Part 2: Special Guardian Order Support Plans-cases before the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) emphasise the importance of getting the right support plan

You can read the related Part 1 on SGO support plans by clicking here part-1-special-guardian-order

In part 1 a number of cases before the LGO highlighted the need to provide the right support and guidance to carers and children subject to Special Guardianship Orders (SGO). The LGO in it’s report, Firm Foundations: complaints about council support and advice for special guardians make a number of very helpful recommendations.

The recommendations in the report come from a number of issues faced by special guardians investigated by the LGO, who found that 7 out of 10 complaints were upheld by the LGO.

The report was published in in May 2018, and below is a summary of the key findings and ways to overcome challenges. These are a reminder of good practice, may assist when devising SGO support plans and avoid potential complaints as identified in the cases highlighted in part 1 on SGO support plans by clicking here part-1-special-guardian-order

Under S14F Children Act 1989 the Local Authority is required to make provision of support services for Special Guardians and these can include:

  • Counselling, advice, information;
  • Support Groups for children, parents and Special Guardians;
  • Help with contact/family time arrangements between child and parents and relatives;
  • Therapy services for the child;
  • Training for the Special Guardian;
  • Respite care;
  • Mediation;
  • Financial support.

Key findings of the report

  1. Poor advice to potential special guardians, including financial matters by the local authority.

Ways to overcome this challenge:

  • it is advisable for any verbal practical help and guidance to be confirmed in writing. This should include:
    • What is a SGO, what it is to be a Special Guardian, and the impact of the granting of a SGO on the child and the Special Guardian.
    • What are the alternatives to a SGO.
    • What is the process of applying for an SGO and the local authority’s involvement, undertaking an assessment, providing the court with a report and a support plan
  • It is advisable for any advice in relation to financial support to be clear and consistent on what financial support will be available on the making of the SGO, and to confirm this in writing to the prospective Special Guardian/s.
  • Prospective Special Guardian/s to be advised to seek independent legal advice.
  • Prospective Special Guardian/s to be given an opportunity to comment on the proposed support being offered
  • Keep clear case recording of the discussions between the social worker and the prospective Special Guardians, the information provided and on what basis the decision was made and by whom.
  • Social worker to advise and provide in writing or in the form of an information leaflet to the prospective Special Guardian/s if there is to be a change in the local authority’s policy for financial support.
  • To provide the prospective Special Guardian/s all information is writing so that they have an opportunity to ully consider and reflect on the information provided and thereby support them in making an informed decision as to whether to progress with becoming Special Guardian/s.
  • By providing the advice and information is writing will also support the social worker in being clear and consistent in line with the local authority’s policy and procedures.

2. Getting support needs right for a child subject to SGO

Ways to overcome this challenge:

  • The proposed support plan should be in writing, setting out support and services that will be provided, that it will be kept under review, over what period and by whom.
  • The proposed support plan should be shared with the prospective Special Guardian/s, giving them an opportunity to comment on it and to seek independent legal advice before it is finalised.
  • The final support plan should be signed, dated and shared with the prospective Special Guardian/s, so that it is clear what support will be provided once the SGO is granted, including
    • to any realistic maximum limit,
    • for how long the support will be provided,
    • whether there are conditions attached to the support being offered for example should the Special Guardian/s’ financial circumstances change and
    • whether the financial support is subject to review and when will the review take place and by whom.

3. Wrongly calculating, changing or cutting special guardianship allowance

Where councils assess a special guardian’s need for financial support it must take into account welfare benefits the Special Guardians and child can receive, the Special Guardian’s financial resources, their outgoings and commitments and the financial needs and resources of the child.

Ways to overcome this challenge:

  • Local authorities should have clear guidance on how it calculates allowances, setting out what factors will be considered and when they will be reviewed.
  • To undertake a robust assessment to clearly identify and evidence the needs and how those needs will be supported by training, referrals to other services or consideration of additional financial support.

How we can help

We are specialists in providing legal and social care training. If you require bespoke and practical skilled training on undertaking a SGO assessments or related subjects, please contact us for a no-obligation discussion of your training needs.

Copyright: The content of this legal briefing is the copyright of Kingsley Knight Training. It can be printed and downloaded free of charge in an unaltered form temporarily for personal use or reference purposes. However, it is prohibited for any content printed or downloaded to be sold, licensed, transferred, copied, or reproduced in whole or in part in any manner or in or on any media to any person without the prior consent of Kingsley Knight.

Disclaimer: The contents of this guide are for information and are not intended to be relied upon as legal advice


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