Talking about tomorrow


Guardianship needn’t cost a fortune

Applying for guardianship might seem challenging but good advice can make all the difference. Carer support helped Karen and her family through the process – and saved them money.

My advice to other parents would be start early, and don’t be fooled by people who say you need to pay a fortune to get this done.

I knew from talking to other parents that guardianship was something we’d need to apply for. My husband went to a workshop where they said this had to be done through a solicitor, and it would be expensive – an amount in the thousands was mentioned. It concerns me some parents might believe that, and end up thousands of pounds poorer, when actually we did it for nothing.

Someone suggested I contact VOCAL, the agency that supports carers across Edinburgh and Midlothian. They organised a free chat for us with a local solicitor, who then managed the whole process.

We started a few months before Sam’s 16th birthday, but it took nearly 2 years from start to finish. That seems typical according to other parents I’ve spoken to. It helped that the solicitors outlined the whole process at the start and told us what the timescales were likely to be, and they were pretty accurate.

The first step was applying for Legal Aid – the solicitors did that but it took a long time before it was approved, from July until the following February. It then took ages to compile the reports we needed. You have to go to each professional and tell them everything about your child and the level of their difficulties all over again – it’s very much like filling in the PIP form.

The reports are put together by a mental health officer, and there’s a long waiting list because there aren’t enough of them to go round. That was another reason why it took so long. You have to wait until you’ve been assigned a mental health officer because otherwise the reports might be outside the legally specified timescale – and you may have to start again from scratch. Parents can get caught out that way.

The mental health officer also had to check our suitability to be guardians before the application could be submitted.

In the end we were granted guardianship for 5 years, which I think is fairly typical. We’ll have to reapply then.

It was really helpful that the solicitors were honest about the process so we knew in advance what to expect – for example they told us at one point we wouldn’t hear anything for about 10 months, so when it went quiet we weren’t worried.

My advice to other parents would be start early, and don’t be fooled by people who say you need to pay a fortune to get this done.