3.10.1 Special Guardianship

RELATED CHAPTER

This chapter should be read in conjunction with Permanence Policy and Procedure.

RELATED GUIDANCE

DfE, Special Guardianship Guidance (January 2017)

Adoption Support Fund

AMENDMENT

In March 2018, this chapter was updated throughout and should be reread.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Who may Apply?
  3. Parental Responsibility
  4. The Circumstances in which a Special Guardianship Order may be Made
  5. Planning Meeting
  6. Approval of Special Guardianship for Looked After Children
  7. Report to the Court
  8. Variation and Discharge of Special Guardianship Order
  9. Special Guardianship Support Services
  10. Entitlement to Assessment for Special Guardianship Support
  11. Assessment for Support
  12. The Special Guardianship Support Plan
  13. Review of Special Guardianship Support Plan
  14. Financial Support
  15. Urgent Cases
  16. Special Guardian Duty on the Death of the Child

PROCEDURAL GUIDANCE 

  1. Generally
  2. The Referral
  3. Support
  4. Process for the Single Assessment of Special Guardianship Support Services 
  5. Review of Special Guardianship Support Plans


1. Introduction

Special Guardianship offers an option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. It can offer greater security without absolute severance from the birth family as in adoption.

It can meet the needs of a significant group of children, mainly older, who need a sense of stability and security but who do not wish to make the absolute legal break with their birth family that is associated with adoption.

It also provides an alternative for achieving permanence in families where adoption, for cultural or religious reasons, is not an option.

A Special Guardianship Order offers greater stability and legal security to a placement than a Child Arrangements Order.

Special Guardians have Parental Responsibility for the child and, whilst this is shared with the child's parents, the Special Guardian has the ability to exercise this responsibility without seeking permission from the parents.

A Special Guardianship Order made with respect to a child who is the subject of a Care Order or for an order for contact to a child in care discharges those orders.

A Care Order, however, does not automatically revoke a Special Guardianship Order although the Special Guardian's exercise of Parental Responsibility is restricted as the local authority has primary responsibility for decision-making under the Care Order.

For further details about Special Guardianship as a permanence option for Looked After Children, see Permanence Policy and Procedure.


2. Who may Apply?

Applications for Special Guardianship may be individual or joint. Joint applicants do not need to be married. Special Guardians must be 18 or over and must not be a parent of the child in question.

Subject to giving notice to the relevant local authority, the following people are entitled to apply for a Special Guardianship Order without needing to first seek the leave of the court:
  • Any guardian of the child;
  • Any person who is named in a child arrangements order as a person with whom the child is to live;
  • Any person who has the consent of each person named in a child arrangements order as a person with whom the child is to live;
  • Anyone with whom the child has lived for a period of at least three years (which need not be continuous, but must not have begun more than five years before, or ended more than three months before, the making of the application);
  • A relative with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application;
  • Where the child is in the care of a local authority, any person who has the consent of the local authority;
  • Any person who has the consent of all those with parental responsibility for the child;
  • Any other person, aged 18 or over (other than a parent) may apply for a Special Guardianship Order if he or she has the leave of the court to make the application.


3. Parental Responsibility

The Special Guardian will have Parental Responsibility for the child and, subject to any other order in force, will have clear responsibility for the day-to-day decisions about caring for the child to the exclusion of anyone else who might have Parental Responsibility (apart from another Special Guardian).

The child's parents will continue to hold Parental Responsibility but their exercise of it will be limited. The parents will, however, retain the right to consent or not to the child's adoption or placement for adoption. The Special Guardian must also take reasonable steps to inform the parents if the child dies (see Section 16, Special Guardian Duty on the Death of the Child).

In addition there are certain steps in a child's life which require the consent of everyone with Parental Responsibility or the leave of the court, for example:

  • Causing the child to be known by a different surname; or

  • Removing the child from the United Kingdom for longer than three months.

The court may, at the time of making the Special Guardianship Order, give leave for the child to be known by a new surname and/or to be removed from the United Kingdom for longer than three months, either generally or for specified purposes.

