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5.2.1 Special Guardianship: Assessments and Support

AMENDMENT

In March 2013, a link was added to the Special Guardianship Allowance procedure and forms, from section 8.3 The Local Authority’s Maximum Allowance.

This chapter is currently under review.


Contents

Part One: Special Guardianship Orders

  1. Background
  2. Policy
  3. Legal Framework
  4. Local Procedures

Part Two: Special Guardianship Support Services

  1. General Information
  2. Policy
  3. Local Procedures
  4. Financial Assistance
  5. Entitlement to Support Services Post 18

    Appendix 1: Special Guardianship Report Template

    Appendix 2: Special Guardianship Support Assessment and Plan

    Appendix 3: Standard Means Tested Assessment Model


Part One: Special Guardianship Orders

1. Background

Special Guardianship Orders were introduced into the Children Act 1989 by the Adoption and Children Act 2002. They are intended to provide another option for legal permanence for children who cannot grow up with their birth families. A Special Guardianship Order gives the special guardian/s Parental Responsibility for the child which lasts until the child is 18. These orders do not remove Parental Responsibility from the child’s birth parents, although their ability to exercise Parental Responsibility is extremely limited. This offers greater security for the child than long term fostering but does not bring about the absolute legal severance from the birth family that comes from an Adoption Order.

In practice, this means that the child is no longer the responsibility of the local authority, and the special guardian will have more clear responsibility for all day-to day decisions about caring for the child or young person, and for taking important decisions about their upbringing, for example their education. Significantly, although birth parents retain their legal Parental Responsibility, the special guardian only has to consult with them about these decisions in exceptional circumstances.

2. Policy

Any approach to the Local Authority from eligible carers that they may wish to be considered as Special Guardians for a child must be viewed in light of the welfare checklist set out in the Children Act 1989. The child’s welfare shall be the paramount consideration. The views and wishes of the child, the views and wishes of the carers and their suitability, including whether they fully understand their roles as special guardians must always be considered fully. Every effort must be made to engage the prospective applicants and the child in the process.

Where a child will cease to be looked after as a result of a Special Guardianship Order being made, it must be clear that the applicants fully understand how they will take responsibility for the child’s upbringing without the involvement of the Local Authority.

The Local Authority is committed to seeking the most secure and permanent option for children which is most suited to meet their identified needs. The Prime Minister’s Review of Adoption in July 2000 identified that there was a significant group of children who did not wish to make the absolute legal break with their birth family that is associated with adoption. The Review noted that, although planned long-term fostering might suit some children, it lacked security and a proper sense of permanence in a family. Special Guardianship was introduced to provide an alternative option for permanency that provides legal security for the child, without absolute severance from the child’s birth family.

In considering whether Special Guardianship is an appropriate care plan for a child who is not able to remain in the care of their parents, the Local Authority will need to assess:

  1. The implications of making the absolute break with the child’s birth family that is associated with adoption;
  2. Whether the child’s assessed needs are best met by a Prospective Special Guardian.

3. Legal Framework

3.1 Statutory Provisions

Section 115 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 inserted sections 14A to 15G into the Children Act 1989.

The Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 have been made pursuant to the Act.

The Department for Education and Skills (as it was then) issued Guidance in relation to the Regulations.

3.2 Who may Apply to be a Special Guardian?

A Court may make a Special Guardianship Order in respect of a child on the application of one of the following persons:

  • Any guardian of the child;
  • Anyone who holds a residence order with respect to the child, or who has the consent of all those in whose favour a residence order is in force;
  • Any person with whom the child has lived for a period of at least 3 years;
  • Where the child is in the care of a local authority, has the consent of that local authority;
  • Anyone who has the consent of all those with parental responsibility for the child;
  • A local authority foster carer with whom the child has lived for one year immediately preceding the application;
  • Anyone who has leave of the court to apply.

Applications can be made by an individual or jointly and by two or more people. Joint applicants need not be married. Applicants must be aged 18 or over, and a parent of a child may not become that child’s Special Guardian.

