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Special Guardianship Orders reach record high

The number of children placed with Special Guardians exceeds 5,000 for the first time ever

More than 5,000 children were involved in Special Guardianship Orders in the family courts during 2015, Ministry of Justice figures have confirmed.

The number of children placed with special guardians exceeded 5,000 for the first time, the statistics showed, a rise of 11 per cent from 2014 when 4,835 children were placed with guardians. There were 2,975 children placed with special guardians in 2011.

New regulations to strengthen Special Guardianship Orders came into effect at the end of February.

Under the regulations:

  • Social workers will need to include in their report any harm which the child has suffered and any risk of future harm to the child posed by their parents, relatives or any other person considered relevant, for example a partner of the parent.
  • Social workers also need to cover in their report that both the child’s current needs and their likely future needs are dealt with.
  • Special guardians will be assessed in their understanding of, and ability to meet the child’s current and likely future needs, particularly, any needs the child may have arising from harm that the child has suffered.
  • The assessment will also consider whether a prospective special guardian has understanding of, and the ability to protect the child from any current or future risk of harm.
  • Special guardians will also be assessed to consider their ability and suitability to bring up the child until the child reaches the age of eighteen.

It followed a government review of SGOs 10 years after their inception which found that there should be a robust assessment of the potential special guardian (or guardians) and their capacity to care for the child and meet his or her needs and decision making by local authorities, Cafcass and the courts should be robust, consistent, and based on sound evidence about the child, potential carers, and the options available, including the benefits and risks of different placement options.

In addition the review said that the placement should have a strong probability of lasting permanently until the child is 18 and children and carers living in special guardianship arrangements should have the support they need to do well and for the placement to last permanently.

The MoJ statistics also revealed that Emergency Protection Orders fell from 2,047 in 2013 to 1953 in 2014 and there was a dramatic drop to 1689 in 2015.

The MoJ figures come after Cafcass recenty released figures which showed that there was a record number of care applications in February 2016. See our special report here.



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