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9.2 Special Guardianship Order Support

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter provides practice guidance on local arrangements for providing Special Guardianship support.

Where it is proposed to pay recurring financial support (SG Allowance), this chapter should be read in conjunction with Guidance on Payment of Adoption Allowance, Special Guardianship Order Allowance and Child Arrangement Order Allowance. This chapter must be read in conjunction with the relevant regulations contained within the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 and Special Guardianship Order (Amendments) 2016.

See also Applications for Special Guardianship Orders Procedure.

AMENDMENT

This guidance was reviewed locally and updated in June 2017.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What is Special Guardianship Support?
  3. Who Must Provide the Support?
  4. Who is Entitled to an Assessment for Support?
  5. Who will Undertake an Assessment for Support?
  6. What Assessment for Support is Required?
  7. Outcome of the Assessment for Support
  8. Review of the Support Plan


1. Introduction

City of York Council must make provision of a range of support services to meet the needs of those affected by Special Guardianship (Section 14F Children Act 1989; Special Guardianship Regulations 2005).


2. What is Special Guardianship Support?

Special Guardianship support services are defined (Regulation 3 of the 2005 Regulations) as:

  • Financial support (Regulation 3(1)(a));
  • Services to enable children for whom a Special Guardianship Order is in force or being considered, special guardians or prospective Special Guardians and parents of the child to discuss matters relating to Special Guardianship(Regulation 3(1)(b));
  • 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 significant relationship which is beneficial to the child (Regulation 3(1)(c));
  • Therapeutic services for the child (Regulation 3(1)(d));
  • Assistance to ensure continuance of the relationship between the child and his Special Guardian or prospective Special Guardian, including training to meet any special needs of the child, respite care, and mediation in relation to matters relating to Special Guardianship orders (Regulation 3(1)(e)); and
  • Counselling, advice and information (Section 14F(1)(a)).


3. Who Must Provide the Support?

Where the child who is the subject of the order was not previously a Child in Care

The local authority where the Special Guardian lives is responsible for assessment and support. This includes assessment and any support that is needed by the child’s relatives who may live elsewhere. If the Special Guardian moves, then the responsibility passes to the new local authority.

Where a child who is the subject of the Order was previously a Child in Care

The local authority which accommodated the child is responsible for assessment and support for three years from the date of the order (Regulation 5), irrespective of where the Special Guardian lives. When the three year period from the making of the Special Guardianship order has expired, the local authority where the Special Guardian lives becomes responsible for assessing and providing support services. If the child moves to another area after the end of the three-year period, the responsibility passes to the new local authority.

On-going Financial Support

A distinction is made between those cases where on-going financial support (financial support that is paid on a regular basis) was agreed before the Special Guardianship Order was made and other cases.

Where on-going financial support was agreed before the making of the order, and continues to be paid, responsibility for annually assessing and,where appropriate providing, financial support special remains with the local authority that agreed it. However after three years from the date of the order, responsibility for assessing and where appropriate providing other forms of Special Guardian support moves to the local authority where the child lives.


4. Who is Entitled to an Assessment for Support?        

The Special Guardianship Guidance 2005 provides for a distinction between requests for assessment by a child, parent or Special Guardian where the child is Child in Care or was a Child in Care immediately prior to the making of a Special Guardianship order and those not formerly Children in Carer, stating in regard to the former, assessment is mandatory and the latter, discretionary.

Where the child is a Child in Care, or was a Chid in Care immediately before the making of the special guardianship order, an assessment will always be undertaken in respect of any person affected by Special Guardianship who makes a request, including:

  • The child;
  • The Special Guardian or prospective Special Guardian;
  • A parent;
  • A child of the Special Guardian;
  • Any person with a significant on-going relationship with a child.

In cases that are before the court, the court may direct the local authority to prepare and file a support plan. This should be treated as a request for assessment by the relevant person.

