The Public Law Working Group led by Mr Justice Keehan has issued a series of recommendations for change in relation to special guardianship orders and also best practice guidance on their use.
The working group made four recommendations for immediate change:
- more robust and more comprehensive special guardianship assessments and special guardianship support plans, including a renewed emphasis on (1) the child-special guardian relationship,(2) special guardians caring for children on an interim basis pre-final decisionand (3) the provision of support services;
- better preparation and training for special guardians;
- reduction in the use of supervision orders with special guardianship orders;
- renewed emphasis on parental contact.
It has also made four recommendations for longer-term change:
- on-going review of the statutory framework;
- further analysis and enquiry into (1) review of the fostering regulations, (2) the possibility of interim special guardianship orders, (3) further duties on local authorities to identify potential carers, (4) the need for greater support for special guardians;
- a review of public funding for proposed special guardians;
- effective pre-proceedings work and the use of the FRG’s Initial Family and Friends Care Assessment: A good practice guide (2017).
The document, Recommendations to achieve best practice in the child protection and family justice systems: special guardianship orders, also includes SGO best practice guidance which is effective immediately.
The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, said: “Since its addition to the canon of orders that are available to the Family Court in 2005, the role of a Special Guardianship Order has changed and developed. It is plain that SGO’s have a useful role to play, and are the right order to make in the right case; but which are the ‘right’ cases, how are professionals and the courts to spot them and how can the system best support any special guardians who are appointed?
“For a considerable time those working in Family Justice have called for consistent and clear practice guidance on SGO’s. Now, through the work of the Public Law Working Group, the Family Justice Council and others, comprehensive and authoritative guidance has been produced. I am immensely appreciative of the work that I know has been done by many over the past year to produce this guidance and I have no hesitation in publishing it now with my complete endorsement.
“This text is what many professionals in the system have been waiting for; the practice guidance should now be applied and used in every case where a SGO is an option in the hope that, as the authors say, it will improve the outcome for children and special guardians.”