Special guardianship orders are intended to provide permanence and security for those children who cannot live with their birth parents.
Whilst potentially preserving relationships and legal links between a child and their birth parent, a special guardianship order secures a child living with the special guardians giving them enhanced legal powers and responsibilities.
The process of assessment of potential special guardians is intended to be a rigorous one. Anyone wishing to apply for a special guardianship order in respect of a child must give the local authority three months notice of the application so that the local authority can prepare a full special guardianship assessment addressing numerous matters that are set out in regulations.
Any potential special guardian needs to think very carefully about their position before they apply to become special guardians. They need an understanding both of special guardianship in general terms, but also specific to their own circumstances and particularly the special guardianship support plan.
Special guardians need to understand that the local authority are under an obligation to review their financial and other circumstances and to put forward a plan to support them. It also needs to be understood by potential special guardians that any support plan is subject to review and therefore change.
This year the local government and social care ombudsmen have reported of the need for local authorities to learn from the seven out of ten complaints it upholds about special guardianship orders to ensure that children and their special guardians are properly supported.
More recently, Bedford Borough Council were found by an ombudsmen report to have unfairly cut financial support to a couple after asking them to become special guardians to the children they were fostering.
In those circumstances the ombudsmen investigation found the council at fault for a number of things including:-
- Failure to consult on versions of the support plan.
- Not explaining to the prospective special guardians the financial implications of them changing from foster carers to special guardians.
- Reducing allowances paid to the couple in breach of the support plan.
- Not properly explaining the council’s decisions.
It is important should you be considering making an application for special guardianship of a child that you are properly advised as to the implications of that and any subsequent plan of support which is drawn up. Bill is a partner in the Family Team and is based in our Exeter office. Contact our team on 01392 210700 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.