Where the child is not a Child in Care and was not a Child in Care immediately before the making of the special guardianship order, CYC will consider whether to exercise its discretion to carry out an assessment. In doing so, it will consider all the circumstances, including the following factors:

  1. The circumstances in which the child came to be living with the special guardians;
  2. Whether there is evidence, including any additional needs that the child may have that, without the provision of support, the stable living arrangement for the child will be at risk of not continuing.

In cases where CYC exercises it’s discretion by deciding not to undertake an assessment of SGO support needs, CYC will advise the applicants of the proposed decision with reasons, and will give them a reasonable opportunity to make representation in respect of the decision (Reg 11[3]).


5. Who will Undertake an Assessment for Support?   

Prior to the making of a Special Guardianship Order

Under section 14A(8)(b) Children Act 1989 a Special Guardianship Order Report must include:

  • A summary of any Special Guardianship support services provided by the authority for the prospective Special Guardian, the child or the child’s parent and the period for which those services are to be provided; and
  • Where the local authority has decided not to provide Special Guardianship support services, the reasons why.

The Special Guardianship Order Report author is therefore responsible for assessing the support required. In York this will be the Child’s allocated Social Worker.

After the making of a Special Guardianship Order where there is no on-going support in place

After the making of an Order, where there is no on-going support in place, there will be no allocated Social Worker in respect of the child, Special Guardian, parent or other person affected by the Order. Accordingly, upon request for assessment, an Initial Response will be provided by the Senior Practitioner within the Placement Commissioning and Support Team with responsibility for advice and support for those affected by Special Guardianship. This process is in place because it is acknowledged within the Guidance that where the request of a person for an assessment relates to a particular special guardianship support service, or it appears to the local authority that a person’s needs for special guardianship support services may be adequately assessed by reference to a particular special guardianship support service, the local authority may carry out the assessment by reference to that service only” (Regulation 11 [4]).

Where it is determined that a more full assessment is required, the Advanced Practitioner within the Fostering Team will notify either the Special Guardian Order Report author to undertake an assessment, if the request for assessment is within 12 weeks of the making of the Order, otherwise the Referral and Assessment Team who will allocate the case for assessment.

Where assessment is discretionary (See Section 4, Who is Entitled to an Assessment for Support?) and the Local Authority is minded not to undertake an assessment then the person requesting that assessment must be notified of the proposed decision and the reasons for that decision and they must be given reasonable opportunity to make representations in relation to the decision (Regulation 11[3])


6. What Assessment for Support is Required? 

Upon request, if it is determined that support services are likely to be required, an assessment will be undertaken. It is noted that the Guidance requires an assessment to consider the following factors (Regulation 12):

  • The developmental needs of the child;
  • The parenting capacity of the Special Guardian or prospective Special Guardian;
  • Family and environmental factors for the child;
  • Comment on how life with the Special Guardian might be for the child;
  • Any previous assessment that is relevant to the child or Special Guardian;
  • The needs of the Special Guardian or prospective Special Guardian and their family;
  • Impact of SGO on relationship between child, parent and Special Guardian including arrangements for contact.

The assessor must interview the proposed recipient of the services or, where that person is a child, must interview the special guardian/proposed special guardian or other relevant adult.

Where it appears the person may have a need for services from Health or Education, the assessor must, as part of the assessment, consult the relevant agencies.

However, it is noted that where a request relates to one particular service or where it is clear that a particular service is required, the assessment can be limited to looking at the need for that service (Regulation 11). The procedure for assessment is detailed in Regulation 12 of the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005. Assessments should follow the assessment framework.

The timescale of the assessment will be proportionate and in line with the timescales of the court.

After considering representations received, the local authority must then decide whether to provide any services to the person who has been assessed, taking into account the individual circumstances of the case and the resources that are available locally. The local authority cannot make a decision until the person has made representations or has notified the authority that he is satisfied with the proposed decision and, where applicable, the draft plan; or the period of time for making representations has expired (section 14F(5)).

The provision of services is always discretionary, even in those cases where it is mandatory to carry out an assessment.