For the avoidance of doubt, a child is any child or young person under the age of 18 years.


4. The Circumstances in which a Special Guardianship Order may be Made

The Court may make a Special Guardianship Order in any family proceedings concerning the welfare of the child. This applies even where no application has been made and includes adoption proceedings.

Any person making an application for a Special Guardianship Order must give 3 months' written notice to their local authority of their intention to apply. In relation to a Looked After Child, the notice will go to the local authority looking after the child. In all other cases, the notice will be sent to the local authority for the area where the applicant resides. The local authority receiving the notice will then have a duty to provide a report to the Court.

The only exception to the requirement for 3 months' notice is where the Court has granted leave to make an application and waived the notice period.

Where the local authority has received notice from an applicant or a request for a report from the Court, it should send written information about the steps it proposes to take in preparing the report to the prospective Special Guardian and the parents of the child in question. This should include information about Special Guardianship support services and how to request an assessment of needs for support.


5. Planning Meeting

Once notice has been received that an application for Special Guardianship is to be made, the notice should be passed to the allocated social worker or, if the child is not previously known, arrangements must be made for the case to be allocated to a social worker.

The allocated social worker should arrange a planning meeting as soon as practicable after the notice is received. The planning meeting should clarify the steps to be taken, who will carry out the necessary assessments and who will contribute to the report for the Court. Court timescales will need to be clarified.

The social worker or social workers preparing the Court report should be suitably qualified and experienced. There are no specific requirements as to the level of qualification or experience required and it will be for the manager of the relevant social work team to ensure that the allocated worker is competent to write the report.

In all cases there will need to be:

  • An assessment of the current and likely future needs of the child (including any harm the child has suffered and any risk of future harm posed by the child’s parents, relatives or any other person the local authority considers relevant);
  • An assessment of the prospective Special Guardian's parenting capacity including:
    1. 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;
    2. Their understanding of, and ability to protect the child from any current or future risk of harm posed by the child’s parents, relatives or any other person the local authority consider relevant, particularly in relation to contact between any such person and the child;
    3. Their ability and suitability to bring up the child until the child reaches the age of eighteen.
  • An Assessment of the proposed contact arrangements and the support needs (see Section 11, Assessment for Support) of the child, parents and the prospective special guardian.

The assessment of the applicants should include their medical history, the references received and the Disclosure and Barring Service and other statutory checks undertaken for the assessment.


6. Approval of Special Guardianship for Looked After Children

If the child is Looked After and the application has been agreed as part of the child's Permanence Plan, the assessments will usually have been undertaken and the outcomes agreed as part of the permanence planning for the child, in which case there will be no need to hold a planning meeting.

Special Guardianship as an outcome for a Looked After child must be approved by the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship).


7. Report for the Court

The social worker or social workers preparing the Court report should be suitably qualified and experienced.

Once completed, the Court Report should be submitted by the author(s) to their line manager(s) for approval.

See Court Reports in Adoption/Special Guardianship Procedure for what is required to be included in the report.

The court is unable to make a Special Guardianship Order unless and until it has received a Special Guardianship Report; however, where the bulk of the information required is already before the court in another format, the local authority is not required to start from scratch. Instead, the local authority should be directed to file a report, which will fulfil the requirements by providing any missing information and by setting out the remaining information in the form of cross-references to the information already before the court in other reports.


8. Variation and Discharge of Special Guardianship Order

A Special Guardianship Order can be varied or discharged on the application of:

  • The Special Guardian (or any of them, if there are more than one);
  • The local authority in whose name a Care Order was in force before the Special Guardianship Order was made;
  • Any person who is named in a Child Arrangements Order as a person with whom the child is to live;
  • With the leave of the court:
    • Any parent or guardian of the child;
    • Any step-parent who has Parental Responsibility;
    • Anyone who had (but no longer has) Parental Responsibility immediately before the Special Guardianship Order was made;
    • The child (if the court is satisfied that the child has sufficient understanding to make the proposed application).

