DfE consults on the changing use of special guardianship orders

The Department for Education (DfE) is consulting on the changing use of special guardianship orders (SGOs) following concern that the assessment process for SGOs may not be sufficiently robust. The DfE wants to work with stakeholders through consultation and review to understand the reasons behind the changes. It will use the review to help inform any potential changes to the law and guidance.

The consultation closes at 5pm on 18 September 2015 and the National IRO Manager Partnership is in the process of consulting its members as part of a coordinated national response.

Expert Advisory Group
The review will be overseen by an Expert Advisory Group representing practitioners, local authorities, academics, representative organisations such as the National IRO Manager Partnership and a judicial observer.

Find out more
Members can contact their regional leads for more information about how to contribute to the national response here: Regional Leads

The consultation document is here: DFE consultation document on Special Guardianship

Research by Jim Wade on children made subject to an Special Guardianship Order (SGO) between 1 January 2006 and 31 March 2011, published by DfE in 2014, found that the introduction of SGOs had been well received by practitioners who saw it as an important pathway to permanence for some children, and that the risk of disruption of SGO placements was low. The research did find concern, however, that children living with special guardians, like adoptive children, can have ongoing issues due to previous abuse or neglect, and many families were struggling with unmet needs with little or no ongoing support.

Other findings from the research included:
1. A gradual shift in the use of SGOs, for example with more being awarded to much younger children and concerns that the assessment process for special guardianship is in some cases not sufficiently robust.
2. Concern that the threshold is lower for placing children with relatives – and others who may become a special guardian but who have no existing link with the child – than for other forms of permanence.
3. That special guardianship is not consistently perceived as a permanence option for children – with special guardianship sometimes being regarded as a temporary measure until a child can be returned to his or her parents.
4. Some special guardians might need more support to become a special guardian or to sustain the special guardianship relationship; this is consistent with the findings in the Wade research. Therefore consideration is also being given to how needs are identified and met.

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