December 27, 2013

Midnight Grandparents: providing a safe haven for children

Guest blog by Dave Cousins, Manager, The Grandparents’ Association Leeds

The Grandparents’ Association nationally has been working with – and for – grandparents to achieve positive outcomes for their grandchildren for decades.

Set up in 1987 by a group of grandparents whose grandchildren had been put into care, adopted from care or were not allowed any contact with them, it has grown into a thriving national charity, with around 1,000 members nationwide made up of grandparents and organisations.

In Leeds the charity works with a wide network of voluntary and statutory bodies who themselves work with and alongside families, including grandparents.

Grandparents can be – and indeed frequently are – the first point of call when families breakup.

We call them the ‘Midnight Grandparents’ as it’s often late in the night, or soon after midnight, when grandparents receive a knock at the door or a telephone call from the police’s Child Protection Unit or from social services asking that they take over the care of their grandchild or grandchildren.

At the Grandparents’ Association we hear hundreds of stories as to why children are placed in the care of their grandparents. All too often it saddens us to report and reflect upon the impact of separation and divorce – particularly if there is domestic abuse side to it. We refer to ‘abuse’ rather than violence as the word abuse covers all areas of violence, including physical, verbal, financial, sexual, psychological and spiritual. Just to use the word ‘violence’ can often be construed as purely physical when indeed the abuse can be much more. The impact on children of any kind of abuse is unpredictable.

Grandparents often rush to rescue their grandchildren and, for the next hour or so after a child has been dropped off, they find themselves nursing the grandchild’s fears of what has happened to his or her parents. They will have to answer fast track questions such as “will I ever see Mum and Dad again”, “will I see my pet dog or cat or goldfish” and “will I see my friends again”?

Their priority is to settle the frightened child or children and follow up later that day with the often massive task of explaining what lies ahead.

Domestic abuse hurts all family members and grandparents are frequently left to pick up the pieces. However, it can be like a big jigsaw puzzle with so many pieces missing.

Sadly so many grandparents report that once the child has been handed to them, they often hear no more from the agencies that brought him or her.

This is when grandparents may panic and they either turn to us themselves at  or they are referred to us via local agencies near to them such as schools or children centres. We also receive calls from social workers, GPs, health visitors and other professionals.

We would like to wish all grandparents a peaceful Christmas time with their families. If situations are difficult for you please contact the numbers or websites below for organisations who can over help and advice. Family Lives will be covering for the Grandparents’ Association during the Christmas period.

Useful contacts

The Grandparents’ Association offers a Help-Line service for grandparents on 0845 4349585. Our volunteers are trained to listen and signpost you to services. We also offer grandparents Welfare Benefits Information on 0844 35771033.

The Leeds office will be closed from the 20th December until Thursday 2nd January 2014; however Family Lives will be covering our Help-Line and will be open from 7am over the Christmas period. Please call Family lives on 0808 800 2222.

Leeds based STOP Organisation (Start Treating Others Positively) provides information about domestic abuse and covers Leeds and surrounding areas. You can contact STOP on Leeds 0113 2446007 and at

The Grandparents’ Association, Leeds – – 0113 2446111