Do You Know How Long a Special Guardianship Assessment Report Should Be?

In July 2018, a new practice directive came into force which placed limits on the size of court bundles and in turn, a limit on the size of expert reports.

Special Guardianship Assessment Reports are considered expert reports and therefore they  come under this realm.

As a result, Special Guardianship reports have to meet practice direction 27A criteria.


Unless the court has specifically directed otherwise, being satisfied that such direction is necessary to enable the proceedings to be disposed of justly, and subject to paragraph 5.2A.2 below, any of the following documents included in the bundle shall be limited to no more than the number of sheets of A4 paper and sides of text specified below:

Case summary             6
Statement of issues     2
Position statement       3
Chronology        10
Skeleton argument       20
List of essential reading    1
Witness statement or affidavit (exclusive of exhibits)         25
Expert’s or other report    40 (including executive summary at the beginning of no more than 4 pages)
Care plan      10

How long should the Special Guardianship Assessment report be

Practice Direction 27A states that expert reports should be no more than 40 pages.

Yes, Special Guardianship (SGO) reports come under this restriction.

That means the whole report.

To clarify, this includes the child’s information, the parents information and also the prospective special guardian’s information.

It’s going to be a tall order and is going to require more succinct writing, one that leaves out superfluous minor detail whilst still getting the important points across.

I hear you, you are thinking how am I going to get all the information, I need into such a small report.

Read on, and hopefully this post, will help you to start to think about how to gather and to analyse the information without feeling detracted by this practice directive.

How much information should I gather?

Moreover, for social workers, it will mean learning to write more concisely. This is going to be a challenge without losing vital information.

This is an area that I have been working on since this directive came into play, I will admit it has not been easy. Trying to ensure that information gathered is not lost and I will try to share some of ideas with you, in future posts.

I think what is key, is that the SGO assessment should not be any less robust just because there is less space.

To clarify, your Special Guardianship (SGO) assessment should still be a robust whilst still being thorough.

Remember that the Special Guardianship (SGO) report will need to be able stand up in the court system.

sgo assessment guide

Special Guardianship Assessment Reports Need To Be Robust and Thorough

One way, I have found, to ensure that your SGO reports are still thorough and contain all the information that is needed, is to keep copious notes of my home visits. I know this sounds counteractive, but read on, and I will explain.

Firstly, I write these notes up clearly and have been adding them to the applicant’s files.  These are marked clearly as home visit notes so that they are not filed because, afterall they are just notes.

These home visit notes will enable you to write more concise reports.

Here’s how you can write concise special guardianship reports,

Secondly, these copious notes will help you to analyse the vast amount of information you have gathered.

They will enable you show how you have reached the analysis. These notes will provide the proof of how you came to the analysis.

All the finer details will still be there should this be required. For example, if you are called to give evidence later or if a child comes back to look at their file when they become adults, then it will make sense how you reached your analysis.

You are probably thinking that this is already creating more work in your ever decreasing timescale. That may be so on the short term.

But if you are later called upon to give evidence in court, you will need to be able to draw on the information you used to evidence how you reached your recommendation.

What is likely to happen, is that Social Workers will be called into Court more often to give evidence to back up their special guardianship reports and recommendations. This is because the factual information provided in them may not appear to be enough to back up the analysis. This is an aspect you should focus on and make sure your analysis is robust in your Special Guardianship assessment report.

As you have written a robust but concise SGO report, this might mean that those finer details are not in the Special guardianship report.

If your memory is anything like mine, you will be glad for those draft notes and will be able to refer to them to ensure that you can back up any recommendation you have made.

I know, you are probably thinking, this is not helping, to make my report shorter if I am still making lots of notes. But what this means is you will not be drawn into the smaller details and will be able to analyse the bigger picture.

Having those notes stored and filed will allow you to move onto the next part of the process.

How to make your Special Guardianship assessment (SGO) report more succinct

Once you have your home visits fully written up, you can then analyse each visit looking at the sections and areas discussed.