Where the applicant is not the child and the 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.

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


9. Special Guardianship Support Services

The local authority must make arrangements for the provision for a range of support services in their area to meet the needs of people affected by Special Guardianship.

Special Guardianship support services are defined as:

  • Financial support (see Section 14, Financial Support);
  • Services to enable groups of children for whom a Special Guardianship Order is in force (or in respect of whom such an Order is being formally considered), special guardians, prospective special guardians and parents of the child to discuss matters relating to special guardianship;
  • Assistance, including mediation services, in relation to contact between the child and their parents or relatives or any other person with whom the child has a relationship that the local authority considers to be beneficial to the welfare of the child;
  • Therapeutic services for the child;
  • Assistance for the purpose of ensuring the continuance of the relationship between the child and his/her special guardian or prospective special guardian, including training for the special guardian or prospective special guardian to meet any special needs of the child; respite care; and mediation in relation to matters relating to Special Guardianship Orders; and
  • Counselling, advice and information.

Where the support provided includes respite care requiring the provision of accommodation, the child must be Looked After for the duration of the period of respite care to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place.

In Walsall these services are accessed via the relevant Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support). Special Guardianship Support will be subject to the approval of the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support).

The provision of any services (other than counselling, advice and information) may include cash assistance (for example cash to pay a babysitter to facilitate a break etc). When cash is provided in this way it should not be means tested as it is being given as part of a service rather than as financial support.

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 and are aware of their entitlements to tax credits and social security benefits.

Where the child was previously Looked After, responsibility for the assessment and provision of services for the child, the Special Guardian and any children of the Special Guardian all remain the responsibility of the local authority where the child was last looked after for three years after the making of a Special Guardianship Order. Thereafter the local authority where the Special Guardian lives will be responsible for assessing and providing support services.

If a child is not Looked After, the local authority where the Special Guardian lives has the responsibility for assessing and providing support services. This includes assessment and any support that is needed by the child’s relatives who may live elsewhere. If the special guardian and his/her family move, then the responsibility passes to the new local authority. The local authority where the special guardian previously lived should cooperate as needed to ensure a smooth transition for the child.

Ongoing financial support (i.e. that paid on a regular basis), which was agreed before the Special Guardianship Order was made, remains the responsibility of the local authority that agreed it so long as the family qualify for payments.

Local authorities may also provide services to people outside their area in other circumstances where the authority considers it appropriate. For example, transitional arrangements by the originating authority where a family move to allow time for the new authority to review the family’s existing plan without a break in service provision.

In addition to the support provided by local authorities, the Adoption Support Fund in England also covers therapeutic support for children, living in England, who were previously in care immediately before the making of a Special Guardianship Order.

Based on the assessment of needs, local authorities can apply for funding from the Adoption Support Fund.


10. Entitlement to Assessment for Special Guardianship Support

Where the child is Looked After or was Looked After immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order, the following people MUST receive an assessment at their request:

  • The child;
  • The Special Guardian or prospective Special Guardian;
  • A parent.

Where the child is not Looked After or was not Looked After immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order, 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.

In all cases, whether the Special Guardianship child is looked after or not, the following people also MAY be offered an assessment of their need for Special Guardianship support services:

  • A child of the Special Guardian
  • Any person with a significant ongoing relationship with the child

If a local authority decides not to assess in cases where they have discretion as above, they must notify the decision in writing, including reasons for the decision, to the person making the request. The person who requested the assessment must be allowed at least 28 days to make representations in relation to the decision.

It will not always be necessary to undertake an assessment before providing information, advice or counselling services. However, if the local authority is considering providing any of the support services (see listing above) then a full assessment should be carried out. However where a request relates to a particular service or where it is clear that a particular service is what is required, then the assessment process can be limited to looking at the need for that service.