3.3 Family Proceedings

The Court may also make a Special Guardianship Order in any family proceedings concerning the welfare of a child if they consider an order should be made. This applies even where no application has been made, including in adoption proceedings. The Court and local authority must consider the whole range of options available. The Court must have before it all of the information required by the schedule to the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005. This will usually be in the form of a Special Guardianship Report, but does not have to be in a prescribed format.

3.4 Timescales and Report for the Court

Anyone intending to make an application for a Special Guardianship Order must give three months notice of their intention to the local authority. If the child is looked after, the notice must be given to the local authority looking after the child. In all other cases, the notice must be given to the local authority where the prospective applicant is ordinarily resident.

In the three month period the local authority must complete a report for the Court in accordance with the schedule to the Special Guardianship Regulations, or arrange for someone else to do this on its behalf. The schedule sets out the information which the report must cover. This includes:

  • Information about the child who is the subject of the application, including history, health, education and emotional needs, family relationships;
  • Information about the child’s family, including background history ,employment, education, health and mental health, family relationships;
  • The wishes and feelings of the child and others;
  • Information about the prospective Special Guardian, including the outcome of Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and local authority checks to include background history, health, education, employment, parenting capability and experience, support systems in place and needed, relationship with child and family, any contingency care arrangements that may be necessary, finances;
  • Information about the local authority which compiled the report and the actions of the local authority;
  • A summary of reports prepared by a medical professional. Consultation with manager regarding outcome of GP assessment to determine whether this would warrant further consideration by the adoption panel medical advisor;
  • Implications of the making of a Special Guardianship Order for those involved;
  • Relative merits of Special Guardianship Order and other orders;
  • A recommendation regarding Special Guardianship;
  • A recommendation regarding contact.

3.5 Variation and Discharge of Special Guardianship Orders

The following persons may apply to vary or discharge a Special Guardianship Order without leave of the court:

  • The Special Guardian;
  • Anyone with a residence order in respect of the child before the SGO was made.
  • A local authority in whose name a care order was in force with Respect to the child before the SGO was made.

The following persons require leave of the court to seek to vary or discharge a Special Guardianship Order:

  • The parents or guardian of the child;
  • The child;
  • Any step-parent of the child who has acquired and not lost parental responsibility.

Where the applicant is not the child and leave of the court is required, the court may only grant leave if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the Special Guardianship Order was made.

In any family proceedings in which a question arises about the welfare of a child who is the subject of a Special Guardianship Order, the Court may vary or discharge the order in the absence of an application.

3.6 Effects of a Special Guardianship Order

Any child who was previously looked after by a local authority will cease to be looked after once a Special Guardianship Order is made. A special guardian may then exercise Parental Responsibility to the exclusion of all others with Parental Responsibility, apart from another special guardian. A special guardian can also appoint a guardian in the event of death. This differs from the holder of a Residence Order who exercises parental responsibility jointly with other people who have parental responsibility (the birth parents for example). However, special guardians, unlike adoptive parents, do not have exclusive Parental Responsibility, they cannot give their consent to change a child’s surname, or live abroad for more than 3 months without the agreement of others with Parental Responsibility, or the leave of the court. They can also not override a parent's refusal to consent to the adoption of the child.

Birth parents retain their Parental Responsibility and the right to consent or not to adoption, and they can also apply for contact with their child through the courts.

Adoption Orders are almost always for life, while Residence Orders last until the child is 16 or 18. Special Guardianship Orders last until 18 unless the order is discharged.

Special Guardianship Orders can be varied or discharged. However, the thresholds for revoking a Special Guardianship Order are higher than for a Residence Order and a parent can only apply for revocation where the court has granted leave for the application because of a significant change in circumstances.

4. Local Procedures

4.1 Responsibility for Special Guardianship Assessments

Assessments of individuals who express an intention to apply for Special Guardianship Orders in respect of children, or who wish to be considered as prospective Special Guardians are undertaken by social workers from the most relevant team. There are several routes through which a referral for such an assessment may be made, which will depend on whether or not the child concerned is a looked after child.

