What Does A Special Guardianship Assessment Look Like

What Does A Special Guardianship Assessment Look Like


The Special Guardianship Assessment Process

A Special Guardianship Order makes one or more people as Special Guardians for a child.

The Special Guardian obtains parental responsibility for the child and will be able to make the day to day decisions, for example which school they will attend, without having to gain permission from anyone else.

The order lasts until the child is 18 years old.

What Can’t Special Guardians Do?

  • They cannot change a child’s name
  • They cannot take a child out of the UK for more than 3 months at any one time.
  • They cannot give consent for the child to be adopted.

If they want to do any of the above, they will need to obtain the permission of the court or the agreement of those who still retain parental responsibility.

When you are completing a Special Guardianship assessment, you will need to establish under which basis the prospective carer is applying under.

Not everyone can simply apply to become a Special Guardianship carer.

Who can apply to become a Special Guardian?

  • A person who has a Child Arrangments Order.
  • A person who the child has lived with for three out of the last five years.
  • A person who has the agreement of the local authority
  • A person who has the agreement of all the people with parental responsibility for the child.
  • A local authority foster carer or relative that the child has been living with for at least one year before the application is made.
  • Anyone who has the courts permission.

What is a Private SGO Application?

If you are assessing someone who is applying for a Special Guardianship Order because they have a child in their care where there are no care proceedings in place, but they need to obtain parental responsibility for a child, they will need to make an application through the courts and notify their local authority in writing in order to make an application.

This is known as a Private Special Guardianship  Application (SGO) and they will need the courts authority in order to make an application to their local authority to become a special guardian.

Three months before they make the application, they must tell the local authority in writing that they plan to apply to the court for a Special Guardianship Order.

Applicants need to be 18 years old in order to apply for a Special Guardianship Order.

The Local Authority has to write a report for the court to help it to decide what order to make.

The court cannot make a Special Guardianship order without this report.

You can find all the forms and information you will need to make an application at hmctscourtfinder.justice.gov.uk.

You only need to make an application if you are applying privately, this means that there is no current local authority involvement, the carer may already have been caring for the child and meets the criteria set out above.

If the local authority is conducting care proceedings, then you will be named on court directions order for the completion of a Special Guardianship assessment and you do not need to make any formal application to the courts.

It is important to note that whilst Special Guardianship provides permanence, it can be revoked or varied by the court upon application of those with parental responsibility.

Under Special Guardianship, parents continue to retain parental responsibility, however they cannot exercise it over and above the Special Guardian.



A brief overview of the Special Guardianship Report

Local Authorities are bound to prepare a report for court consistent with Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 updated in 2016.

The court regulations provide a structure of the key information that is required in the SGO report and many Local Authorities have since its introduction used this court structured schedule.

Over the past few years, however many Local Authorities have started to develop their own Special Guardianship report templates and tools to gather this information, the consensus being that the regulated format does not provide a flow or a forum for effective analysis.

What Does the Special Guardianship report look like

In this article, I will give you a brief overview of the report, to get a more in-depth guide, where I cover the specific information that is required in each of the relevant sections then GO HERE, but I will be covering this in a later post so bookmark this page.

The report is generally structured to cover

Part 1 – The Child’s information

Part 2 – The Birth Parents Information

Part 3- The Wishes and feelings

Part 4- The Prospective Carers information

Part 5 & 6 – Contains the Support and Statutory requirements

Part 7 & 8 – Addresses the key issues of SGO and any other orders that could be made

Part 9 – The Recommendation

Part 10 – Recommendation regarding contact.


Who is responsible for completing the SGO report

In my role when completing SGO reports, I have found that many Local Authorities require the Child’s Social Worker to complete Part 1,2,3 of the report.  They will commission the remaining parts of the report to their Permanence Teams, Family and Friends Teams or to Independent Social Workers to complete. 



Competing demands when completing SGO reports

This means that there are several professionals involved in this process which is not only confusing for the families being assessed, this also raises challenges within Local Authorities themselves about these processes and the completion of the report. With the ever-decreasing timescale given to complete these SGO reports, what is clear is that it is a huge piece of work in order to gather the necessary information and provide a clear analysis.

What else can inform your SGO assessment

SGO Info plans to set out some of the structures that will enable this process, look at tools to use and will also touch on some research from Serious Case Reviews to enable you to use evidence based practice that is robust and meets the needs of children in family placements.

SGO assessments are complex

However, no two assessments are the same, and each family will need to be approached addressing their own unique circumstances, you need to be able to use your own style and focus on the pertinent issues for each Special Guardianship  assessment.

Your assessment should not be a question and answer session, it should be a discussion with the chance for applicants to discuss and ask questions.

Essentially Special Guardianship assessments should be conducted in the spirit of partnership with a focus on enabling everybody who is a part of that assessment to learn about themselves, the child and their circumstances in a positive and helpful way.

What does Practice Directive 27A  mean for SGO assessments?

In July 2018, a new practice directive 27A came into play which limits the length of expert reports including Special Guardianship reports to no more than 40 pages. This does not mean that the assessment should be any less thorough, what it means for practitioners is that they will need to be able to provide a much clearer analysis of the information that they have gathered.

I will be dealing more fully with this practice directive and what it means for SGO assessment and completing reports, in an upcoming blog post, so SIGN UP HERE, to keep up to date.

What is Special Guardianship?  The basis for assessment

Special Guardianship was introduced as an amendment to the Children Act 1989 and by the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and was implemented on 30 December 2005.

The purpose of the order was to offer greater security for the child and their carers other than that offered by long term fostering without legally severing the child from the birth parent/s as happens through the making of an adoption order.

It was expected that there was already an established relationship between the child and the prospective Special Guardian and to provide permanence and security to children who did not have access to this via other routes, such as children in long term foster care, older children living in private family arrangements, unaccompanied asylum seekers who retain a strong attachment for family abroad.

What has been clear is that SGO has risen and is being used more often for younger children;

2013 – 320 children under 1 year old made subject to SGO

2014- 520 children under 1 year old made subject to SGO

2015 – 620 children under 1 year old made subject to SGO.

The above illustrates the increasing scale, but also that SGO is not being used in the way it was originally intended, and is increasingly being used for younger children.

The 2016 SGO regulations have attempted to make the assessment process more robust by making stronger the assessment of the established relationship between the child and prospective carer.

What is clear is that SGO is on the rise and with it the need for robust, timely and strong assessments.

There is a campaign for change at Family Rights Groups, that is ongoing and it is hopeful that in the future kinship carers including Special Guardianship carers will have more equal rights and that there is fairness to resources and that prospective special guardians will have the time to take on board the changes they will need to make in their family.

Campaigns likes these and SGO Info aim to raise awareness about Special Guardianship placements for babies or where there is no established link between the child or the special guardian, so that in these cases, there is a requirement for a placement order in the same was as in Adoption.

Until then, the premise is that a child may be placed with a Special Guardianship carer despite not having lived with them and after only a short transition plan taking place for this to happen.

The inherent risk is therefore clear, when completing your SG assessments you will need to understand these risks and know that the recommendation you have made is sound and in the best interests of the child and their prospective Special Guardian.

As an SGO assessor, you will need to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the process, of the child’s needs and also the prospective applicant, in order to reach a sound recommendation.


Welcome to Special Guardianship Info –  Giving SGO a voice.

Special Guardianship Info –  Giving SGO a Voice