11. Assessment for Support

The assessment should be based on the Assessment Framework and include the following:

  • The developmental needs of the child;
  • The parenting capacity of the Special Guardian or prospective Special Guardian;
  • Family and environmental factors that have shaped the life of the child;
  • What the life of the child might be like with the proposed Special Guardian;
  • Any previous assessments undertaken in respect of the child, the Special Guardian or the prospective Special Guardian;
  • The needs of the Special Guardian or prospective Special Guardian and their family;
  • The likely impact of the Special Guardianship Order on any pre-existing relationship between the child, parent and Special Guardian.

Assessments for special guardianship support services should follow the guidance set out in, and use the domains of, the Assessment Framework, recognising that the context is different from that for birth families. This takes into account the child’s developmental needs, the parenting capacity of the special guardian and consideration of the family and environmental factors that together help to explain the child’s life so far and what life might be like with the new family.

Consultation with the relevant Clinical Commissioning Group and Local Education Authority should form part of the assessment process, and the person whose needs are being assessed should be interviewed unless the assessment relates only to information and advice or unless it is not appropriate to interview a child. In this case the child’s actual or prospective special guardian may be interviewed.

The assessment process should be flexible and should not delay provision of appropriate services.

After the assessment has been undertaken the local authority is required to prepare a written report of the assessment.

Special Guardianship Support will be subject to the approval of the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support).

At the end of the assessment and once the necessary approval has been obtained, the social worker must inform the person requesting provision of its outcome, including:

  • Information about the outcome of the assessment and the reasons for it;
  • Where it relates to financial support, the basis on which this is determined;
  • The services (if any) that the local authority proposes to provide to help meet the child’s needs;
  • If financial support is to be paid, the amount and conditions attached.


12. The Special Guardianship Support Plan

Where an assessment identifies the need for ongoing support services, a Special Guardianship Support Plan must be completed.

Other agencies, such as education and health, may need to be consulted about the contents of the Plan.

The Plan should be written in such a way that everyone affected can understand and set out:

  1. The services to be provided;
  2. The objectives and criteria for success;
  3. Timescales for provision;
  4. Procedures for review;
  5. A named person to monitor the provision of services in accordance with the Plan.

Special Guardianship Support will be subject to the approval of the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support).

Once the necessary approval has been obtained, the social worker must send the proposed plan to the person requesting support, and allow 28 days for that person to make representations about the proposed plan. The social worker should also give information to the person concerned about who to contact to obtain independent advice and advocacy.

Where representations are received, they should be referred to the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support) to decide whether to amend or confirm the Plan. The allocated social worker must then write to the person concerned setting out the final Plan. A final notice of the authority’s decision must then be given to include the following:

  1. Details of the plan and the name of the person nominated to monitor the provision of services;
  2. Where financial support is to be provided:
    1. The method of determination of the amount of financial support;
    2. The amount, frequency, start date and period of any payment in instalments;
    3. When any single payment is to be made;
    4. Details of any conditions and the date by which those conditions are to be met;
    5. The arrangements and procedure for review, variation and termination of financial support;
    6. The responsibility of the authority in relation to reviews and of the Special Guardian in respect of any conditions.


13. Review of Special Guardianship Support Plans

Special Guardianship Support Services (other than financial support payable periodically) must be reviewed:

  • If there is any change of circumstances affecting the support;
  • At such stage of the implementation of the plan as is considered most appropriate;
  • In any event at least annually.

Where services are being reviewed the same procedure for assessment must be followed as in a first assessment.

If a local authority proposes to vary or terminate the provision of special guardianship support services to any person, before making any decision as a result of the review, it must give the person an opportunity to make representations and for that purpose it must give notice of the proposed decision and the time allowed for making representations. This notice must contain the same information as the notification of the outcome of a first assessment (see Section 12, The Special Guardianship Support Plan) including a draft of the revised plan.

Any change to the Special Guardianship Support Plan will be subject to the approval of the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support). Local arrangements will determine whether any additional approval is required for changes to financial support.

If the local authority decides to vary or terminate the provision of support after the review, notice in writing must be given.

