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Special Guardianship - An Agenda for Change

View profile for Julia Shaikh
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In August and November 2019, I wrote articles considering whether Special Guardianship Orders required reform. The case of Re P-S (Children) [2018] EWCA Civ 1407 spurred the need for change.

Developments continue within this area of law. Recently, a training film was launched in relation to special guardians for professionals at an online event on Monday, 15 March 2021. The  speakers included; Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division; Josh MacAlister, Chair of the Independent Review of Children's Social Care; and Krish Kandiah, Chair of the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board.

The film - Special Guardianship – An Agenda for Change, was made jointly with CoramBAAF, the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research at Lancaster University and Kinship (formerly Grandparents Plus).

To view the film search the link below:

https://corambaaf.org.uk/updates/new-film-mark-launch-agenda-change-special-guardianship

Opening the virtual launch event, Sir Andrew McFarlane outlined key changes in the Best Practice Guidance, and the ambitious national training programme starting in April 2021 to ensure the reform is delivered consistently across England and Wales.

The 'Best Practice Guidance' drafted under the authority of the Sir Andrew includes recommendations to allow special guardians access to legal aid (currently discretionary) to cover costs for legal advice. Special guardians should also have access to representation at court as well as a comprehensive individual support plan detailing what the Local Authority will provide to help the carer and the child as they grow up.

To view the ‘Best Practice Guidance’, search the link below:

https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/PLWG-SGO-Final-Report-1.pdf

There is also a sister film, The First Day of Forever – becoming a special guardian, which is a moving first-hand account of what it is really like to be a special guardian.

To view the short film search the link below:

https://corambaaf.org.uk/updates/special-guardians-speak-out-about-lack-support-during-proceedings-new-film

Director of Policy, Research and Development at CoramBAAF John Simmonds, who is featured in the film, stated:

"Special Guardianship has seen a remarkable growth in its use since it was introduced in 2005. There is an urgent agenda for change. Every child subject to the Order must get the services and resources they and their carers need to ensure that they fully recover from any maltreatment they have experienced and go on to have a loving, enriched and full life of opportunity."

Professor Judith Harwin, of Lancaster University, stated:

"The research is clear – special guardianship benefits vulnerable children, their families and society at large. Yet it is an undervalued and under-supported form of care. With more children leaving care on special guardianship orders than adoption orders, there is an urgent need to focus on ensuring these children and their carers are properly supported. Now is the time to act on the evidence and to invest in special guardianship."

Dr Lucy Peake, the CEO of Kinship, stated:

"Special guardianship is a positive option for children whose parents are unable to care for them, but too many special guardians are struggling to access the support they and their children need. They need independent advice, financial allowances and tailored support services. Special guardians are being pushed to the brink. If we don't support them there's a real risk that they won't cope and more children will enter the care system."

If you have any questions in relation to becoming a special guardian, contact our care team who will be happy to assist you - careteam@johnsonastills.com  or please contact the office on 0116 255 4855 (Leicester) or 01509 610 312 (Loughborough).