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5.3.4 Special Guardianship Order Support

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter outlines the procedures for the arrangements, assessment, provision and review of Special Guardianship or services to persons affected by Special Guardianship.

The special Guardianship Regulations set out who when assessment should be carried out Bradford's policy seeks to differentiate between circumstances where a Special Guardianship order is made in respect of a child who was previously Looked After and those children who were not previously "Looked After". This chapter therefore describes the separate arrangements for previously "Looked After" and those children who were not previously "Looked After

Special Guardian Support Services are based within Adoption Support Team, based at the Aire Building, Shipley

LEGISLATION

The Adoption and Children Act 2002

Special Guardianship Regulations 2005

Special Guardianship Guidance 2005

Children Act 1989

This chapter was updated in January 2010


Contents

  1. Part 1: Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children
  2. Part 2: Children Who Were Not Looked After When the Special Guardianship Order was made


Part 1: Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children

  1. Entitlement to Assessment for Special Guardianship Support
  2. Definition of Special Guardian Support
  3. Looked After Children - When to and who to Assess for the Need for Special Guardian Support
  4. Which Local Authority Should Carry out the Assessment?
  5. Post Assessment - Which Local Authority Should Provide Support?
  6. Process of Assessment
  7. Referral for Special Guardian Support and Assessment of Need where there is a Special Guardian Order
  8. Existing Special Guardianship Support Plan
  9. Financial Support
  10. Review of Special Guardian Support
  11. Special Guardian Support in Relation to Contact
  12. Roles and Responsibilities of Special Guardian Support Service and Care Management Teams


1. Entitlement to Assessment for Special Guardianship Support

Local authority must make arrangements for the assessment and provision of special guardianship support services

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 (but only in relation to their need for support with contact and/or discussion groups).

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 on-going 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.

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 on-going 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.


2. Definition of Special Guardianship Support

Local authorities are required to make a range of support services available in their area to meet the needs of people affected by special guardianship but the local authority should take into account the similar services already being delivered in their area,

Special guardianship support services should not be seen in isolation from mainstream services. It is vital to ensure that children and families involved in special guardianship arrangements are assisted in accessing mainstream services and are aware of their entitlement to social security benefits and tax credits as appropriate.

Special Guardianship support is defined as :

  1. Financial support;
  2. Services to enable groups of children for whom a special guardianship order is in force or in respect of whom is being formally considered, special guardians and prospective special guardians, and parents of the child to discuss matters relating to special guardianship;
  3. 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;
  4. Therapeutic services for the child;
  5. Assistance for the purpose of ensuring the continuance of the relationship between the child and his 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;
  6. Counselling, advice and information.


3. Looked After Children - When to and who to Assess for the Need for Special Guardian Support

The Special Guardian support needs of all parties to Special Guardianship must be borne in mind at all stages in the Special Guardian Lifecycle.

Assessments must take place when


4. Which Local Authority should Carry Out the Assessment?

The table below sets out which local authority has responsibility for carrying out the assessment of need for Special Guardianship support, and in what circumstances.

Circumstance Responsibility for Assessment
Child being Looked After by Bradford MDC and in respect of whom an Special Guardianship plan is being considered Bradford
Child was Looked After by and placed by Bradford with Special Guardians living/or moved outside the District Bradford has responsibility at the time of the placement and for up to 3 years after the Special Guardianship Order is made, and then the local authority where the holder of Special Guardianship Order reside will have the responsibility in relation to any subsequent requests.

This equally applies to another local authority where a child living in the district was Looked After prior to a Special Guardianship Order being made

Looked After Child is placed for Special Guardianship by another authority with a family who live in the Bradford Metropolitan District area The placing authority is responsible for the assessment of support needs for three years following the making of the Special Guardianship Order


5. Post Assessment - Which Local Authority Should Provide Support?

The local authority responsible for carrying out the assessment of need will propose how any identified support need may be provided where the Special Guardians live.

Where on-going financial support and/or supporting contact arrangements have been agreed by Bradford before the Guardianship Order was made, the responsibility to provide such support will remain with Bradford.


6. Process of Assessment

In all cases where an assessment is required, the social worker should follow the guidance set out in the Assessment Framework. The assessment should take account of the Special Guardianship context and, where the assessment relates to the child, all the developmental needs of the child should be considered. These will include health, education and emotional needs, and contact issues. The relevant education authority and health trust should be consulted as necessary.