4.2 Potential Sources of Referrals

General applications to become a Special Guardians - regarding a child who is not looked after by the Local Authority:
  • Those people intending to make applications to be Special Guardians for none looked after children must apply to the local authority where they are resident. Initial enquiries of this nature will be made to the Initial Assessment Team or if the child is an open case to another team through that team. It is that team’s responsibility to complete the assessment for court;
  • The Local Authority may receive notice of an individual’s intention to make an application for a Special Guardianship Order from solicitors acting for the applicant. In these circumstances, the notice may be received by the Local Authority’s Legal Services Department or the Initial Assessment Team. If the Initial Assessment Team receives the notice, it should be copied to the Legal Services Department for information. If further information is required regarding the notice (e.g. contact details for the applicant), the relevant team will liaise with the Legal Services Department to request the further information from the solicitors.
Applications in respect of children who are looked after by the Local Authority - subject to Care Orders/accommodated under s20 CA 1989:

Those people wishing to make an application in respect of a child who is looked after must apply to the Local Authority which is looking after the child. The child concerned may be the subject of on-going care proceedings (see further 4.2.3 below), or a Care Order may have been made previously to the Local Authority, or the child may be accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. In the case of children subject to Care Orders, or accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. These individuals should make contact with the allocated social worker to discuss their proposals.

Prospective carers identified in the course of on-going care proceedings:

In the course of care proceedings, individuals may come forwards, or be nominated by birth parents as potential alternative carers for the child, in the event that the child cannot remain in, or be returned to, their care. The individuals may contact the Social Worker for the child, or information regarding them may be supplied by the birth parents or their legal representatives:

  • In the first instance, it is the responsibility of the Child’s Social Worker (whether from the Looked After Children’s Team or the Child Protection and Court Team) to make contact with the individual, to explain the child’s circumstances and ask them to confirm in writing that they wish to be considered as a prospective permanent carer for the child/ren concerned. This is to establish a commitment on the part of the carer that they wish to engage with the Local Authority and assessment process. At this stage, the case should be discussed with the workers Team Manager or Assistant Team Manager to alert them to the possible need for an assessment;
  • On receipt of confirmation that the individual wishes to be considered, the Child’s Social Worker will commence an assessment of the individual as a prospective special guardian. If the individual is proposing a long term fostering arrangement rather than special guardianship there will be a viability assessment completed jointly between the child’s social worker and a fostering worker. The outcome of this assessment will be considered by the fostering services manager who will determine if the assessment should proceed. If the individual is proposing an adoption plan there should be a viability assessment completed jointly between the child’s social worker and an adoption worker. The outcome of the viability assessment will be presented to the adoption services manager who will make a determination about whether or not the application should proceed;
  • Once there has been a determination about whether or not to proceed with the application Legal services should be informed.

It must be noted that if the recommendation of a Viability Assessment is that a full assessment should not be undertaken, if the individual concerned is a person entitled to make an application for a Special Guardianship Order, he may still give notice of his intention to make such an application to the Local Authority, in which circumstances a full assessment will need to be undertaken and a Special Guardianship Report prepared for the Court.

Foster Carers who wish to be assessed as Special Guardians:

Local Authority foster carers who have cared for the child for one year immediately preceding an application to the Court are entitled to apply for Special Guardianship as of right, they do not require leave of the Local Authority.

The Local Authority’s expectation would be that foster carers who wish to explore becoming Special Guardians for a child will work in partnership with the Local Authority in relation to the matter. Foster carers should discuss the possibility with their Supervising Social Worker. The Supervising Social Worker will discuss the matter with the looked after child’s Social Worker. A determination about whether to proceed will be made by the Team Manager of the child’s social worker following discussion with the relevant District Manager.

It must be noted that if the decision of the Team Manager is not to pursue the application, the foster carer is entitled to apply for a Special Guardianship Order as of right; they may give notice of their intention to make an application, in which case an assessment must be undertaken and a report prepared for the Court.