The format and content of the review will vary depending on the circumstances of the case. Notification of changes of circumstances and any review of the provision of support services need not always necessitate direct contact between the local authority and the special guardian. Where the change of circumstances is relatively minor the review might be limited to an exchange of correspondence. In particular, the annual review of financial support might be achieved by exchange of correspondence between the local authority and the special guardian. Where the change of circumstances is relevant only to one service the review may be carried out with reference only to that service. However, where the change of circumstances is substantial, for example, a serious change in the behaviour of the child, it will normally be appropriate to conduct a new assessment of needs.


14. Financial Support

The local authority must take account of any other grant, benefit, allowance or resource available to the person in respect of his needs as a result of becoming a Special Guardian of a child. Financial support cannot duplicate any other payment available to the Special Guardian.

Special Guardians must be helped to access any benefits to which they are entitled; this will usually include child benefit and tax credits.

The Special Guardian's means will normally be considered when ongoing financial support is being considered. They should therefore be asked to complete a Financial Assessment Form, which, when completed, should be passed to the Finance Officer responsible for carrying out means assessments.

Once the means assessment has been carried out, the Finance Officer should send written notification of the outcome to the relevant social worker, who must present this to the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support) for approval.

The social worker should then write to the Special Guardian setting out the amount of financial support agreed by the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support) and information in relation to the following:

  • Whether financial support is be paid in regular instalments and if so, the frequency of payment;
  • The amount of financial support;
  • The period for which the financial support is to be paid;
  • When payment will commence;
  • Conditions for continuing payment and date by which conditions are to be met, i.e. returning Review Forms;
  • Arrangements and procedure for review and termination.

A copy of this letter should be sent to the Finance Officer.

Means may be disregarded in relation to:

  • The initial costs of accommodating a child who has been Looked After;
  • Recurring travel costs in contact arrangements;
  • Any special care requiring greater expenditure due to illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties or the consequences of the past abuse or neglect of a child previously looked after;
  • Where considering an element of remuneration in financial support payments to ex-foster carers.

Where the Special Guardians were previously the child's foster carers, the local authority can maintain the fostering allowance for a transitional period of two years but with discretion to extend if necessary.

The only circumstance when the local authority MUST disregard means is when providing financial support in respect of legal costs, including fees payable to a court in respect of a child who is Looked After where the local authority support the making of the Special Guardianship Order or an application is made to vary or discharge a Special Guardianship Order in respect of that child.

Local authorities are not expected to meet the legal costs of a Special Guardianship Order where they oppose an application in respect of a child they previously looked after or in a non-looked after case. Local authorities may wish to advise prospective special guardians in these circumstances that they may be able to obtain help with legal costs from the Legal Aid Agency.

Review of Financial Support Paid Periodically

Where financial support is paid periodically the local authority must review this:

  • On receipt of the annual statement received from the special guardian;
  • If there is any relevant change of circumstances that the special guardian agreed to notify, or any breach of a condition comes to the local authority’s notice;
  • At any (other) stage in the implementation of the plan that the local authority considers appropriate.

The procedure for assessment set out for first assessment for financial support (see above) applies equally to a review of financial support. If the local authority proposes, as a result of the review, to reduce or terminate financial support or revise the plan, before making that decision the local authority must give the person an opportunity to make representations. For that purpose it must give the person notice of the proposed decision and the time allowed for making representations, but the local authority may suspend financial support pending that decision if they think it appropriate.

The notice must contain the same information as the notification of the outcome of the first assessment.

The local authority must, having regard to the review, and after considering any representations received within the period specified in the notice, then decide whether to vary or terminate payment of the financial support or whether to seek to recover all or part of any financial support that has been paid; and where appropriate, revise the plan.

The local authority must give the person notice of their decision including the reasons for it and, if applicable, the revised plan.

Where Special Guardians are in receipt of financial support, the social worker responsible for monitoring the Special Guardianship Support Plan will write annually to them with a Financial Assessment Review Form to be completed, together with a request for information about any change in circumstances for the Special Guardian or the child.

The Assessment Form should be forwarded to the Finance Officer for consideration. If any change in financial support is considered appropriate, the recommended change should be forwarded to the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support) for a decision.

