Special Guardianship Order : A Half Way House?
Posted on 24 Oct 2016
Special Guardianship Orders ( SGO) became law in 2005. A SGO is a private law order that appoints one or more individuals to be the child’s ‘special guardian’ giving them parental responsibility and the child a secure home. However, the legal relationship between the child and his parents is not severed and the birth parent also retains his/her parental responsibility.
A Special Guardian is able to exercise his/her parental responsibility to the exclusion of all others with parental responsibility. This means that in practical terms the Special Guardian will have responsibility for most day to day decisions relating to the child. However, a Special Guardian cannot change the child’s surname or remove the child from the jurisdiction for more than three months.
A SGO is a ‘halfway house’ between fostering and adoption. It is not a permanent arrangement in the sense that an adoption order is. A SGO comes to an end when the child attains the age of 18 years. A SGO can also be varied and discharged.
Special Guardians are entitled to packages of support by the Local Authority and this could include financial support. The statutory guidance and case law is supportive of financial support but there is uncertainty at which level this should be. Another important consideration for any person considering applying to the court to become a Special Guardian is that support packages are only provided for a limited time.
Since 2011 the use of SGOs has risen 55% in England and Wales. This dramatic rise in SGOs has coincided with local authority budget cuts, placing ever increasing pressure on those authorities to achieve permanency for children whilst at the same time making a record number of care applications.
Against this backdrop, together with recent updated regulations and the Social Services and Wellbeing Act 2014 coming into force, it is essential that anyone applying to the court for a SGO receives independent legal advice.
Swayne Johnson Solicitors North Wales have specialist solicitors in the family law North Wales team who have extensive experience of advising kinship carers, foster carers and local authorities in relation to Special Guardianship Order applications. Our solicitors will be on hand to guide you through the process from start to finish to ensure that the best outcome if achieved for you and your family.
-By Sara Lloyd Evans – A solicitor based at our Llandudno and Bangor offices and a member of our Family Team. Sara has a keen interest in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults and has been involved in advising and leading on Serious Case Reviews, Domestic Homicide Reviews, and Child Practise Reviews. Sara is also a fluent Welsh speaker.
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