Best Practice Guidance: Special Guardianship Orders March 2021

Best Practice Guidance: Special Guardianship Orders March 2021

If you are completing Special Guardianship assessments, then you will need to read the updated Best Practice Guidance: Special Guardianship Orders March 2021 which has recently been published.

You can find the full report by going to the Family Justice Council

bpg guidance sgo

It is recommended that you read the Best Practice Guidance (BPG): Special Guardianship in full for yourself, it is 31 pages long.

However, you can find a summary of the updated guidance below.

SGO Info is pleased to see Special Guardianship on the agenda, this guidance recognises the challenges in SG Assessment timescales. That this is hindering to the child, the prospective Special Guardians as well as special guardianship assessors.  

My main understanding from this guidance, is that the 26 week court timescales which dictated the completion times for the Special Guardianship Assessment, now recognises the limitations of SG assessment being completed in short timescales within this.

The Best Practice Guidance SGO discusses because of the court timescales that reports were being rushed and of poor quality.

Another area raised is that Special Guardianship applicants often do not have time to process the change during a short, rushed assessment. Before they know it, the assessment is over, and they are literally left holding the baby. There used to be little support for Special Guardians before, thankfully this is changing and you can learn more at SGO Support.

best practice guidance special guardianship

The BPG guidance for special guardianship, highlights what to do when family and friends carers present late into the proceedings. It indicates that time is still needed for full and thorough assessment and that if more time is needed to do so, then an application must be made to the Court to seek an extension beyond the 26 weeks.

The BPG Guidance indicates that the Courts should consider such extensions of care proceedings beyond the 26 weeks and should always take into account the best interests of the child.

Best Practice guidance for special guardianship also discussed delays caused by International assessments being required, taking on board the impact this may have on the 26-week timescale, which would require adjustment to take account of international assessments.

The guidance further highlights that the issuing of Special Guardianship Orders alongside a Supervision Order should no longer be the norm, it should rather be more an exceptional circumstance.

From personal experience, I know that practice in the Local Authorities was attached a Supervision Order to the majority of Special Guardianship Orders.

This happened when there were some concerns about the prospective Special Guardian’s ability, using the Supervision Order for at least the first year, meant that the Local authority remained involved with the Special Guardian to offer support and supervision.

Whilst I agreed that Special Guardians should receive support once an SGO is granted, I was of the view that a Supervision Order did not best serve the family’s needs. This is a practice that I had never felt comfortable with if there were concerns about a prospective Special Guardian, then perhaps the suitability of the care plan needs to be re-addressed or a stronger support plan put into place. I am relieved that making of Supervision Orders has since the last review of regulations, been made to come to a halt.

best practice guidance special guardianship

Here are excerpts from the published Best Practice Guidance SGO which highlight some of the above points:-

Best Practice Guidance: Special guardianship orders March 2021

The BPG will help families to know what they should be able to expect from children’s services departments and the Family Court when a special guardianship assessment is being undertaken, a Special Guardianship Support Plan (SGSP) is being prepared and the court is being invited to make a special guardianship order.

The key themes of this BPG are:

i. the assessment of a proposed SG should be thorough and comprehensive and evidence and experience informed;

ii. the SGSP should be comprehensive and set out the support and services to be provided to the child and the prospective SG as set out in the regulation;

iii. where there is little or no prior connection/relationship between the child and the prospective SG, it is very likely to be in the child’s best interests to be cared for on an interim basis by the prospective SG in order to establish a meaningful relationship with the child;

iv. the SGSP should be based upon the lived experience of the child and the lived experience of the prospective SG;

v. the SGSP should set out the contact arrangements between the child and the parent(s) and should include (i) the type of contact which is to take place, (ii) the frequency and duration of contact, (iii) who is to be responsible for making the arrangements of contact, (iv) what practical arrangements need to be provided for to facilitate contact and (v) what professional support and assistance, if any, will be provided to the prospective special guardian; and, vi. save for cogent (strong and clear) reasons, a supervision order should not be made alongside an SGO

What has changed since SGO’s were introduced

Since the implementation in December 2005 of SGOs, a review was undertaken in 2015 by the DfE.

That review focussed on growing concerns in respect of:

 i. rushed or poor-quality assessments being submitted to the court;

ii. potentially risky placements being made.

For example, where the SGO is made in conjunction with a supervision order because of some doubt about the SG’s ability to care for the child in the long term; iii. inadequate support for SGs, both before placements are finalised and when needs emerge during the placement.

What does the BPG say with regard to Special Guardianship

Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, issued interim guidance specifically to address the lawful extension of care proceedings beyond 26 weeks and to the conclusion of proceedings when special guardianship is being considered as an option

The timetable for completing proceedings within 26 weeks then severely limits: (1) the time available to address and resolve the care proceedings application; (2) the preparation of the prospective SG and their appropriate engagement in the care proceedings; (3) the provision of interim support to address the immediate issues in the care of the child; (4) the preparation and submission of the assessment / report to court, based on the direct experience of the day-to-day care of the child

Special guardianship is a highly significant option, but the evidence strongly indicates that the primary duties and responsibilities towards the child and the prospective SG 20 Section 1, CA 1989. have become compromised by a system that is being driven by the statutory duty to complete proceedings within 26 weeks.

The interim guidance published by the Family Justice Council and approved by the President of the Family Division (contained in sub-appendix A) has provided a solution to this issue, by reinforcing the use of the judge’s power to approve an extension beyond 26 weeks, so as to allow the issues set out above to be fully addressed.

The focus will always be on welfare and the fundamental requirement for a robust, evidence-based assessment. That will be the guiding factor as opposed to the statutory timescale of 26 weeks.

As the interim guidance (contained in sub-appendix A) makes clear, that timetable should be dictated by the facts of the particular case. It is anticipated that this will be no more than 12 months from the interim placement of the child with the prospective SG

Best Practice Guidance in relation to SGO’s and Supervision Orders

The purpose of an SGO is to provide a firm foundation on which to build a lifelong permanent relationship between the child and the carer.

A supervision order should not need to be used as a vehicle by which support and services are provided by the local authority.

All support and services to be provided to the SG and to the child by the local authority or other organisations should be set out in the SGSP which should be attached as an appendix to the order.

The cases where it would be appropriate or necessary to make a supervision order alongside an SGO will be very small in number.

The issues that are intended to be addressed in the making of a supervision order are most likely to be achieved through the process as set out above.

Best Practice Guidance SGO: expected timeline when assessing alternative family members during proceedings

As a general proposition, alternative potential carers should be identified at an early stage and, where possible pre-proceedings, by adherence to good practice including convening a Family Group Conference at an early stage.

Assessments should be commenced promptly and be evidence based, balanced and child centred.

In the event that a full assessment is undertaken it will usually require a 3-month timescale.

See the document, Timetabling and timescales for full family and friends’ assessments (with thanks to Natasha Watson, Principal Lawyer Safeguarding and Litigation, and the Family and Friends social work team of Brighton & Hove City Council) and the Family Rights Group assessment template ( Both are a model of good practice and in the absence of any exceptional features, the process and criteria identified should be standard to any special guardianship assessment.”

You can also find a copy of

bpg guidance sgo

Best practice guidance: Special guardianship orders March 2021 in the Resources section on this site.

Special Guardianship Info –  Giving SGO a Voice