Where Special Guardians do not return the Assessment Review Forms within the required time scale, 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.


15. Urgent Cases

Where a person has an urgent need of a service, the assessment process should not delay provision and arrangements can be made for support to be provided as a matter of urgency in appropriate cases. The approval of the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support) will still be required. The local authority will need to review the provision as soon as possible after the support has been provided in accordance with the procedures set out above.


16. Special Guardian Duty on the Death of the Child

If the child with respect to whom a Special Guardianship Order is in force dies, the Special Guardian must take reasonable steps to give notice of that fact to:


Procedural Guidance


1. Generally

All notifications of intent to apply for Special Guardianship Orders are to be passed to the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support), for recording, collation and authorising of the commissioning of the assessment report.

  1. The administrator responsible will commission the assessment, notify all relevant partner agencies and pass the referral to the senior practitioner responsible for SGO assessments;
  2. This will include existing cases i.e. where the child is already looked after or known to Walsall Children's Services in some way and those that are new referrals i.e. non-agency applications. A copy will be sent to legal services. This needs to include the names of the applicants and the children and their legal status;
  3. On receipt of the notification, legal services will undertake preliminary checks regarding previous care proceedings to identify any complex legal issues;
  4. Legal Services will set up a Special Guardianship notification folder;
  5. If Legal Services receive a notice of intent to apply for a special guardianship order they will send a copy to the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support) and keep a copy for their records;
  6. Supervising social workers for foster carers will continue to notify Legal Services of notifications from carers and not rely solely on the exchange of hard copy notices;
  7. All applicants will be advised to seek their own independent legal representation. Where applicants have their own legal representation, their solicitors will check and file their applications. In rare cases where the applicants do not have their own legal representative, our legal services will give consideration to filing the application with the court -if the child is looked after;
  8. Where the child is looked after and the local authority is supporting the making of the order, the local authority will meet the legal costs including the costs of the application. This will be funded from the Looked after Children's budget and must be agreed before an assessment commences. Legal Services will negotiate these costs with the applicants' legal representatives.


2. The Referral

1. An adult referral will be opened on Mosaic in respect of the applicants and a child's referral opened on Mosaic for a child not looked after by Walsall Children's Services. A Special Guardianship file will be opened and held by the senior practitioner responsible for SGO's. The information will be entered on the Mosaic system. A central database will be set up so that activity in this area can be monitored;
2. The original foster carers file remains open unless or until the carers are deregistered;
3. The senior practitioner responsible for commissioning SGO assessments will co-ordinate the assessment and provide quality assurance for the report and the process;
4. The assessment report will be completed in accordance with the Special Guardianship Regulations (regulation 21);
5. The completion of the Special Guardianship assessment and report is a commissioned service and all assessments must be completed within THREE MONTHS of the notification being received;
6. The report will be completed by the assessing social worker in consultation with the child's social worker; the carer's supervising social worker and any other relevant people with knowledge of the situation;
7. The following statutory checks must be completed:
  • Consent for statutory checks -WSS302;
  • Medical assessment -AH1;
  • Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check on all adults within the household;
  • Local Authority check within the area that the family live.
8. Where the child is placed with a carer approved by Walsall, it is the responsibility of the foster carers' supervising social worker to ensure all the statutory checks are current;
9. Where the child is placed with agency foster carers, it is the responsibility of the child's social worker to complete the statutory clearance forms with the applicants;
10. Where the child is not looked after and has no social worker a senior practitioner in the family and friends’ team will complete the clearance forms with the applicants;
11. All completed clearances will be passed to a senior practitioner in the family and friends’ team who will ensure that they are processed;
12. The completed report will be sent to the senior practitioner within the Family Placement Service with responsibility for Special Guardianship, for quality assurance. It will then be sent to legal services and the child's social worker where any potential problems or areas of disagreement can be identified, discussed and resolved;
13. The recommendations of the report will be shared with the applicants and the child if they are of an age and level of understanding to do so. The assessing social worker will consult with service managers and/or legal services to confirm whether any sections of the report should not be disclosed to any parties in the proceedings.


