to get her eight weeks away from work; she had to really fight for it.
“Following this, at my place of work, the Maternity/Paternity/Shared Parental Leave policy was being updated and HR asked for staff to comment on the policy and make suggestions. With this story in mind, I rang HR with a contribution. I had the conversation with HR about special leave. HR said the special leave the individual had received was actually an entitlement, but, because it was not on the policy, it wasn’t clear to employees.
“By doing that, they’re leading the way in Wales”
“When the updated policy was released, the Adoption Leave Policy had changed to include a section on Special Guardianship Order. Staff had a discussion with their managers, who then contacted HR for personalised advice about the entitlement. As it’s now there in policy, it removes confusion at an already stressful time. I’m really pleased the Health Board has put it in, by doing that, they’re leading the way in Wales.
“Welsh Government has confirmed that Cardiff and Vale UHB is currently the only Health Board within Wales to explicitly include Special Guardianship Order in their local adoption policy. When I went on that training, what I learned ticked every box for what Diverse Cymru was trying to do. For me, what I learnt: everything just fitted in with situations I’ve been hearing from people, this helped me to make the right suggestions to get the best results.
You need to make changes with honey not vinegar..
“If I could give a piece of advice to another charity – when we use the word ‘challenge’ it needs to be a careful approach. Don’t go in all militant and demanding. Come with a case, come with the right information, the person you’re speaking to won’t have the powers to change it themselves. Be patient and don’t’ expect miracles overnight! You need to make changes with honey not vinegar”