Where applications involve foster carers or others who are not supported by the Local Authority it may be appropriate to carry out an assessment if the foster parents have made a direct application or in cases where the child was previously Looked After and at the conclusion of the care proceedings a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order was made but these will be rare events. Early advice should be sought from both the Care Management and Adoption & Fostering Unit Service Managers who will exercise discretion in determine how the agency responds to the application. In making the decision consideration will be given to the particular needs of the child and the applicants and whether this may be more appropriately carried out by a Child in Need assessment.

6.1 Consideration of Special Guardian support needs leading to the compilation of a Special Guardian Support Plan

The needs of all parties to Special Guardianship for support following placement and the making of the Special Guardianship Order must be borne in mind from the start of planning for the child. Consideration of support needs will evolve and strengthen from the earliest stages of permanence planning for the child. The needs of the child's birth parents, other birth relatives, and other persons with whom the child has had a significant relationship must also be considered from the outset.

A Special Guardianship Support Plan will need to be compiled when Special Guardianship is being considered as the permanence outcome- see See Assessment of Foster Carers or others who wish to Acquire Parental Responsibility Procedure

  1. In respect of the child:

    The child's Permanence Plan will have been in formed by the Single Assessment and will outline the child's current and anticipated future needs as well as outlined the current and anticipated support needs of a permanence placement. Where the child is subject to an Adoption Plan such needs will be identified in the Child's Permanence Report. Documentation used for Family Finding can provide useful information;

    Consideration will be given as to whether the Single Assessment will require updating;
  2. In respect of the prospective Special Guardians:

    Will be informed both verbally and in writing about local authorities' statutory duty to assess for Special Guardian support needs and the ensuing provision of support services. This will include an assessment and proposal of eligibility for financial support see On-going Payments in respect of - Adoption Support, Special Guardianship Support and Residence Order Allowances Guidance;

    The prospective Special Guardians are likely to know the child and their background however it must not be assumed that they have full and complete knowledge. They will be provided with all relevant documents concerning the child in order that they have a full understanding of the child's history and likely future needs. Prospective Special Guardians will also have the opportunity to meet with others who have knowledge of the child including previous carers, health professionals etc.;

    The assessment will consider the carers circumstances and their current and future support needs including members of the carer's household and the child's birth family with particular regard to contact.
  3. In respect of the birth parents, birth siblings of the child, other birth relatives and other persons whom the local authority considers the child has a significant relationship:

    The local authority has a responsibility to ensure that parents, relatives and significant others are informed about the proposed Special Guardianship and that their views are sought particularly in respect of contact. This may involve liaison with agencies who are currently involved with parents, relatives and significant others.

6.2 Preparation of the Special Guardianship Support Plan

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

i. A Special Guardianship Support Plan will set out:
  • The immediate and longer-term needs (as far as they can be ascertained at this point in time), of the child, the Special Guardian and members of their household and the birth family( in relation to contact).The child's needs will be set out under the five outcomes of Every Child Matters;
  • The objectives of the plan and the key services to be provided;
  • The timescales for achieving the plan;
  • Those responsible for implementing the plan and the respective roles of others; what should be provided, when and by whom;
  • The procedures that will be put in place to review the services to be provided and the plan;
  • The criteria that will be used to evaluate the success of the plan.
ii.

Person who must compile the Plan

  • The child's social worker and if current foster carers their supervising social worker.
iii.

Consultations

  • In completing the Plan, the guidance of the Team Manager Adoption Support should be sought;
  • The Team Manager Adoption Support must be consulted if there is a need for Financial Support. Guidance- on-going Payments in respect of Special Guardianship Support and Allowance;
  • Where there may be a need for services from such agencies as a Clinical Commissioning Group, CAMHS or Local Education Authority, the social worker must consult the relevant agency before preparing the plan;
  • Where the prospective Special Guardian resides in the area of another local authority, the agencies in that authority's area will need to be consulted as to what services may be available for Special Guardians;
  • Special Guardianship Support Services should not replicate or duplicate the mainstream services which may be available to the Special Guardians. If there are difficulties in providing a multi-agency response, the Team Manager, Adoption Support should be consulted and may act as advocate, e.g. liaising with education and health in order to implement relevant support needs once a child is placed;
  • Special Guardianship Support will be subject to the approval of the Designated Manager (Special Guardianship Support). Local arrangements will determine whether any additional approval is required for the payment of financial support.

6.3 Prospective Special Guardians agreement

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)( the Team Manager, Adoption 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.

