Information on Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs)

Special Guardianship orders are often discussed at LAC reviews and currently, a number of Local Authorities are developing policies relating to SGOs. Here is some information we thought might be helpful:

What is special guardianship?

Below definition from CorumBAAF website:

Special Guardianship is a formal court order which places a child or young person with someone permanently and gives this person parental responsibility for the child. This could be a grandparent, close relative or a family friend.

Special Guardianship means that the child lives with carers who have parental responsibility for them until they are grown up. If the child was looked after before the Special Guardianship Order was granted, they will no longer be the responsibility of the local authority.

The order usually lasts until the child is 18 years old.”

Will I still receive a fostering allowance from AFA?

No, however you will receive child benefits and could be eligible for child tax credits. Any benefits are means tested.

In some situations, Local Authorities will initially pay an allowance/financial support to foster carers who become special guardians. Some Local Authorities are offering more generous financial packages.

The government guidance on Special Guardianship published in January 2017 states that “Financial support cannot normally include the payment of remuneration to the special guardian or prospective special guardian for care of the child. Regulation 7 provides, however, that where the special guardian or prospective special guardian previously fostered the child and they received an element of remuneration in the financial support paid to them as the child’s foster parent that the local authority may continue to pay that element of remuneration for two years from the date of the special guardianship order. These payments can continue for longer than two years if the local authority considers this appropriate.”

One Local Authority has informed us that their legal advice is that possible changes in government/policy means there is no guarantee that allowances/financial support will continue in the long term, even if this is part of the support agreed at the time of the order.

Will I still receive support from the agency?

Once a child is subject to a Special Guardianship Order, the agency is no longer involved in providing support for you and that child. If you are only approved for that child and are not in a position to foster anyone else, you will no longer be able to be registered as a foster carer. If you have other children in placement who remain Looked After Children, support will continue relating to them.

Will I receive other support?

Prior to the Special Guardianship order going to court, Regulation 11 of the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 states that at the request of child, special guardian or prospective special guardian or a parent, the local authority must receive an assessment regarding ongoing support if they request it. This should consider a support plan for the child or young person for the future.

This assessment should consider the needs of the child, parenting capacity of the special guardian or prospective special guardian and other information relating to the child or assessments previously completed.

The support plan can include financial support, services for the child such as therapeutic services, counselling, and/or assistance for the continuance of the relationship between the child and his or her birth family including mediation services.

The Support plan would be part of the paperwork which is viewed by the court at the making of the order. However, the court does not have the right to order the local authority regarding how to use their resources and so the plan is subject to change in the future. Plans are reviewed on an annual basis.

What happens if I need additional support / funding later down the line, for example therapy / additional education support?

This is something that would need to be addressed with the local authority when considering if special guardianship is right for you and the child.

You need to ensure you discuss with the child’s Local Authority exactly what financial and other support they will give you if you become a special guardian, and this should be set out in writing in a support plan before any application goes to the Court.

Advice from the Fostering Network website to consider: You might want to seek the help of a solicitor to help you negotiate this financial and support package with the local authority  (NB: No support will be available from the agency as part of this package.)

How is Adoption different from special Guardianship?

Adoption ends the legal tie between a child and their birth parents and transfers all parental responsibility to the adoptive parents.

Special Guardianship does not end the legal relationship between the child and their parents. The special guardians exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of others and are legally entitled to have the final say in most decisions about the child’s upbringing. When a court is considering making a special guardianship order, it must also consider if orders for contact between the child and birth parents or others should be made.

What’s the difference between Long Term Fostering and Special Guardianship?

Long Term fostering (information from the fostering network website): Long-term foster care is one route to permanence for children in care. With long-term foster care (also called a permanent placement) you make a long term commitment to a child, and the care plan is for them to stay with you for the rest of their childhood. 

With long term foster care, like other types of foster care, the child remains legally ‘in care’. As their foster carer, you would never have parental responsibility for them, and you would still have regular reviews, keep records, and be supervised and supported by your supervising social worker, although the visits from social workers might be less frequent. As a long term foster carer you would still be paid fees and allowances, and you should have more areas of delegated authority within the child’s placement plan, reflecting the long-term nature of their placement and relationship with you.

It is important to note that you will continue to receive the full support of the Agency and the local authority all the time a child is placed with you under Long Term fostering arrangements.

Special Guardianship (information from the Fostering Network website): Special Guardianship is a formal court order which gives parental responsibility for a child to someone else, in addition to the birth parents. As a foster carer, you might consider applying for a Special Guardianship Order (SGO), to give a child stability with you, without a legal separation from their parents.

Special guardianship is similar to long term foster care in that the child’s parents remain their parents, and still have parental responsibility – so for some children who don’t want to be adopted, or who still have a strong relationship with their birth parents this could be a good option. Unlike long term foster care, special guardianship gives you parental responsibility, and takes the child out of the care system (which the child may welcome) – meaning no more reviews, supervision, record keeping and placement plans – but may also mean a reduction in the financial support for you as their carer.

If you require further information:

In the first instance it is important to discuss with your AFA Placement Manager or an Agency representative if you are approached by a social worker or Independent Reviewing Officer asking you to consider a SGO

You may also find the following information useful:

https://corambaaf.org.uk/books/special-guardianship-some-questions-answered

This is a leaflet with relevant information in – available for £1

Otherwise, the following is available online:

https://www.fostering.net/all-about-fostering/foster-carers/looking-after-child/long-term-foster-care#.VfvF6rBRHIU

http://www.familylives.org.uk/advice/your-family/fostering-adoption-kinshipcare/special-guardianship-orders/

http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2015/09/21/public-law-outline-needs-flexibility-allow-special-guardianship-orders-charity-says/?cmpid=NLC|SCSC|SCDDB-2015-0921

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/586406/Special_Guardianship_Statutory_Guidance_20_January_2017.pdf

For further information and advice:

Fostering Network (if you are an AFA carer you are a member)

Call: 020 7401 9582 – 10am-3pm, Monday to Friday 

Email: [email protected]

CoramBAAF Advice Line

Call: 0300 222 5775, Mon – Fri, 9-1pm

Email: [email protected]

For fostering in Norfolk and Suffolk, please contact our East Anglia team on 01603 559255. For fostering in West MidlandsDerbyshireLeicestershireNorthamptonshireNottinghamshire and Buckinghamshire, call our Midlands office on 01332 813866.

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