4.3 Allocation and Assessments

Allocation

On receipt of a referral, the Initial Assessment Team Manager will allocate the case to a Social Worker in the Team who is suitably qualified and experienced to undertake the assessment. Where the child is known to the Local Authority, it may be appropriate to hold an initial meeting to share all relevant and current information and to be clear regarding the presenting and assessed needs of the child; this will be dependent on the circumstances of the case.

Special Guardianship Assessments

Special Guardianship Reports must address the information required by the schedule to the Special Guardianship Regulations. The report format to be adopted is attached as Appendix 1: Special Guardianship Report Template.

When undertaking the assessment of the prospective Special Guardians and their parenting capacity, reference must be made to the Assessment Framework. The Special Guardianship Report template, at section 4(n), makes reference to the specific issues which must be considered as part of the assessment. This is to ensure that the child’s needs are considered and the prospective Special Guardian’s ability to meet the child’s needs.

Health Assessments, Agency Checks and Referees

A Special Guardianship assessment requires a health assessment to be undertaken regarding the prospective Special Guardian, external agency checks (including a Disclosure and Barring Service disclosure) to be undertaken and referees to be consulted in a relatively brief period of time. It is therefore essential that the necessary requests are sent out and enquiries made as soon as possible.

The assessing social worker from the is responsible for providing the health assessment forms to the prospective Special Guardian and asking them to make arrangements with their General Practitioner for the assessment to take place. The assessing social worker is responsible for ensuring that other statutory checks are undertaken and that the referees nominated by the prospective special guardian are interviewed and gives their views in writing.

4.4 Scrutiny of Special Guardianship Assessments and Endorsement of Recommendations Made

Recommendations for Special Guardianship arrangements are not subject to recommendations by the Adoption Panel.

The decision whether to recommend an individual who wishes to make an application for Special Guardianship order is made by the relevant district manager in consultation with the relevant team manager.


Part Two: Special Guardianship Support Services

5. General Information

5.1 Statutory Framework

Section 14F of the Children Act 1989 (as amended by the Adoption and Children Act 2002) requires each local authority to make arrangements for the provision within their area of special guardianship support services. The Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 set out the requirements in relation to Special Guardianship support assessments and services. The Department for Education and Skills (as it was then) issued Guidance regarding the Regulations in 2005.

5.2 What are Special Guardianship Support Services and who is Entitled to an Assessment?

Special Guardianship support services are defined as:

  • Financial support (see further section 8 below);
  • Services to enable relevant children, Special Guardians and parents to discuss matters relating to the arrangements for the child;
  • Assistance including mediation services in relation to contact between the child and their parents, relatives or significant others;
  • Services in relation to the therapeutic needs of a relevant child;
  • Assistance to ensure continuance of the relationship between the relevant child and the Special Guardian, including training to meet any special needs of the child, respite care and mediation;
  • Counselling, advice and information (Regulation 3).

A relevant child is a child in respect of whom there is a Special Guardianship Order in force, or who a person has given notice to a local authority of their intention to make an application for a Special Guardianship Order, or who a Court is considering whether to make a Special Guardianship Order and has directed a local authority to investigate and prepare a report.

Where the child was previously Looked After, the local authority that looked after the child has responsibility for providing support for the first three years after the making of a Special Guardianship Order. On-going financial support, which has been agreed before the Special Guardianship Order is made, remains the responsibility of the local authority that agreed it. After the three year period, responsibility for other post Special Guardianship support will become the responsibility of the local authority in the area where the children are resident.

Where the child is Looked After or was Looked After immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order, the following people are entitled as of right to have an assessment of their need for Special Guardianship support services at their request:

  • The child;
  • The Special Guardian or prospective Special Guardian;
  • A parent (but only in relation to their need for support with contact and/or discussion groups).

Where the child has not been Looked After, the following people may be offered an assessment of their need for Special Guardianship support services:

  • The child;
  • The Special Guardian or prospective Special Guardian;
  • A parent;
  • A child of the Special Guardian (where the Special Guardianship child is looked after or not);
  • Any person with a significant on-going relationship with the child (whether the child is looked after or not).

