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Special Guardianship Orders and Supervision Orders
A national study was conducted in relation to Special Guardianship Orders and Supervision Orders.
Special Guardianship Orders often involve family members stepping in to look after children who cannot live with their birth parents and these Orders have become far more common over the past decade.
A Supervision Order is an Order which requires a child to be supervised by Social Services whilst still in the family home or placed with a relative.
According to the national study, the 26-week statutory timescale for completing Care Proceedings has resulted in rushed assessments for Special Guardianship Orders and Supervision Orders and in some cases premature decisions have been made. It was found that at least one in five children allowed to return to potentially dangerous homes under Supervision Orders are back in Court within five years having being subject to further significant harm.
Professionals including, social workers, Local Authority lawyers and Cafcass officers all expressed concern about the timeframe and felt that they could complete assessments more thorough with more time.
Research was undertaken from case files from four councils around the UK for 210 children placed on Supervision Orders and 107 children with Special Guardianship Orders. It concluded that for the majority of children the placements were positive however, 6% of children experienced neglect, 4% had been subject to further proceedings and 10% had their placement permanently changed. Of the 210 children placed on supervision orders 97% were suffering from significant harm at the point the case was brought to court; 76% was a result of neglect, 65% was a result of emotional abuse and 44% was a result of physical abuse.
The study concluded that Supervision Orders remain exceptional as there are very few applications made for Supervision Orders. The study suggested that Supervision Orders could be managed under a Child Protection framework with more intensive visits to the family.
In relation to Special Guardianship Orders, the research concluded that these Orders remain a very valuable option. However the assessment process needs to be strengthened to ensure a robust decision is made regarding the impact on the child. The study also reported that factors should be identified that would justify extending cases beyond the 26 week time limit.
To read the final report for the national study, Click here!
An example of a Special Guardianship Order being rushed and not properly concluded can be seen In the Case of 18-month-old Keegan Downer, flawed assessments and rushed decision making saw her placed under the care of a special guardian who went on to assault and murder her. A Review found that her death could not have been predicted but the assaults against her could have been prevented if the placement had been better supervised. Following the Supervision Order, Keegan received only one visit from the health visitor and was reported to have become almost invisible to professionals. From the case review it was unclear why there had been no further visits from Social Services after the Special Guardianship Order was made. It was also found that close supervision and proper management was not always evident during the case. To find out more about the serious case review of this case, Click Here!
Here at Emery Johnson Astills Solicitors we have dedicated Family and Care teams. We can offer advice, assistance and representation. If you have any further questions or queries and require legal advice, please contact the office on 0116 255 4855 (Leicester) or 01509610312 (Loughborough).