For many of our clients. we have had to advise that a Special Guardianship report, preceding the appointment of a Special Guardian, can often be lacking. In particular, the sections regarding financial support for prospective Special Guardians and contact plans for contact between parents and the child often require additional work before a case reaches the court. The Family Justice Working Group has recently published recommendations as to much needed reform in respect to Special Guardianship Orders.
The 70-page report sets out the recommendations in full and is available at:
The recommendations aim to improve the quality of assessments and ensure those who are going to be Special Guardians have adequate training before taking on this responsibility.
The main recommendations to come out of the report were as follows:
- Where there is no prior connection between the child and the prospective carer, the local authority should consider an Interim Care Order at the earliest opportunity before an application for a Special Guardianship Order is made.
- There needed to be better training provided by Local Authorities for those about to take on Special Guardianship.
- There needed to be a more comprehensive reports undertaken to include sufficient time to provide for contact and observation with the prospective Special Guardian and to consider increasing the length of time before the report is finalised in cases where more time is needed to build relationships.
- There also needs to be a renewed emphasis on parental contact, with careful consideration given to the level, duration and level of supervision required, rather that it simply being left to the discretion of the Special Guardian.
The recommendations have now been presented to the President of the Family Court. It is hoped that the President will take on board these recommendations and hands down suitable guidance to courts resulting in improved outcomes for both children and Special Guardians alike.