If a local authority decides not to assess in cases where they have discretion as above, they must notify the individuals concerned with a decision in writing, including reasons for the decision, to the person making the request.

6. Policy

The Local Authority is committed to ensuring that the needs of children and their carers for appropriate support, including financial support, should not prevent any child from benefiting from a permanent placement which is legally secure.

Support Services should not be seen in isolation from mainstream services and it is important to ensure that families are assisted in accessing mainstream services, from health and education services, as well as being aware of their entitlements to tax credits and social security benefits.

The Local Authority considers that a holistic assessment of the need for support, including financial support, of a prospective Special Guardianship arrangement must be undertaken as part of the Special Guardianship assessment process. Identified needs will be addressed by the preparation of a Special Guardianship Support Plan.

The need for financial assistance on an on-going basis will be considered as part of the holistic assessment. Any ongoing financial support will be means tested in accordance with Section 8, Financial Assistance below.

7. Procedure

7.1 Assessment Process

The assessment of need for Special Guardianship Support Services will be undertaken by the Social Worker, as part of their assessment of the prospective Special Guardian. They will consult with other agencies, such as health and education services as appropriate. It is the responsibility of the Assessing Social Worker to complete the assessment of support needs and prepare a proposed Special Guardianship Support Plan.

The assessment will be based around the Assessment Framework, and include consideration of the following factors:

  • The developmental needs of the child;
  • The parenting capacity of the prospective Special Guardian;
  • Family and environmental factors for the child;
  • What the life of the child might be like with the prospective Special Guardian
  • Any previous assessment that is relevant in relation to the child or prospective Special Guardian;
  • The needs of the prospective Special Guardian and their family;
  • The impact of the Special Guardianship Order on the relationship between the child, parent and Special Guardian.

The assessment will be recorded in the Special Guardianship Support Document, which is attached as Appendix 2: Special Guardianship Support Assessment and Plan. This will also set out the proposed plan to meet the needs identified during the assessment. If the Support Plan includes provision for financial support, the Plan must include:

  • The amount of financial support;
  • The frequency of payment;
  • The period for which the financial support is to be paid;
  • When payment will commence;
  • For single payments, details of when the payment will be made;
  • If any of the above is subject to conditions, details of the conditions need to be set out.

Once the Special Guardianship Support Document has been prepared, it must be presented to the relevant district manager for approval. Once the District Manager has approved the proposal, a copy of the document should be sent by the Assessing Social Worker to the prospective Special Guardians. The Assessing Social Worker must inform the prospective Special Guardians that they have 28 days to make representations about the proposed plan. They should be provided with information and advice about who to contact to obtain independent advice and advocacy.

If the prospective Special Guardian makes any representations regarding the proposed plan, the Assessing Social Worker must arrange for the case to be reconsidered by the District Manager. The outcome of that review should be notified to the prospective Special Guardian by the assessing social worker.

The completed Special Guardianship Support Plan forms part of the Special Guardianship Report for the Court. It should be completed, including allowing time for presentation to the District Manager, in good time so that it can be filed with the Court together with the substantive Report.

7.2 Review of Special Guardianship Support Plans

Where financial support is included as part of the Special Guardianship Support Plans will be reviewed on an annual basis. They may also be reviewed on any change of circumstance affecting the support, and at any stage of implementation of the plan when it is considered appropriate.

The reviews may be a paper exercise, where there is no change or a minor change in circumstances. Where this is appropriate, the review will be recorded as an update to the original assessment of support needs. If there is a substantial change of circumstances, e.g. a serious change in the behaviour of the child, it may be necessary to conduct a new assessment of need.

If there is any change in financial support to be considered then this should be taken to the District Manager for consideration and a decision. Where a change is approved, the Special Guardian should be notified in writing of the change, together with the reasons for the change.

Where the Special Guardian/s do not respond to a request for information during the review period, the social worker monitoring the support plan should send a reminder letter giving 28 days notice of the suspension of payments if the information requested is not received.

