West Kirby grandfather walking from Scotland to London to raise awareness of grandparents struggling to bring up their grandchildren
A GRANDFATHER is walking from Scotland to London to highlight the plight of grandparents struggling to bring up their grandchildren.
Tony Gaskell, 70, will begin the 340 mile trek on June 1, starting in Berwick-upon-Tweed and following the route of the A1.
His hopes to reach Downing Street 14 days later and hand in a petition calling for grandparents who care full time for their grandchildren to be given the same rights as foster parents.
Mr Gaskell is a member of Wirral GAP – Wirral Grandparents Active Partnership – which was formed after an appeal in the News in 2008.
It argues that many grandparents are raising children on their pensions, while foster carers are given an allowance and regular training.
Widower Mr Gaskell, from West Kirby, has been caring for his grandsons, aged 14 and 16, for twelve years.
The former BT engineer, who retired five years ago, is a keen runner and undaunted at the prospect of walking 30 miles a day to reach his destination.
He said: “I did the London Marathon this year and my safety valve is running.
“I go out at 4am every morning and when I get back I make the boys sandwiches, iron their shirts and get them off to school.
“That’s our routine.”
Mr Gaskell will be supported in each area by members of other grandparents’ groups.
He hopes the petition, which has been circulated nationwide and already has 250,000 signatures, will persuade the coalition government to make grandparent carers a priority.
Wirral GAP believes many are reluctant to come forward, fearing their grandchildren may be taken into care, and politicians must intervene to stop them facing poverty.
Mr Gaskell said: “I’ve got the worries of a parent. I’m a mother, father and a grandfather to them.
“My daughter was an only child. She went to university, met the boys’ father, who was a drug addict, and the rest is history. She ended up in prison and we haven’t seen her for a long time.
“If one of my boys comes home and says “Grandad we’re going to camp in July, I need £350”, why should they miss out because they’re living with me?
“Foster carers qualify for extra money every month and some grandparents are doing exactly the same job and getting nothing.
“Until I found out what I should be claiming I was getting £75 a month to bring two boys up and I was always two weeks in debt.
“I’ve now applied for family tax credits, which has given me an extra £394 a month.
He added: “Grandparent carers do a fantastic job but it feels like we have no rights at all.
“Everything we do is for the children.”
To add your name to the petition, call Joe at Live Wirral on 652 3214.