Any changes to the proposed plan would be negotiated between the Special Guardians and the Team Manager Adoption Support

In the situation where a Special Guardian resides in another local authority area liaison should take place with the local authority's designated manager for Special Guardianship Support and a preliminary discussion take place to ascertain details of:

  • General Special Guardianship support services which are offered e.g. support groups;
  • Local knowledge of specialist provision e.g. Child Development Unit, CAMHS.

The written agreement of the Special Guardians should be obtained to refer them to the authority in which they live, especially if that authority is likely to offer a service from the outset of the placement.

Any agreement by both the local authorities to offer services to the family will be contained within the Special Guardianship Support Plan and will include funding arrangements and timescales for that.


7. Referral for Special Guardian Support and Assessment of Need where there is a Special Guardian Order

This section refers to referrals for Special Guardianship Support Needs and Assessment of Need made at any time following the making of an Special Guardianship Order.

7.1 Need for assessment

The assessment of Special Guardianship Support needs must include the child, the special guardian and the child's parent. An assessment of Special Guardian Support needs may be undertaken of any person whom the local authority considers has a significant and on-going relationship. This would routinely include siblings, grandparents and other children of the Special Guardian.

7.2 Referral

Requests for Special Guardianship Support may be received by the Admin. Officer (Adoption Support), a member of the Adoption Support Team or any worker who had previous involvement with the special guardian (members of their family) or birth relative but referral details must be passed onto and completed by the Admin. Officer (Adoption Support).

7.3 Allocation

The Team Manager Adoption Support will consider allocation of the request and other factors such as urgency of response.

7.4 Timescale

Unless there is a situation requiring immediate allocation, a letter is sent to the person requesting the service, outlining the likely timescale for a response.

7.5 Assessment

The allocated worker will undertake the assessment by interview. Occasionally it may be undertaken by correspondence, for example, in relation to financial support.

Although the assessment may appear to centre round a specific issue, the Special Guardianship support worker must bear in mind the range of issues identified by the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need'.

The Single Assessment must be completed within 45 days from the point of referral. See Bradford Single Assessment Procedure.

The Single Assessment must look at the need for Special Guardianship support services.

The assessing worker will usually need to interview the person being assessed - where this is a child, the Special Guardian will also need to be interviewed depending on the case and the age, understanding and wishes of the child. In any assessment the child should be seen. If it is not considered appropriate to interview the child, this should be discussed with the Special Guardianship Support Manager and the reasons fully recorded.

The recommendations of the Assessment will be considered by the Team Manager Adoption Support whose signature to the form must be obtained.


8. Existing Special Guardianship Support Plan

For annual reviews of Financial Support see Section 9, Financial Support.

8.1 Urgent cases

  • The assessment process should not cause unnecessary delay where there is an urgent need for service. A service may be provided before the completion of the assessment process where the Team Manager Adoption Support considers there is an urgent need for service. A review of provision will be held as soon as is practicably possible.


9. Financial Support

Financial support is intended to supplement any existing means of support available to Special Guardians and the child or children /becoming subject to Special Guardianship. Special Guardians should be given advice regarding making application for entitlements to benefits, tax credits and allowances, and these should be taken into account when considering amounts of financial support. Financial support cannot duplicate any other payment available to the Special Guardian.

There are two forms of financial support that can be paid to Special Guardians:

  1. On-going Payments- these are regular payments made to support Special Guardianship when the criteria for eligibility are met- see On-going Payments in Respect of Adoption Support and Special Guardianship Support
  2. Exceptional payments in the form of time limited or single payments.

9.1 Circumstances when Financial Support may be made and eligibility criteria

There are number of criteria that must be satisfied

  1. Where it is necessary to ensure that Special Guardians can look after a child;
  2. Where the child needs special care which requires a greater expenditure of resources by reason of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties or the continuing consequences of neglect - and the child's condition is serious and long-term;
  3. Where the local authority considers it appropriate to contribute towards any legal costs, including court fees, of a special guardian or prospective special guardian with-
    1. The making of a special guardianship order or any application to vary or discharge such an order;
    2. An application for an order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 (Contact Order, a prohibited steps order, a Child Arrangements Order or specific issue order).
  4. Where the local authority consider it appropriate to make a contribution to the expenditure necessary for the purpose of accommodating and maintaining the child, including the provision of furniture and domestic equipment, alterations to and adaptation of the home, provision of means of transport and provision of clothing, toys and other items necessary for the purpose of looking after the child.

9.2 Assessment for Financial Support

An assessment for financial support for a child who is subject to a Special Guardianship Order may be looked at as a single request or as part of a full assessment of Special Guardianship support needs.

