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4.11.5 Special Guardianship Order Court Report

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in May 2012. In particular Section 1, Scope and Section 3.2, Notification and Expression of Interest have been updated and should be re-read.


Contents 

1. Scope
2. Who may Apply for a Special Guardianship Order
3. Procedure Where a Child is not Looked After
3.1 Requests for Information about Special Guardianship
3.2 Notification and expression of interest
3.3 Initial action upon receipt of notification
3.4 Confirmation of intent and initial information gathering visit
3.5 Checking Process
3.6 Special Guardianship Support
3.7 Assessment and Preparation of the report to the Court
3.8 Lodging the Report
3.9 The Social Worker at Court
3.10 Suspension of Report Preparation and Incomplete Reports
4. Applications for Special Guardianship Orders Involving Children who are Looked After


1. Scope

Local Authorities are required to prepare a report for the court in all cases when an application is to be made for a Special Guardianship Order. The court may order the Local authority to prepare a report where it is considering making a Special Guardianship Order as an outcome to any proceeding

There should be discussions with the Children's Guardian at an early, but appropriate stage. Any issues of concern should be resolved if possible and addressed in the Care Plan.

All applicants for Special Guardianship Orders must give their local authority 3 months notice in writing before they lodge their application with the Court.

Where a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) may be an outcome in an application for a Care Order, the Court can only make an SGO if there is a report which incorporates all the matters set out in the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005.

This report must include information about the child, the child's wishes, the child's birth family and their views, contact arrangements both in the short-term to bridge the transition from being a Looked After Child to becoming a child subject of an SGO, and in the long term, the prospective special guardian and recommendations about whether or not an order should be made. The local authority is expected to start work on this report as soon as possible after receiving the notice. The court cannot make an order without having received a report. It is essential that the potential Guardian understands what an SGO means.

If there have been findings on threshold of parental risk, the applicant must know what they are and accept the findings.

Relevant forms and local judicial guidance are available on K drive in K:\Children's Department Shared Area\Forms\Special Guardianship.


2. Who may Apply for a Special Guardianship Order

The following may apply for Special Guardianship Order

  • Anyone with whom the child has lived for three out of the last five years;
  • Anyone who has consent of those with Parental Responsibility for the child;
  • Any person, including the child who has leave of the court to apply;
  • Anyone who holds a Residence Order with respect to the child or, or who has the consent of all those who hold a Residence Order in respect of the child;
  • Any Children's Guardian;
  • Any person who has the consent of the Local Authority where the child is in the care of the Local Authority;
  • A Local Authority foster carer with whom the child has lived for one year immediately preceding the application.


3. Procedure where the Child is not Looked After

Bradford is responsible for preparing court reports when the applicant lives in the Bradford District

3.1 Requests for Information about Special Guardianship

Individuals requesting information about Special Guardianship will be advised to take legal advice. The can also be advised to refer to information produced by other relevant agencies such as the British Agency for Adoption & Fostering.

3.2 Notification and expression of interest

Local authorities must be given 3 months notice of intent to apply for Special Guardianship. Notifications of intent to apply for Special Guardianship must be made in writing. They may be sent to the Local Authority by:

  • Applicants or their solicitors- using form (Form SGO1);
  • The Court when it is considering a Special Guardianship Order as an outcome to matters already before it.

The Children's Initial Contact Point will pass all notifications to the Initial Assessment Team where the child resides.)

Where there is current involvement with a young person the relevant Team manager will determine who will prepare the report for the Court. Arrangements will need to be made to ensure that the necessary checks and background information are obtained.

3.3 Initial action upon receipt of notification

The referrer will be contacted to establish whether an application has been made to a Court or whether a Court is considering Special Guardianship as a possible outcome to a private law application. Details of the Court and case number will be obtained and confirmed in writing with the Court.

3.4 Confirmation of intent and initial information gathering visit 

This is undertaken by a Social Work Care Management team

The purpose of this visit in this is to:

1. Determine that the notification relates to an intended or actual application for a Special Guardianship Order.
2.

Establish necessary background information for preparation of the court report for which the following information is required:

  • Disclosure and Barring Service Checks for the applicants and any adult household members;
  • Medical reports for the applicants;
  • Medical report for the child;
  • Agency checks including CAFCASS for the child and all members of the household;
  • Three personal references for each applicant;
  • Basic information regarding:
  • The child;
  • The child's parents;
  • The applicants;
  • Other members of the applicants household;
  • A brief summary of the child's most recent history.