8. Financial Assistance

8.1 Legislative Framework and Guidance

Regulation 6 of the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 provides that financial assistance is payable to a Special Guardian or prospective Special Guardian to facilitate arrangements for a person to become a Special Guardian of a child where the local authority consider such arrangements to be beneficial to the child’s welfare, or to support the continuation of such arrangements after a Special Guardianship Order is made.

The Regulation further provides that such support is only payable in the following circumstances:

  1. Where it is necessary to ensure that the special guardian or prospective special guardian can look after the child;
  2. Where the local authority consider that the child needs special care which requires a greater expenditure of resources than would otherwise be the case because of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties of the consequences of past abuse or neglect;
  3. Where the local authority consider that it is appropriate to contribute to any legal costs, including court fees, of a special guardian or prospective special guardian associated with:
    1. The making of a special guardianship order or any application to vary or discharge such an order;
    2. An application for an order under section 8 of the Act (a contact order, a prohibited steps order, a residence order or a specific issue order);
    3. An order for financial provision to be made to or for the benefit of the child.
  4. Where the local authority consider it appropriate to make a contribution to the expenditure necessary for the purpose of accommodating and maintaining the child, including the provision of furniture and domestic equipment, alterations to and adaptations of the home, provision of means of transport, and provision of clothing, toys and other items necessary for the purpose of looking after the child.

Regular payments are made under a), b) and d) above. Where a child is a looked after child the local authority will pay a special guardianship allowance only where the local authority supports the plan and deems it in the best interests of the child to be placed with the applicant under a special guardianship order. When considering the need for financial support in private applications the local authority will consider the viability of the placement without the payment of a special guardianship allowance and will consider any special needs the child may have in accordance with a) and b) above.

The Local Authority notes that the Special Guardianship Guidance states that payment of financial support under (b) is intended where the child’s condition is serious and long-term. For example, where a child needs a special diet or where items such as shoes, clothing or bedding need to be replaced at a higher rather than would normally be the case with a child of similar age who was unaffected by the particular condition.

When considering whether there is a need for financial assistance, Regulation 13 requires the local authority to take into account (i) the prospective Special Guardian’s financial resources, including any other grants, benefit, allowance or resource which is open to the prospective Special Guardian as a result of them becoming a Special Guardian, (ii) the amount required by them in respect of their reasonable outgoings and commitment, and (iii) the financial needs and resources of the child. The local authority must disregard these factors where they are considering providing financial support in respect of a prospective Special Guardian’s legal costs in a case where the child is looked after by the local authority. The local authority may disregard the factors when considering providing financial support in respect of the initial costs of accommodating a child who has previously been looked after, providing assistance with travel costs towards contact between a child and a related person, or any special care for a child previously looked after by the local authority.

Regulation 7 provides that financial assistance may include an element of remuneration only:

  1. Where the decision is made to include this prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order; and
  2. Where the local authority considers it to be necessary in order to facilitate arrangements for a person to become a special guardian in a case where the prospective special guardian has been a local authority foster carer in respect of the child and where an element of remuneration was included in the payments made by the local authority to that person in relation to his fostering of the child.

By Regulation 7(1) (b), the remunerative element ceases to be payable after two years from the making of the special guardianship order, unless the local authority considers its continuation to be necessary having regard to the exceptional needs of the child or any other exceptional circumstances. The Special Guardianship Guidance indicates that the purpose of the two year transitional provision is to enable local authorities to maintain payments to foster carers who become special guardians, at the same rate as they received when they were fostering the child. This should give the family time to adjust to their new circumstances.

8.2 Means Testing

The provision of any financial support must be in line with the Regulations.

The Local Authority has considered the Standardised Means Test Model (“the Model”) produced by the Department for Education and Skills (reproduced as Appendix 3: Standard Means Tested Assessment Model). The Local Authority considers that the application of the Standardised Means Test is a fair and reasonable way of assessing the requirement for on-going financial support.

In order to ensure that accurate information is collected regarding the family’s income and expenditure, the assessing Social Worker should complete the Financial Assessment form with the family. This information will then be used to complete the Means Testing calculation.