3. Support

Refer to Section 10, Entitlement to Assessment for Special Guardianship Support.

  1. Financial Support can be provided under Section 69, of Special Guardianship Regulations. The criteria for entitlement to financial support is included in the Financial Support to Permanence Arrangements Procedure;
  2. Approval and authorisation of support plans where the child is known to the local authority must be forwarded to the relevant Family Placement Team Manager. If the cost of the plan exceeds £5000, it must be sent to the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support) for authorisation;
  3. Where a child has not been previously known to the local authority, the plan must be forwarded to the manager family placement services for authorisation.


4. Process for the Single Assessment of Special Guardianship Support Services

1. The assessment of support needs for children and special guardians must be assessed once notice of intention to apply for an SGO is received;
2. A multi-agency planning meeting should be convened to combine the child's and the prospective special guardians support needs into the special guardianship support plan (WSS700);
3. Good practice would always indicates that this should be undertaken through a meeting rather than a consultation (Regulation 12 of the Special Guardianship Regulations recommends the use of the Common Assessment Framework);
4. Where the applicants are Walsall foster carers the assessing social worker will be responsible for co-ordinating and chairing the multi agency planning meeting. The supervising social worker and the child's social worker have responsibility for drawing up the support plan and seeking appropriate approval;
5. For non-agency cases the senior practitioner from the Family Placement Service with responsibility for SGO assessments will co-ordinate and chair the multi-agency meeting and will draw up the support plan with the child's social worker if there is one, and if not, with all relevant the agencies involved with the family;
6. The letters 2a (WSS389) and 2b (WSS390) are sent by the foster carers supervising social worker to all the relevant parties inviting them to attend the multi-agency planning meeting;
7. Where the applicants are not Walsall foster carers, letters 2(a) and 2(b) will be sent by the senior practitioner responsible for SGO's;
8. The supervising social worker sends the special guardianship assessment forms (WSS137(a)), with 2 copies of the conditions of financial support agreement (WSS395), to the prospective special guardians, who need to sign both copies of the WSS395;
9. The prospective special guardians return one copy of the signed WSS395 together with the completed WSS137 (a) along with evidence of income and excepted outgoings to the supervising social worker or the senior practitioner responsible for SGO's. Original documents are required for evidence of income and excepted financial commitments. Documents needed are : most recent wage slips covering a minimum of a six week period; child benefit payments; child tax credit or working tax credit payments; mortgage or rent payments; buildings insurance; contents insurance;
10. Once these documents have been received, the supervising social worker or the senior practitioner responsible for SGO's, completes the permanence order allowance request form (WSS394) and submits this to the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support) for in principle approval of the proposed financial support. The report must cover the following areas:
  • Whether financial support is be paid in regular instalments and if so, the frequency of payment;
  • The amount of financial support;
  • The period for which the financial support is to be paid;
  • When payment will commence;
  • Conditions for continuing payment and date by which conditions are to be met, i.e. returning Review Forms;
  • Arrangements and procedure for review and termination.
11. Once a special guardianship order allowance has been approved in principle, the supervising social worker sends the WSS394 with the completed WSS 137 (a) and evidence of income/outgoings, to the Children's specialist creditors team for calculation of the amount of SGO allowance that may be paid under the proposed levels and the nature of the payments;
12. The specialist creditors' team will inform the supervising social worker of the proposed level of financial support (if any) by email;
13. Before the multi agency support planning meeting is held, the agreements for contact must be completed and signed, if possible by the relevant parties;
14. The child's social worker is responsible for completing the agreement form for contact with a special guardianship order (WSS 324) with any birth family members. and need to obtain signatures wherever possible. A copy of this form will be sent to the senior practitioner with responsibility for Special Guardianship support, a copy will be given to the birth relative and the prospective special guardian(s) and a further copy placed on the child's file;
15. The supervising social worker, in consultation with the child's social worker is responsible for completing the relevant contact form with the prospective special guardian (WSS323).A copy of the form will be sent to the senior practitioner with responsibility for Special Guardianship support, a copy given to the prospective special guardian(s) and a further copy placed on the child's file;
16. Where the child has siblings in other foster placements the social workers responsible for these children will be asked to complete the contact agreements for these children;
17. Once the draft support plan (WSS 700) is completed this will be quality assured by the team manager for the family and friends team;
18. The supervising social worker, or the senior practitioner responsible for SGO if the applicant is not a Walsall foster carer, will send the support plan (WSS 700), with letter 3 notice of multi agency meeting minutes and draft plan, (WSS396) and a copy of the minutes of the planning meeting to all relevant attendees of the meeting;
19. The supervising social worker/senior practitioner SGO, in receiving responses in relation to the above will send letter 4, proposal for SGO support, (WSS391) and the proposed special guardianship support plan (WSS700) to the prospective special guardians;
20. If the decisions from the consultation process or the multi agency support meeting are that no support services are to be provided, then the supervising social worker/senior practitioner SGO sends letter 6, proposal to decline services, (WSS 397) together with a copy of the minutes of the meeting or the Single Assessment paperwork to the prospective special guardians;
21. If representations are received, negotiations take place and resolution sought;
22. Once agreements are reached, the supervising social worker/senior practitioner SGO sends letter 5, notice of decision for special guardianship support services, (WSS 392) with a copy of the final support plan (WSS 700) to the prospective special guardians. This letter should include all of the services highlighted in the support plan, not only the financial aspects of the service. However the timing of the sending of the final decision letter needs to be confirmed by the court process;
23. Once the special guardian ship order is made, the supervising social worker/senior practitioner SGO, needs to check with the specialist creditors' team whether the draft financial assessment is still valid. If it is not then they need to send a WSS137 (b) to the specialist creditors' team;
24. The supervising social worker/senior practitioner SGO will send letter12, confirmation that SGO has been made (WSS401) to the special guardians;
25. The senior practitioner responsible for SGO or the supervising social worker will ensure once the SGO allowances agreed are in place before transferring the case to the senior practitioner responsible for post SGO support;
26. Where there are immediate contact requirements the senior practitioner support will be alerted to by the senior practitioner or supervising social worker before the point of transfer;
27. Once notification has been received that a special guardianship order has been made, the special guardianship file, which will include the support plan and contact agreement will be transferred to the senior practitioner responsible for post special guardianship support.