The social worker will write to prospective applicants to arrange a visit where all adult members of the applicants' household will be present. A copy of the Special Guardianship- Consents & Basic Information (SGO2) will be sent to the prospective applicants with an information pack prior to the visit.

A home visit will be undertaken. The following tasks will be completed during this visit.

  • Clarification that the potential applicants are aware of the meaning of Special Guardianship and its legal implications;
  • Advise potential applicants of the requirements of assessment process and confirm their wish to proceed;
  • The Special Guardianship Consents & Basic Information form (SGO3) will be completed during this visit. 

The assessment process may not proceed until all necessary consents are obtained.

The social worker will pass the completed Special Guardianship Consents & Basic Information to the Area administrative team

3.5 Checking Process 

This process is managed by the Area administrative staff using Procedures for Special Guardianship Front Sheet for Admin (SGO4). This process is started before the case is passed to an allocation team for completion of the Assessment and Report to the Court. 

Background information will be gathered as follows:

Task Process
DBS checks undertaken for all adult members of the applicant's household. Paid for by the Local Authority Area team administrative staff process DBS forms
Medical Reports- applicant. Applicants book medical with GPBAAF Form AH form used. Paid for by applicant

1.

Applicants will be given pack during home visit. This contains:

  • Information letter to applicant (SGO6);
  • Patients' Rights Under The

Access To Medical Report Act 1988.

Consent to medical examination & access to medical records-

  • BAAF Form AH;
  • SAE to GP (SGO7).
2. Applicants book medical with GP & advise Area team administrative staff of date
3. Medical with GP
4. GP send completed medical from to Medical Advisor
5. Medical Advisor completes medical from and returns to Area administrative staff
Medical Reports- child. BAAF Form C used.  1.

Consent- This must be obtained before a medical can take place. The onus is on the applicant to obtain written consent from a person with Parental Responsibility. The applicant will be given:

  • SGO8 Letter to applicant about child's medical;
  • SGO9 Information for holder of Parental Responsibility- re consent for child's medical;
  • SGO10 Consent form for child's medical.
2. Area administrative staff contact Paediatrician (SGO12) in writing to request medical.
3. The LACT book the medical with a paediatrician and confirm arrangements with Area team administration.
4.

Area team administration:

  • Send child's current carer written details of booking for the medical;
  • Send copy of BAAF Form C to paediatrician's secretary.
5.

Medical-

  • It is the responsibility of the applicant to take the child to the medical.
  • The paediatrician sends complete form C to medical Advisor
6. Medical Advisor complete summary to form C and returns to Area team Admin.
Agency checks on all members of the applicants household Process undertaken by Area administrative staff (SGO5)
Personal references Request for references letter sent by Area administrative staff. (SGO11) Enclose leaflet re Special Guardianship

3.6 Special Guardianship Support

NB For Children who were not Looked After or previously Looked After, see Special Guardian Support Services Part 2 Children Who Were "Not Looked After When the Special Guardianship Order was made".

The Local Authority may complete an assessment of Special Guardianship Support Needs (See Special Guardianship Support Procedure) if requested by the prospective Special Guardian, child, parent or any other person the local authority considers appropriate or if the social worker considers the child to be a Child in Need. This assessment will be undertaken using the Combined Initial and Core Assessment format. There may be circumstances when Special Guardianship and Adoption Support Team of the Adoption and Fostering Unit is consulted about issues raised during the assessment.

Where the child is identified as being a Child in Need a Child in Need Plan will be prepared. See Child in Need Plans and Reviews Procedure.

Special Guardians are expected to support children from their own resources including state benefits, however, as with any child assessed as being 'in need', consideration may be given as to whether there are exceptional circumstances that may require further financial assistance. See Financial Assistance to Children in Need Procedure.