8.3 The Local Authority’s Maximum Allowance

See also Special Guardianship Allowance procedure and forms.

The Model further suggests that local authorities link maximum payments for Special Guardians with fostering allowances. The Court has also stated that local authority Special Guardianship allowances should be linked with their fostering allowance schemes.

The Local Authority sets core allowances for foster carers in line with the amounts recommended by Governments minimum recommended rate.

If the child has additional needs which require additional expenditure above and beyond that for a child who does not have the same needs, e.g. due to social needs there will be a need for respite provision, or social activities for the child, then an additional allowance may be payable. This will be added as an additional allowance after the means testing exercise has been undertaken and the core allowance calculated. Any additional allowance paid will use the same criteria as when additional allowances are paid to foster carers and will take into account other allowances which may contribute to meeting this special needs e.g. Disabled Living Allowance.

The Means Testing scheme adopted by the Local Authority ensures that the financial costs of caring for the child are fully considered:

  1. The consideration of the family’s core expenditure includes provision for the application of the Income Support rate in respect of the child as a dependant of the family;
  2. The consideration of the maximum local allowance includes the figure which takes into account expenditure on the child, as set by the Governments minimum recommended rate;
  3. Any particular special needs of the child which require additional expenditure on a regular basis, e.g. additional nursery or respite provision in order to address the child’s particular needs, additional utility costs towards additional laundry etc., will be taken into account.

The Local Authority considers that the Means Testing Scheme ensures that the prospective or Special Guardians are able to meet the needs of caring for the child concerned on a needs focused basis.

Any on-going financial assistance is made on the basis that the Special Guardians will inform the Local Authority immediately on any change in their financial circumstances. On-going allowances will be reviewed on an annual basis.

The Maximum Allowance set by the Local Authority therefore reflects the amount of money the Local Authority considers that the Special Guardian will need to care for the child. If the family’s disposable income is less than an agreed level, then they will require the entire Maximum Allowance to enable them to care for the child. If their disposable income is greater than the agreed level, they will require the Maximum Allowance, less the amount by which their income exceeds this amount. On-going financial support will be calculated on this basis.

8.4 Initial Costs of Accommodating the Child

The Assessing Social Worker will consider the need for any essential items as part of the Special Guardianship Support assessment. This may include furniture, clothing, or other equipment required for the child. Items required will be recorded in the Special Guardianship Support Document and considered on an individual basis by the District Manager.

8.5 Financial Assistance for Former Foster Carers

As set out in Section 8.1 Legislative Framework and Guidance, Regulation 7 provides the Local Authority with the power to include an element of remuneration as part of any allowance provided to Special Guardians who have previously been foster carers for the child and who has received a remunerative element as a part of their fostering allowance.

Foster carers receive a remunerative element as part of their allowances to reflect the level of skill and expertise they are required to offer to a child who they are looking after on behalf of the Local Authority. There are obligations on foster carers to liaise with Children’s Social Care staff, including participating in regular home visits from social workers and other professionals, to participate in contact arrangements for the child and their birth family at a frequency that is often far more regular than for a child placed on a permanent basis. These requirements do not apply to Special Guardians, who are taking on a child as a member of their family. Foster carers also receive additional allowances for looked after children on their birthdays, at Christmas and for an annual holiday. This is to reflect the additional expenditure required for the children at these times, when the children are not part of the foster carer’s family.

Where a foster carer is making the transition to Special Guardianship for a child, there will be a period of adjustment and transition. To support that process, it may be appropriate to continue to provide an element of remuneration to allow the carer to adjust to their new role and the new family composition.

Where foster carers are seeking Special Guardianship in respect of a child, the Means Testing assessment should be undertaken to consider whether they require financial assistance to allow them to meet the care needs of the child, as in any other case. As with any other Special Guardianship Support assessment, advice should be sought from a Welfare Benefits Advisor as a part of this process. The prospective Special Guardian will be expected to access all DWP and HMRC benefits (i.e. welfare benefits and Tax Credits) to which they will be entitled on the making of the Special Guardianship Orders.

