Special Guardianship Orders and Parental Responsibility
Special Guardianship Orders (SGO)
were introduced in The Adoption and Children Act 2002
. A Special Guardianship Order gives to the special guardian parental responsibility
for a child in his or her care and lasts until the child is 18
. The child’s biological parents retain their parental responsibility, however, the special guardian can exercise his or her parental responsibility for the child without having to consult with the parents.
If you are caring for a child and you believe that it may be in that child’s best interests for the relationship to be secured and supported by the making of a special guardianship order then you should seek legal advice
How to make an SGO application
An applicant for a special guardianship order must provide written notice
to the local authority in whose area the child resides explaining that you intend to apply for a special guardianship order.
The responsible local authority should then prepare a special guardianship order report. The report must contain information about the child, and should include the child’s wishes, information about the child’s birth family and the report must also consider what contact should take place
, if any, between the child and the child’s parents upon the making of a special guardianship order. The report must also contain details as to what support services the local authority will provide to the special guardians.
When would an SGO be appropriate?
Special guardianship orders are often applied for where family members care for a child in circumstances where the child cannot remain with his or her parents
for any reason.
A special guardianship order may be an alternative to an adoption order, as in some situations the making of an adoption order can distort the family dynamics
When carers are considering making an application to Court for an adoption order, they should seek legal advice as it may be possible to secure permanence and stability
for the child by obtaining a special guardianship order.
A special guardianship order
Every family is different and every case is decided on what is in the best interests of the particular child on the particular facts of the case.
Section 14F of the Children Act 1989 and the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005
obliges a local authority to make arrangements for the provision within their area of special guardianship support services, which include counselling, advice and information, and financial support.
A recent case in the Administrative Court confirms that a local authority is expected to consider the Fostering Network’s minimum allowances
and should use them as a starting point when assessing the allowance they propose to pay to a special guardian. The local authority must have a policy in relation to the financial assistance to be given to special guardians and both that policy and the method of assessing a proposed special guardian’s means are open to scrutiny.
Seek legal advice
It is important to obtain legal advice on this issue to ensure that the local authority are paying the proper allowance and that they have adopted a lawful method of assessing means
. Legal advice should be sought on the local authority’s policy in relation to the assessment of the allowance to be paid for special guardians to check that the policy is not flawed and that the special guardian's means have not been wrongly assessed
In the case of B v London Borough of Lewisham in 2008 in the Administrative Court the Judge, Black J, said in her judgement: "there can be little doubt that it was intended that there should be a range of placement options for children who are not living with their own parents. All major decisions in relation to the placement of children are made with the welfare of the child
as the Court's paramount consideration. Financial stringency can on occasions threaten to prevent decisions being made which would otherwise be in the best interests of a child. I accept that… …the intention of the legislation and regulations about special guardians is that financial support should be made available to special guardians
to ensure that financial obstacles do not prevent people from taking on this role".