Northampton support group for grandparents split from grandchildren to join national call for change

GranPart founder Marion Turner
GranPart founder Marion Turner

A Northampton support group for grandparents alienated from their grandchildren will be raising awareness of their abuse in Westminster with the help of MPs and celebrities.

GranPart founder Marion Turner and some of its members will be at Broken Bonds, the Plight of Grandchildren Estranged from their Grandparents at the Houses of Parliament on September 4.

Dame Esther Rantzen, lawyers and MPs will be calling for greater recognition of the issue and legislation to ensure the right of a relationship for grandchildren with their grandparents, regardless of the parental situation.

“As a grandparent myself, I know how important it is to have my grandchildren in my life and how much they give me as well," the Childline founder said.

"For those grandchildren who are wrongly deprived of the love and security their grandparents can provide, this can be the loss of an important lifeline."

Marion set up GranPart while living in Milton Keynes in 2015, a year after the relationship with her grandson broke down, as she believed support from others in the same situation could help.

The 71-year-old grandmother was right as other grandparents left unable to see or speak to their loved ones joined her group - she set up another in Northampton when she moved to the town.

Around 20 people meet at the Manning Watts House in Harpole once a month to share problems and emotions, which Marion thinks is therapeutic.

"They can talk to other people in the same situation, some are similar and some are different but they have the same outcome but that support of knowing you're not alone is invaluable," she said.

As well as the heartache of missing out on five years of her grandson's life, Marion also did not speak to her son for nearly as long too.

She said it has taken 'baby steps' to get back the relationship she once had but firmly believes no child should not be allowed to see their relatives.

"It's not just about the grandparents, it's about what the grandchildren miss out on as it's an important part of their lives and they can do things they might not with their parents," she said.

It is estimated more than a million grandchildren are denied contact with their grandparents in the UK and is considered by experts to be a severe form of child and elder abuse.

Currently in the UK and US there are very limited ways to remedy the situation because parents have authority over determining whether or not a grandchild can have and maintain an ongoing relationship with a grandparent.

Those who wish to force the issue can do so through the courts but that can be costly and time-consuming, which puts off many estranged grandparents.

The EU Court of Justice ruled in May 2018: “Grandparents have a legal right to see their grandchildren. The notion of rights of access refers also to the rights of access of other persons with whom it is important for the children to maintain a personal relationship...”

But this ruling is not currently upheld in the UK and the goal of the action day in London is to challenge the Government to ensure this is implemented without delay.

Celebrity lawyer and a campaigner for fathers’ rights, Vanessa Lloyd-Platt, will be speaking at the event, along with Dame Esther and MPs Nigel Huddleston and Matthew Offord.

“Those of us who feel passionate about this issue will continue to campaign until there is either an adjustment to the present law or an entirely new legal approach where the rights of grandchildren to have grandparents in their life can be treated with the priority it deserves," Vanessa said.

Lorraine Bushell, chairman of the London Grandparents Group and Broken Bonds organiser, who is an alienated grandparent, continues to lobby on this issue.

“We all have to keep trying to urgently change this situation as we realise our grandchildren continue to miss out so much on a critical part of their family life which they have an absolute right to.”

Anyone wishing to find out more about the GranPart support groups should visit www.granpart.co.uk.