The assessing social worker will also make a recommendation regarding whether a remunerative element allowance should continue to be paid on the making of a Special Guardianship Order and for what period this will be required. This will be considered by the District Manager which must approve any payment to be made. However, the period of remuneration cannot be for more than 2 years unless there are exceptional circumstances relating to the needs of the child.

The decision whether to award a remunerative element will take into account:

  • The level of care and skill required by the carer to meet the specific needs of the child/ren concerned;
  • The impact on the family as a whole of the level of income dropping suddenly.

The amount of any remunerative element will be based on the level of fostering allowance the carer would have received had they continued to care for the child/ren as foster carers. The maximum remunerative allowance that will be paid will be the difference between the sum the Special Guardian would have received as a fostering allowance had they continued to care for the child as a foster carer, less the allowances that they will receive from the DWP and/or HMRC in respect of the child, and any Special Guardianship support allowance being paid by the Local Authority under the Means Testing scheme. The Means Testing scheme provides that any remunerative element awarded to former foster carers will be disregarded as income when that assessment is undertaken.

Former foster carers will not continue to receive Christmas or birthday allowances on the making of Special Guardianship Orders. The purpose of Special Guardianship is to secure the child’s place within their new family, and the Local Authority does not consider it appropriate to continue these payments. Similarly a holiday allowance will not be paid.

Where it is decided to continue a remunerative allowance for a former foster carer who becomes a Special Guardian, it will generally be expected that this remunerative element will be paid for no longer than two years. The allowance will be reviewed on an annual basis, in line with the review of the Special Guardianship support plan. It may be reduced after a period of one year, to reflect that it is intended to support a transition for the family to their new circumstances. This decision lies with the District Manager.

In exceptional circumstances, the remunerative element may be continued beyond the period of two years from the making of the Special Guardianship Orders. Any decision whether the case is exceptional and warrants payment beyond the two year period must be made by the Head of Children’s Social Care. The decision will be based on the same factors as set out above, that is:

  • The level of care and skill required by the carer to meet the specific needs of the child/ren concerned;
  • The impact on the family as a whole of the level of income dropping suddenly.

As referred to in section 7 above, any payments, including remunerative elements in payments, will be subject to an annual review.

9. Entitlement to Support Services Post 18

Regulation 9 provides that financial support ceases to be payable to a special guardian if the child ceases to have a home with him, the child ceases full time education or training and begins employment, if the child qualifies in his own right for Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance. Financial support also ceases when the child attains 18 years of age, unless he continues in full time education or training. In that case, the financial support may continue until the end of the course that the child is then undertaking. The course of study must have commenced prior to the child turning 18 for the financial support to continue.

Section 24(1) of the Children Act 1989, as amended, provides that a young person aged 16 - 17 who is the subject of a special guardianship order, or a young person aged 18 - 21, who was the subject of a special guardianship order when he reached 18, and in either case immediately before that order was made he was looked after, accommodated or fostered by a Local Authority, is a person who qualifies for advice and assistance under s24A and s24B of the Act, that is advice and assistance.

With respect to financial assistance being provided to a special guardian where the child is reaching 18 years of age, a Welfare Benefits Advisor may be asked to undertake a review of the family and young person’s entitlements prior to the young person reaching the age of 18. If the young person does not have any benefit entitlement in their own right, any ongoing Special Guardianship allowance will remain in place until the last day of the academic term of the year when the child reaches the age of 18.

Young people who were the subjects of Special Guardianship Orders are Qualifying Young People for the purposes of s24A and s24B of the Children Act 1989. They qualify for advice and assistance, and assistance with needs associated with employment, education and training.


Appendix 1: Special Guardianship Report Template

Click here to view Special Guardianship - Matters to be Dealt with in Report for the Court of Court Reports in Adoption/Special Guardianship Guidance.


Appendix 2: Special Guardianship Support Assessment and Plan

Click here to view Appendix 2: Special Guardianship Support Assessment and Plan.


Appendix 3: Standard Means Tested Assessment Model

Click here to view Appendix 3: Standard Means Tested Assessment Model.

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