Recent research by the Department for Education reveals that there is a perception that there has been increase in the number of Special Guardianship Orders being made since the Family Justice Reforms but also as a result of recent case law.
A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) is a Court Order appointing an individual to be a child’s ‘Special Guardian’.
This is an Order that can be made in both private and public law proceedings, where a child, for whatever reason, cannot remain in the care of their parents and a family placement is available but that placement requires enhanced security.
Where children are subject to proceedings and they are faced with the reality that their parents may not be able to provide long term care for them, it is essential that social workers are proactive in exploring the wider family to consider all options available for the children and the possibility of them remaining within their birth family.
An SGO is an Order that grants an enhanced level of Parental Responsibility (PR), it does not mean that those with PR will lose it, they will retain it but it will be shared with the Special Guardians, and the Special Guardians can exercise it to the exclusion of the Parents.
Sometimes consideration and applications for SGO arise as a result of Care Proceedings issued by the Local Authority, however, an application can be made in Private Law Proceedings.
It is important to bear in mind that when being assessed as a special guardian consideration will be given to the ability to protect, particularly as family dynamics can be complex due to the loyalty felt towards the children and the parents. When this is an issue a special guardianship placement could face difficulty.
The research into Local Authority practice and Special Guardianship Orders concludes, that more information and guidance should be made available, that children should be placed and the placement tested prior to an SGO being granted, that support plans should be adequately resourced in the same way as adoption and fostering support, that there is tension between the necessity to do a good quality report and the timescales applicable to care proceedings.
If you are caring for a child on behalf of a family member, you should take steps to secure their placement. If you are a parent unable to care you should ensure that you consider all options for your child.
For advice and assistance regarding children issues please do not hesitate to contact our dedicated Family Law Team by telephoning 01623 451111 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.