3.7 Assessment and Preparation of the report to the Court

The report will be completed using the Report to the Court Regarding Special Guardianship Order Application (see form on K Drive). This report will provides and analysis of the circumstances of the application and makes a recommendation as to whether a Special Guardianship or any other Order should be made. See Court Reports Guidance, Section 3 - Special Guardianship - Matters to be dealt with in Report for the Court.

Local authorities are expected to ensure that the social worker who prepares the report is suitably qualified and experienced.

In order to complete this report the social worker will:

  • Seek the views of the child's parents and any other persons with Parental Responsibility. This includes unmarried fathers, whether or not they have Parental Responsibility. It is expected that individuals will be seen in person and all reasonable steps will be taken to locate parents;
  • Interview the applicants;
  • Interview the child and seek their views about the proposed Special Guardianship Order in a manner appropriate to the child's development;
  • Interview all members of the applicant's household;
  • Seek the views of the child's relatives or other significant persons to the child;
  • Consult and seek the views of any other relevant agencies who have been involved with the child, the applicants, members of the applicants' family, the child's parents or significant relatives of the child;
  • Inspect the property including sleeping arrangements for its suitability to meet the child(ren)'s needs.

3.8 Lodging the Report

Sufficient copies for all the parties and the Court of the completed report will be lodged with the Court in accordance with any instructions issues by the court.

As the social worker who prepared the report is acting as an "officer of the court" there is no requirement to give copies of the report to either the applicant or the respondents. It is however good practice to advise parties to the proceedings and relevant others of the report recommendations.

3.9 The Social Worker at Court

The social worker is not a party to the proceedings and has the status of a witness. Therefore they do not need legal representation. There may however be instances where they may wish to take legal advice either during the preparation of the report or prior to attending the court.

3.10 Suspension of Report Preparation and Incomplete Reports

The social worker will consult their line manager if they consider that applicants are unreasonably withholding information and/or fail to consent to the social worker obtaining information necessary for the completion of the report. In such circumstances the Team Manager may make the decision to suspend the report preparation and notify in the applicants in writing of this decision.

If an application has already been lodged with the Court, the social worker would submit a report to the Court explaining the reasons why an incomplete report has been submitted.


4. Applications for Special Guardianship Orders Involving Children who are Looked After

a.

Requests for Information about Special Guardianship

See Assessment of Foster Carers or others who wish to Acquire Parental Responsibility Procedure - Initial Discussion

b.

Notification and expression of interest

See Assessment of Foster Carers or others who wish to Acquire Parental Responsibility Procedure - Notification of Interest

c.

Checking Process 

See Assessment of Foster Carers or others who wish to Acquire Parental Responsibility Procedure

The following checks be required both for the Fostering Panel that considers Special Guardianship as a permanence option as well as for the court report.

  • DBS checks for all members of the adult members of the household;
  • Update medical for applicants;
  • Update medical for child;
  • Agency Checks.

In addition the two independent referees will be interviewed for the court report

d.

Special Guardianship Support

Special Guardian Support Procedure - Section 6, Process Assessment for Special Guardianship Support before an Order is made

See Assessment of Foster Carers or others who wish to Acquire Parental Responsibility Procedure Special Guardianship and Residence Order Allowance- Fostering Panel

e.

Assessment and Preparation of the report to the Court 

See Assessment of Foster Carers or others who wish to Acquire Parental Responsibility Procedure Special Guardianship and Residence Order Allowance- Fostering Panel

The format of the report to the court will depend upon information currently available to the court.

  • Where Special Guardianship is an outcome to the discharge of a Care Order- a direction from the Court will be sought as to the format of the report;
  • Direct application for a Special Guardianship Order.

The report will be completed using the Report to the Court Regarding Special Guardianship Order Application (see form on K Drive). This report will provide an analysis of the circumstances of the application and makes a recommendation as to whether a Special Guardianship or any other Order should be made. See Court Reports Guidance, Section 3 - Special Guardianship - Matters to be dealt with in Report for the Court.

f.

Lodging the Report

Sufficient copies for all the parties and the Court of the completed report will be lodged with the Court in accordance with any instructions issued by the court.

Legal advice will be sought as to who is provided with copies of the court.

g.

The Social Worker at Court

The social worker will require legal representation as may the applicant. See Court Reports Guidance, Section 3 - Special Guardianship - Matters to be dealt with in Report for the Court.

End