The amount of payment to Special Guardians will be determined by an assessment of their means. This will take account of the Special Guardians income and resources (excluding their home), reasonable outgoings and commitments, and the financial needs and resources of the child. Note- An assessment of means will not be undertaken in the circumstances described in paragraph 9.1(iii)

9.3 Notification

See On-going Payments in Respect of Adoption Support and Special Guardianship Support

9.4 Terms and Conditions

See On-going Payments in Respect of Adoption Support and Special Guardianship Support

9.5 Commencement of Payment

See On-going Payments in Respect of Adoption Support and Special Guardianship Support

9.6 Annual review of Support

See On-going Payments in Respect of Adoption Support and Special Guardianship Support

9.7 Suspension of Payment

See On-going Payments in Respect of Adoption Support and Special Guardianship Support

9.8 Ending of financial support

See On-going Payments in Respect of Adoption Support and Special Guardianship Support


10. Review of Special Guardian Support

A Review of the Special Guardianship Support Plan will be conducted:

  • At intervals agreed with the Team Manager Adoption Support, but at least every 12 months;
  • At the request of a Special Guardian, child or parent;
  • Where there is a change in circumstances that may affect the provision of Special Guardianship Support Services.

The Team Manager Adoption Support will decide on the format and content of any such review, which will depend on the circumstances of the case. It may refer to only one element of the Plan or be relatively minor in which case an exchange of correspondence may be sufficient.

The process of assessment for the review is the is described above in Section 7.5, Assessment

Where the local authority proposes to vary or terminate the Special Guardianship Support Plan the Special Guardian or any other person affected by the change must be given written notice and the opportunity to make representation within a timescale outlined in the notice.


11. Special Guardianship Support in Relation to Contact

The need for Special Guardianship Support regarding contact will be different in each child's situation and is likely to change over time. The child's needs in respect of contact and possible support plan will be identified during the Single Assessment of Special Guardianship Support. Reviews of the Special Guardianship Support Plan or requests for further Assessment of Special Guardianship Support should consider contact needs and how they may be addressed in the Special Guardianship Support Plan.

The Special Guardianship Support Service can provide a range of support to children, Special Guardian's, parents and any others the local authority considers appropriate in respect of contact. Such support can include:

  • Advice and guidance;
  • Mediation;
  • Financial support- this would not be subject to financial assessment when paid as an Exceptional Payment.


12. Roles and Responsibilities of Special Guardian Support Service and Care Management Teams

The Adoption Support Team based at Aire Building are also responsible for the Coordination of Special Guardianship Assessments.

There are a number of situations where young people who are subject to Special guardianship present with support related needs and issues of potential risk either in terms of safeguarding or that the young person's care arrangements are at risk of disruption. The arrangements outlined below give guidance on the respective roles and responsibilities of both the area based Care Management teams and the Adoption Support / Special Guardianship Support Service This group of children must be regarded as having the same right of access to welfare services as any other children in the community.

In those situations where both the Special Guardianship Support Service and area staff are potentially involved, the issue of case ownership becomes crucial because it equates to decision-making responsibility.

There are a number of indicators suggesting a placement is either disrupting and / or there is a possibility of significant harm arising. For example:

  • Negative attribution- the child is blamed for the family's difficulties;
  • Physical abuse- threats or actual;
  • Emotional abuse to the extent that it equates to significant harm;
  • Disrupting placement where there is no evidence of alternative support;
  • Risk of significant harm or placement disruption:

This can be divided into 'non emergency' and 'emergency' situations

Where the Adoption /Special Guardianship Support Service are working with a family and there are growing concerns that a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, or the placement may be at increasing risk of disruption, the Adoption /Special Guardianship Support Service case holder will undertake a Single Assessment of the overall situation and the child's needs.

At the conclusion of this assessment it may be necessary to consider the involvement of an area team due to the severity of concerns regarding the child's welfare and the lack, or inappropriateness, of alternative resources. If this is the case the Designated Manager Special Guardian Support Service will liaise with their relevant area Team Manager to arrange a discussion to decide how this is to be managed.

Up to that point case responsibility will continue to have been held by Special Guardianship Support Service. If an area team is to become involved then a decision will be made as to which team will have case responsibility. If case responsibility is passed to the area team the Adoption /Special Guardianship Support Service may continue their involvement and support alongside the incoming area team.

