Review calls for changes to special guardianship orders (SGOs)

Review calls for changes to special guardianship orders (SGOs)

A recent review commissioned by Nuffield Family Justice Observatory in response to a Court of Appeal call last year is urging significant changes to guidance on special guardianship orders, also known as SGOs.

SGOs are a useful tool available to the courts to provide children with a safe and secure home when they cannot live with their birth parents. These orders are used where adoption may not be appropriate or a ‘live with’ order doesn’t adequately provide support or convey the permanence provided by an SGO. With SGOs the link between a child and their birth family can be maintained. SGOs also allow a range of support to be provided, where required. Use of SGOs by the courts is therefore, understandably, on the rise.

The review was commissioned after calls for evidence-based guidance for the making of SGOs, and was released earlier this month. It proposes changes of practical importance and will ensure that the use of SGOs is appropriate and not a rushed decision towards the end of proceedings. The review covers numerous issues raised by practitioners including training for proposed special guardians, more involvement between a child’s legal representative and prospective special guardians even before proceedings commence, and ensuring that the proposed special guardian has direct experience in caring for the child.

Becoming a special guardian for a child is a very important decision not just for the child but for the special guardian. The order is intended to be permanent and will last until the child turns 18, and should not be seen as an interim measure. It is imperative that anyone considering making an application does so having been fully informed of the long-term and life-changing responsibilities which come with an SGO. If the placement isn’t carefully thought through it could break down which would be disastrous for all involved, especially the child.

All of the proposals in the review are a step in the right direction to ensure that the most appropriate order is made for the child and the family.