A PENSIONER from Warminster has launched a support group for grandparents who have, or are fighting for, full-time care of their grandchildren.
Susan Clements, 63, of Pound Street, was approached about setting up a West Wiltshire branch of the Grandparents Association after she went to court to secure full custody for her four-year-old granddaughter Megan, in 2004.
Ms Clements became her granddaughter’s legal guardian after her daughter was taken into hospital with a long-term medical condition.
Talking about the impact the decision had on her life, Ms Clements said: “What really got me after I first had Megan was that I couldn’t keep my eyes open after 2pm. It’s full-on.
“You have your own routine and then all of a sudden you have this child which wakes up at 4am.
“I remember driving to visit a friend and I had to pull over and close my eyes, and this was 2pm. You have to rethink your whole routine and financially it is very difficult.
“I don’t regret what I have done, not for one moment. I couldn’t have lived with myself if I hadn’t done it.”
As well as rethinking her lifestyle and having to go to court to obtain full custody of Megan, who attends Warminster Prep School, Ms Clements had to research about the financial support she could receive.
She said.:“I had to crack a lot of whips and open a lot of doors. I would have liked someone to say ‘I’m in the same boat as you’, or to say ‘if you need a hand give me a ring, or come round for a cup of tea’.”
The association will provide support for grandparents, particularly those who are already caring full-time for their grandchildren, or who are trying to get access, kinship or guardianship orders.
Ms Clements has three of her own children, who have now grown up.
“I have had great support from social services and Warminster School. I can’t praise them enough. They have been brilliant,” she said.
“The group is about getting together, having a moan, having a laugh and getting some support. It lets the children get together too.”
The national Grandparents Association was launched in 1987 by a group whose grandchildren had been put into care, adopted from care or were not allowed any contact with them.
Judith Howells, support group development co-ordinator, said: “More and more, due to the fractured nature of our society, we are seeing grandparents who are full-time carers of children or who are losing out on support and advice and access to grandchildren they love, but are not allowed to see.”
The first Grandparent support group meeting will be at 11am on January 20 at 59 Pound Street, Warminster.
For more details about the support group call Ms Clements on 01985 212616.