Special Guardianship Support Needs Are Often Incorrectly Assessed (Especially SGO Allowances)

Special Guardianship Support Needs Are Often Incorrectly Assessed (Especially SGO Allowances)

This post was updated on 14.03.2021

Support for Special Guardians can often be very difficult to get?

More stories emerge about Special Guardianship around their support needs and how they are assessed to receive support.

Unfortunately, it isn’t what you would have hoped for. We are not hearing the stories of how well special guardians are doing or how children are thriving in those family placements.  Which incidentally the early research has shown that they are.

Instead what is being reported is how Special Guardians are not getting the right support to enable them in their role and when they are they are getting short-changed by local authorities.

sgo support for special guardians tiles with the word support

Special Guardians are undertaking a huge role and saving local authorities huge amounts of money as well.

In my experience, SGO carers do not go into this for any financial gain, because frankly there is none. But you need to be realistic here, Special Guardianship care is still costly, it is costly to raise a child. With the average cost of raising a child in 2018, at £230,000 till they are 18, SGO carers have every right to try to get as much help as possible.  

An article in the ombudsman finds that councils are often not giving the correct support and in some cases not calculating this correctly.

The full article dated: 17 May 2018 can be found below: 


Ombudsman challenges councils to ensure appropriate support provided for special guardians

Councils need to provide the right support and guidance to carers and children subject to Special Guardianship Orders, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.

The advice comes following the publication of the Ombudsman’s report, ‘Firm Foundations’ which highlights the variety of problems faced by special guardians in seven out of 10 complaints it upholds about councils on this subject.

Special guardians are people who look after children who are not their own, following a court order. The Special Guardianship Order (SGO) gives children more permanence than a regular fostering arrangement and gives their guardians more rights to make decisions on their behalf. In practice, they are often a less costly option for councils than residential or foster care.

Common faults include councils not giving the right advice, including about the financial support available, before people become special guardians – leaving them to make uninformed decisions about the long-term implications.

Sometimes children who need the protection of an SGO have additional needs, and the Ombudsman is also seeing problems with councils not getting proper support plans in place, leaving guardians unclear about the support available, and for how long after they become guardians.

Other problems the Ombudsman sees include councils incorrectly calculating, changing or cutting special guardianship allowances. In one case, a council wrongly calculated the allowance it paid to scores of families over a number of years.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King said:

“Special Guardianship Orders can offer a stable and secure home life for some of the most vulnerable children in our society; children for whom, for whatever reason, it is not possible to live with their birth parents.

“Many of these guardians are also family members, and take on their role willingly, but with little notice and without understanding the consequences. It is imperative, therefore, that these children and their guardians get the right support available to them – and without having to fight the system to get what they are entitled to.

“Many of the investigations detailed in the report have resulted in councils taking positive steps to improve their practices. I would encourage all councils that have a duty to support people contemplating becoming special guardians to learn from this report and ensure their policies and procedures include the proper provisions for families.”

There has been a steep increase in the number of SGOs made over the past seven years. Government figures show that more than 5,300 were made in 2015 – 81% more than in 2011.

The Ombudsman’s report draws on best practice guidance written by a council in response to a complaint it upheld, and offers advice to local authorities to ensure their policies and procedures properly support both existing and prospective special guardians.

It also includes a number of questions local councillors can use to scrutinise their authorities to ensure they conform to statutory guidance and best practice.


How do you know whether the SGO financial support allowance is correct?

The local authority must carry out an assessment of need for special guardianship financial support: 

This is set out in the SGO regulations

Assessment of need for financial support

13.—(1) This regulation applies where the local authority carry out an assessment of a person’s need for financial support.

(2) In determining the amount of financial support, the local authority must take account of any other grant, benefit, allowance or resource which is available to the person in respect of his needs as a result of becoming a special guardian of the child.

(3) Subject to paragraphs (4) and (5) the local authority must also take account of the following considerations—

(a)the person’s financial resources, including any tax credit or benefit, which would be available to him if the child lived with him;

(b)the amount required by the person in respect of his reasonable outgoings and commitments (excluding outgoings in respect of the child);

(c)the financial needs and resources of the child.

(4) The local authority must disregard the considerations in paragraph (3) where they are considering providing financial support in respect of legal costs, including court fees, in a case where a special guardianship order is applied for in respect of a child who is looked after by the local authority and the authority support the making of the order or an application is made to vary or discharge a special guardianship order in respect of such a child.

(5) The local authority may disregard any of the considerations in paragraph (3)—

(a)where they are considering providing financial support in respect of—

(i)initial costs of accommodating a child who has been looked after by the local authority;

(ii)recurring costs in respect of travel for the purpose of visits between the child and a related person; or

(iii)any special care referred to in regulation 6(2)(b) in relation to a child who has been looked after by the local authority; or

(b)where they are considering including an element of remuneration under regulation 7.

(6) In paragraph (5)(a)(ii) “related person” means a relative of the child or any other person with whom the child has a relationship which appears to the local authority to be beneficial to the welfare of the child having regard to the factors specified in section 1(3) of the Act.

Still not sure if the SGO Allowance has been calculated correctly?

Submit a Freedom of Information request to your local authority, if you think that your SGO allowance has been calculated incorrectly.

Have a look at this example of such a request made


What you need to know about Housing Benefit & Special Guardianship Allowance

What you need to know is that when you are receiving special guardianship order allowance, then these should be disregarded for the purposes of working out your council tax benefit and housing benefit.

This is contained in the Council Tax Benefit Regulations 2006, which you can find here: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2006/uksi_20060215_en.pdf . You should go to schedule 4, para, 26, which is on page 88 of the print version of the regs, for council tax disregards.

The Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 are here: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2006/20060213.htm#sch5 . You can find details of the disregards in Schedule 4, para 25.

Not all of the people who are working out Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit for local authorities seem to be aware of these disregards, so it may be worth checking your own position if you are receiving either of these benefits.


Special Guardianship Info –  Giving SGO a Voice
Special Guardianship Info –  Giving SGO a Voice