Having made a decision about what service to provide, if any, the local authority is then required to give notice of that decision including the reasons for it (reg 16).

Where the local authority is required to prepare a plan under section 14f(6), which will be in all circumstances apart from where they propose to provide special guardianship support services to a person on only one occasion or the services are limited to the provision of advice or information, the notice must include details of that plan and the name of the person nominated to monitor the provision of services in accordance with the plan (reg 14(4)).

Where the local authority provides Special Guardianship support services for a person (other than financial support payable periodically) it must review the provision of such services.

Cases where the only support being provided is continuing financial support also need to be reviewed annually. See Guidance on Payment of Adoption Allowance, Special Guardianship Order Allowance and Child Arrangement Order Allowance.


7. Outcome of the Assessment for Support

On completion of an assessment the local authority must decide if a person has needs for Special Guardianship support services and then decide whether to provide any such services to that person (section 14F(5)). Before making this decision they must notify the person concerned regarding their proposed decision and the time allowed for making representations. The notice must state:

  • The person’s support needs;
  • The basis for determining any financial support and the amount payable;
  • If there is a proposal to provide any support services, and if so, which services;
  • Any conditions to be imposed (reg.15(3)).

The draft Special Guardianship Support Plan should be enclosed if it is proposed to provide support services. The Local Authority is required to give 28 days Notice regarding the support services it proposes to provide under the Support Plan (Regulation 15). When providing a person with the outcome of the assessment the local authority should refer the person to sources of independent advice and advocacy.

The Special Guardianship Support Plan

Regulation 14 requires that a Support Plan must be prepared if the local authority proposes to provide Special Guardianship support services to a person on more than one occasion and the services are not limited to the provision of advice or information. Where it appears to the local authority that the person may have a need for services from other agencies it must consult those agencies before preparing the plan. The result of the process of preparation and consultation should be that social workers other professionals and recipient of the plan are clear what the support services plan is.

The plan should set out:

  • The services to be provided;
  • The objectives and criteria for evaluating success;
  • Time-scales for provision;
  • Procedures for review;
  • The name of the person nominated to monitor the provision of services in accordance with the plan.

Where representations are received following notice of a proposed Special Guardianship Support Plan thee must be passed to the social worker’s Service Manager to decide whether to amend or confirm the Plan (any representations regarding proposals for financial support must be passed to the Group Manager for Achieving Permanence). The allocated social worker must then write to the person concerned setting out the final Special Guardianship Support Plan giving notice of the decision to provide the service(s)including the reasons for this (reg 16).

If the assessment is prior to the making of a Special Guardianship Order, the Support Plan should be filed with the Court as an appendix to the court report.


8. Review of the Support Plan

Regulation 17 requires that plans for Special Guardianship support must be reviewed taking into account the following:

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

Reviews do not have to involve direct contact where there is no change or a minor change in circumstances. The format of the review will depend on the circumstances of the case and may be limited to an exchange of correspondence.

If the local authority decides to vary or terminate the provision of support services after the review, such a decision must be communicated in writing. The notice must contain the following information:

  1. A statement as to the person’s needs for special guardianship support services;
  2. Where the assessment relates to his need for financial support, the basis upon which financial support is determined;
  3. Whether the local authority propose to provide him with special guardianship support services;
  4. The services (if any) that are proposed to be provided to him;
  5. If financial support is to be paid to him, the proposed amount that would be payable; and
  6. Any proposed conditions under regulation 10(2).

if it is proposed to revise the plan, a draft of the revised plan must be sent and a timescale for response. Those affected should be advised of how to access sources of independent advice and advocacy and given 28 days to make representations.

After considering any representations received within the period specified in the notice; social worker in consultation with Service Manager will need to decide whether to vary or terminate the provision of Special Guardianship support services for the person; and where appropriate, revise the plan.

Notification of  the decision (including the reasons for it) and, if applicable, details of the revised plan. Must be sent.

End