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Grandparents play an important role in family life in 21st Century Britain. As many as one-third of parents rely on grandparents for child care, most of which is provided free of charge, thus enabling parents, and especially single mothers, to work. Where parents have long-term problems such as addiction or serious illness, grandparents may take over full-time care of their grandchildren. Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs), introduced in December 2005, have been a useful means of conferring parental responsibility on grandparents and other "kinship" carers. Although SGOs are private law orders, the relevant local authority has to produce a report on the proposed arrangement. A number of important charities support grandparents caring for their grandchildren and lobby on their behalf. One issue which has vexed grandparents is the need to obtain the court's leave to make an application under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 for contact or residence in respect of grandchildren. Despite broad support across the political divide, the interim Family Justice Report in March 2011 did not recommend removal of the threshold requirement in Section 10 (9) of the Children Act 1989. Grandparents, regardless of the merits of their substantive application, remain subject to the threshold test.
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