Radio 4 soap The Archers continues to grab headlines with storylines involving domestic abuse and attempted murder.
The stories have had a ripple effect on characters’ family, friends and even businesses, but more recently, it is the effect on grandparents that has taken centre stage.
Listeners have been gripped by Rob’s mental abuse of pregnant wife Helen which reached a climax when Helen stabbed him – witnessed by young son Henry. Following the incident, Henry was cared for by his maternal grandparents, Pat and Tony Archer.
When Henry visited Rob and his mother, the pair refused to return him to his grandparents. Pat and Tony took their case to court but it was ruled that Henry should stay with Rob, with just one day a week contact for the Archers.
Adding complications to the plot is the fact that Rob is not Henry’s natural father, but was granted an official Parental Responsibility Order with Helen’s blessing. Pat and Tony can’t understand why as blood relative grandparents they seem to have less legal rights than Rob.
Hannah Nicholls, a family lawyer with West Midlands’ law firm Higgs & Sons and a volunteer for Grandparents’ Plus, said: “The UK has more than 14 million grandparents, the majority of whom enjoy close relationships with their grandchildren.
“However it is estimated that over one million children are denied contact with their grandparents, often due to divorce or similar breakdown of family relationships.”
Hannah runs a GPA group offering support and advice to Black Country grandparents who may have lost contact with their grandchildren. The group meets on the last Thursday of the month and is a place where grandparents affected by family conflict can meet up to discuss their problems with others who may have had similar experiences.
“Unfortunately when there is a split between parents there are occasions when grandparents are also affected and are prevented from seeing their grandchildren. The results can be devastating for all those involved,” explained Hannah.
“If a grandparent is concerned that they are being prevented from spending time with a grandchild, there are a number of options available. Grandparents can make applications to court for Child Arrangements Orders if all other routes have not succeeded.
“Grandparents play a vital role in a child’s life and the Court’s recognise this. Provisions such as a ‘Child Arrangements Order’ may sound daunting, but they could be something to consider where other routes have failed to help.”
The next meeting of the support group is on Thursday, June 26 from 10.30am until 12.30pm at Kingswinford Community Centre. The group is free and tea, coffee, cake and refreshments will be available.
For further information please contact Hannah Nicholls on 01384 327162 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org