Message from the President of the Family Division
Since its addition to the canon of orders that are available to the Family Court in 2005, the role of a Special Guardianship Order has changed and developed. It is plain that SGO’s have a useful role to play, and are the right order to make in the right case; but which are the ‘right’ cases, how are professionals and the courts to spot them and how can the system best support any special guardians who are appointed?
For a considerable time those working in Family Justice have called for consistent and clear practice guidance on SGO’s. Now, through the work of the Public Law Working Group, the Family Justice Council and others, comprehensive and authoritative guidance has been produced. I am immensely appreciative of the work that I know has been done by many over the past year to produce this guidance and I have no hesitation in publishing it now with my complete endorsement.
This text is what many professionals in the system have been waiting for; the practice guidance should now be applied and used in every case where a SGO is an option in the hope that, as the authors say, it will improve the outcome for children and special guardians.Message from the President of the Family Division
Good to see NIROMP listed amongst the groups that contributed to the open consultation.
Welcome emphasis is given to ‘the eligibility to apply for an SGO when it comes to an application being made by a relative or foster carer is dependent on the child having lived with them for at least one year.
As a general proposition, emphasis is also given to potential carers being identified at ‘an early stage, and where possible pre-proceedings, by adherence to good practice including convening a Family Group Conference.
Assessments should be commenced promptly and be evidence based, balanced and child(page 62-63)
centred. In the event that a full assessment is undertaken it will usually require a 3-month timescale. See the document, Timetabling and timescales for full family and friends’ assessments (with thanks to Natasha Watson, Principal Lawyer Safeguarding and Litigation, and the Family and Friends social work team of Brighton & Hove City Council) and the Family Rights Group assessment template (https://www.frg.org.uk/involving-families/family-and-friends-carers/assessmenttool). Both are a model of good practice and in the absence of any exceptional features, the process and criteria identified should be standard to any special guardianship assessment.