DoE publishes findings of special guardianship review
Report highlights need for proper assessment at the start of each case
Shortly before Christmas the Department for Education published its report on the review of special guardianship.
The review found that:
- The majority of SGOs are made to carers who have an existing relationship with the child and who, with some appropriate support, intend to and will be able to care for the child until 18.
- There is a significant minority of cases where the protective factors expected to be seen in each case are not in place. In particular, the following issues have been found:
- Rushed or poor quality assessments of prospective special guardians, for example, where family members come forward late in care proceedings; where there has been inadequate consideration early on of who might be assessed; when assessments have been carried out very quickly to meet court timelines; or when the quality of an initial assessment is challenged, requiring the reassessment of a special guardian.
- Potentially risky placements being made, for example, where the SGO is awarded with a supervision order (SO) because there remains some doubt about the special guardian's ability to care for the child long-term. In the Research in Practice case file analysis, almost half of the 51 cases considered had a SO attached to the SGO. This is particularly concerning where the child is not already living with the guardian, or where there is no or little pre-existing relationship. 70% of respondents to the Call for Evidence said that the assessment process for determining whether a prospective special guardian is suitable could be improved.
- Inadequate support for special guardians, both before placements are finalised, and when needs emerge during the placement, for example, where the special guardian has not received the information or advice to make an informed choice about becoming a special guardian, or where they receive little or inadequate support after the order to ensure they can support the child's needs. 72% of respondents to the Call for Evidence said that advice and support should be provided to children, special guardians and birth parents before, during and after the award of special guardianship.
The review indicates that the challenges identified with SGOs occur at different points in the care process, but an assessment that lacks quality at the start is a major contributor to the issues highlighted above. It is vitally important for the local authority analysis to be robust, supported by strong and intelligent evaluation. SGOs are permanence orders, awarded on the expectation that the child will remain in that placement until he or she is an adult. For this reason, a sound prediction of the child's long-term welfare in that placement should sit at the heart of the assessment, and form the basis for the final care plan.
The report is here.