In situations where there are either concerns that a child may be at risk of significant harm or that the placement appears to be at immediate risk of disruption, potentially warranting the child becoming Looked After, the area team will take case responsibility and undertake the investigation and assessment. The Adoption /Special Guardianship Support worker may assist /be involved in that process.

Decision Making

Any decision regarding a child becoming Looked After, or a child becoming the subject of a Child Protection Conference, rests with Care Management. It is recognised that it is outside the remit of Adoption/Special Guardianship Support Service to have responsibility for such decisions although, given their involvement with the families, they will play a crucial role in advising the decision making process.

Where an child / young person is at risk of becoming Looked After the matter will normally be presented to the Family Support Panel. The area worker will be responsible for making the application and completing the relevant documentation. It is expected that both the area worker and the Adoption/ Special Guardianship Support worker will attend panel, as each will have a significant role to play in reaching appropriate decisions about the welfare of the child.

Area team case with request for Special Guardianship Support Service involvement

Where a local care management team is involved with a child who lives with Special Guardians and their assessment indicates a need for a possible Special Guardianship Support Service, the Team Manager Adoption Support should be contacted for consultation and a discussion will decide if the involvement of a worker from the Adoption/Special Guardianship Support Service is indicated and will determine roles and responsibilities:

  • Where there are on-going issues of risk management or placement breakdown the Care management team will maintain case responsibility with the Adoption /Special Guardianship Support worker undertaking an assessment of any particular Special Guardianship support needs, contributing as appropriate.
  • Where there are on-going child in need issues that require addressing through multi-agency input, case responsibility will remain with the Care Management Team with the Adoption/ Special Guardianship Support Service Worker making a contribution as described above.
  • Where the issues appear to be related to Special Guardianship support needs and there are no areas of risk or complex multi-agency intervention that require input from Care management, then the Adoption/ Special Guardianship Support Service will assume case responsibility.


Part 2: Children Who Were Not Looked After When the Special Guardianship Order was made

Overview

The Special Guardianship Regulations makes a distinction between when an assessment must be provided in respect of " relevant children - that is those children who are either Looked After or were previously Looked After prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order. Bradford's Special Guardianship Policy reflects this. It is important that children who are not (or were not) looked after are not unfairly disadvantaged by this approach.

It is anticipated that the needs of Special Guardians and children (not formerly looked after) can usually be met through universal provision or under Section 17 of the Children Act where the child is seen as a Child in Need. However an assessment for Special Guardianship support may be undertaken under those regulations where this is felt to be most appropriate

When to make an assessment

The assessment for Special Guardian Support Needs for a child who was not looked after is most likely to undertaken as part of the preparation of a report for the court when an application has been made for a Special Guardianship Order. The assessment will be undertaken by the local Social Care- Care Management Office where the applicant resides.

Where a request is made for the assessment of Special Guardianship Support Needs is made in respect of a child or who was not formally Looked After the assessment will be undertaken by the local Social Care- Care Management Office where the applicant resides. See Part 1 - Looked After Children and Previously Looked After Children

How the assessment is undertaken

It is Bradford's policy that the assessment of Special Guardianship Support Needs for children not formerly Looked After will usually be undertaken within the provision of the Children Act 1989 and a Core Assessment may be undertaken where the request for service concerns a child- see Section 47 Enquiries Procedure.

Requests for a service where the request concerns an adult (e.g. a parent with query regarding contact) will be treated as a "contact". In such circumstances the provision of service will be restricted to providing advice and information.

There may be circumstances when the assessing social worker consults the Designated Manager- Special Guardianship Support.

Provision of Special Guardianship Support Services

Where the Single Assessment determines that services should be provided a Child in Need Plan should be completed see Child in need Plans and Reviews Procedure.

Local Authorities are required to make a range of services available to the needs of people affected by Special Guardianship. The table below outlines what these services are and how they may be met through a Child in Need Plan.

Type of Support How the need may be addressed
financial support
services to enable people affected by special guardianship to discuss matters relating to special guardianship including children, prospective special guardians, special guardians & parents
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
  • Advice
  • Signposting to:

    Relate

    Family Mediation
  • Legal Advice
therapeutic services for the child
  • Sign posting or referral to local services that support emotional wellbeing

assistance for the purpose of ensuring the continuance of the relationship between the child and his special guardian or prospective special guardian

counselling, advice and information
  • Will depend on need
  • Signposting for information

    Health, Well-being and Care

There may be circumstances when the assessing social worker consults the Financial support cannot duplicate any other payment available to the Special Guardian.

Designated Manager- Special Guardianship Support.

End