It is this analysis, that will be added into the Special Guardianship assessment (SGO) report.

Your analysis will be based on the factual information and will help you to draw out the details that you are really trying to explain.

Ideally you should be aiming to make the sgo report as succinct as possible without being bogged down by the detail.

You do not need to describe in detail day to day routines, what he said, what she said, instead try to sum up as clearly as possible what it is you wish to make clear.

Social workers will have to be much, much clearer and to the point, when writing up special guardianship assessment reports, which in all essence is not a bad thing.

I’m of the view that many special guardianship reports contain too much superfluous information. Who really needs to know what the children ate for breakfast. Surely a sentence in the SGO report showing that they have been provided with a healthy diet will suffice. We don’t need to detail their full school routine. Instead a general note in the SGO report showing that they have in place, structured routines will suffice. Hope you get the point of summing up the finer details.

Ask yourself, what point are your trying to get across to the parties?

Just to be clear, your SGO assessment report is your analysis of the applicant’s ability to care for a specific child based on the information you have gathered.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you should not provide a clear and thorough background.

Your reader will still need to make sense of the information, therefore some background is still required. You just need to limit yourself as to how much detail you add.

I’m not saying this is going to be easy or straightforward.

It will be a fine balance in providing a report that covers everything in enough detail without becoming bogged down in the insignificant detail.

The benchmark you are aiming for is to have no more than 40 pages of the full report including the child’s and the parent’s sections.

In my view, the carers section should be allowed a larger part of this allocation as in essence, it is their ability and skill that is being assessed. The child’s information is required as part of the matching process.

This of course does depend on the prospective special guardians history and how much information you will need to cover. Because let’s face it we all have had different life experiences, some more fuller than others.

Some prospective special guardians may have had multiple relationships or cared for many children. They may have had children’s services intervention themselves or your applicant may have been an only child with no relationship history.

I’m sure that you can see already that the amount of information required in the special guardianship assessment report for the above two different applicants, will vary in length due to their unique life experiences.

special guardianship assessment report

What is the impact of practice directive 27A going to have for SGO reports?

It will not be easy getting the report down to this length.

But as the Courts request is for court bundles to be kept within a certain number of pages, this is going to be an important aspect.

You will need to bear this in mind as you start your special guardianship assessment and when you come to writing up the SGO report.

Just before this practice directive 27A came into effect, I had been challenging myself to write less. My reports had simply started to become too long, ranging from 70-85 pages. That takes a lot of writing and reading. Therefore, I can understand why the Judges are asking for the experts reports to be much more concise and to the point.

It is something that does concern me for the future and what impact this will have later on.

Will shorter Special Guardianship reports provide enough information for a Judge to make a decision on what will affect a child for the rest of their life?

Will shorter special guardianship assessment reports give them enough information to make the final decisions for a child?

Time will tell, I don’t have all the answers, I am only pointing out how we need to work within practice directive 27a.

We can only surmise what this will mean in the future for the children who are the subjects of those reports.

They may choose to come back in years to come, wanting to learn more about why they were cared for under Special Guardianship arrangements.

They will want to find out a bit more about the decisions that were made for them at that time, and ultimately want confirmation of information about why their parents could not care for them.

They may find that the information in the special guardianship reports is not as clear or that informative. They may find that the summaries of the home visit, don’t help them in connecting the dots. It may not help them to make the links they may need to make, and that the special guardianship report simply may not make enough sense to them.

This is yet another constraint that Social Workers have to work with in the field of special guardianship.

Trying to balance the 40-page limit to make a recommendation that will affect a child for the rest of their life.

special guardianhship assessment report

Special Guardianship Assessment is not easy, you are making life changing recommendations for a child and their family. Let’s remember what these families have all been through. Even if you only have 40 pages, make sure that you write a special guardianship assessment report that is worthy of that child’s life and what they have been through.

Special Guardianship Info –  Giving SGO a Voice