Earlier this year the Scottish Government held a consultation into a review of provisions within the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 on parental responsibilities and rights and contact.
As a part of this it asked the question “What steps should be taken to help ensure children continue to have relationships with family members, other than their parents, who are important to them?”.
Amongst those hoping to benefit from any potential future changes in this law are grandparents.
Last week I attended a meeting in the Scottish Parliament of the Cross-Party Group on Children and Young People to discuss the issue of grandparents’ rights, where we heard from many groups advocating for change, including Grandparents Apart UK, Scottish Women’s Aid, Social Work Scotland, Who Cares Scotland, Age Scotland and Children 1st.
On several occasions grandparents in my constituency have contacted me to express difficulties in seeing their grandchildren – for example, in the aftermath of their child’s acrimonious divorce, where custody has been granted to the other parent.
The problem stems from the fact that when the 1995 Act was passed, it established that grandparents do not have an automatic right to see a grandchild, because they are not deemed to have any parental rights and responsibilities.
However, access is not just a one-way street, or solely about the rights of grandparents.
Article 8 of the United Nations Rights of the Child also provides that a child has the right to preserve family relations, including those with grandparents.
Research has shown that grandparents can be an important source of support at times of crisis, and that such relationships with their grandchildren can improve the way that children manage their emotions at such difficult times.
A positive, healthy, loving relationship is important for children as they grow up, and their health and well-being should be at the centre of any proposed changes.
The Cross-Party Group will be writing to the Justice Committee to ask that they consider this by listening to the voices of children and young people on the matter in their deliberations.
Equally important for the health of children is their right to be fed.
I recently spent time with volunteers of the Trussell Trust at Tesco in Irvine, collecting donations for the North Ayrshire Foodbank, and continue to be shocked as the scandal of food poverty under the Tories continues to worsen with its roll out of Universal Credit.
Until all welfare powers are fully devolved the Scottish Government will mitigate for Westminster’s failings where it can with its limited capabilities.
For example, providing money for food clubs in summer, and with plans to introduce an income supplement for low income families, to help lift children out of poverty.
If you can help in the run up to Christmas, please make any foodbank donations that you can through local supermarket collections, or at North Ayrshire Foodbank itself at 150A Glasgow Street in Ardrossan.
For an idea of what to donate, a ‘reverse advent calendar’ offers daily suggestions on the Foodbank’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NorthAyrshireFoodbank.