5. Review of Special Guardianship Support Plans

The senior practitioner responsible for post order support in relation special guardianship, will be responsible for co-ordinating annual reviews and monitoring that support services are being delivered in accordance with support plans.

Special Guardianship Support Plans must be reviewed taking into account the following:

  • Any change of circumstances affecting the support;
  • At whichever stage of implementation of the plan is considered most appropriate;
  • In any event, at least annually.

The reviews may be a paper exercise where there is no change or a minor change in circumstances. However, if there were a substantial change of circumstances, e.g. a serious change in the behaviour of the child, it would normally be necessary to conduct a new assessment of needs.

Where Special Guardians are in receipt of financial support, the specialist creditors' team will write annually to them with a Financial Assessment Review Form to be completed, together with a request for information about any change in circumstances for the Special Guardian or the child.

The Assessment Form will be returned to the Children's Specialist Creditors Finance Section for consideration. If any change in financial support is considered appropriate, the recommended change should be forwarded to the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support) for 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 Special Guardians do not return the Assessment Review Forms within the required time scale, the Children's Specialist Creditors Finance Section will send a reminder letter, giving 28 days notice of the suspension of payments if the information requested is not received.

If the local authority decides to vary or terminate the provision of support after the review, notice in writing must be given and the person concerned should be given 28 days to make representations.

Any change to the Special Guardianship Support Plan will be subject to the approval of the Team Manager Permanence Support.

Assessment for financial support

Please refer to Financial Support to Permanence Arrangements Procedure.

End