A note on the assessment of special guardians

Hannah Razzak For Avadis & Co Solicitors
22nd October 2015

This post is in reference to an article written by Andrew Webb (ADCS), & Anthony Douglas (Cafcass) and published via familylaw.co.uk.  The original article (19/10/2015) can be found here: http://bit.ly/1Np2Y9l

Special Guardianship Orders were identified and implemented initially because: ‘the need for an alternative legal status for children that offered greater security than long-term fostering but without the absolute legal severance from the birth family that stems from an adoption order’.

Their recent growth as the preferred permanent option for children in care proceedings has prompted Andrew Webb from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and Anthony Douglas from CAFCASS to issue a joint note on the assessment of Special Guardians.  The note’s main aim was to reinforce the child’s safeguarding needs as the most important part of the process. The note was put together because they want to educate practitioners in particular about when to use Special Guardianship Orders correctly as they feel at present in some cases they are not being used properly. They need to ensure in every case it is happening properly to ensure children’s’ safeguarding because the breakdown of these orders can inflict further harm on already vulnerable children.

Both writers importantly note that Special Guardianship Orders can be successful if they are carried out correctly.  Unfortunately, in some cases when placements are arranged last minute as a last resort there is not adequate time to carry out a suitability report to the correct standards. On other occasions it can happen when practitioners are trying to meet the statutory twenty-six week timescale for proceedings.

Part 6 of the note is particularly relevant to Avadis and Co. Solicitors and other practitioners involved in such cases:

[If practitioners are unable to complete assessment to the standard demanded by both the regulations and the complexity of the case within the timescale proposed by the courts, this point should be clearly made. Social workers, children’s guardians and lawyers must assert themselves before the court if they believe that extra time is needed to complete an assessment so the child in question can be properly safeguarded.]

This note reinforces that time constraints are difficult to overcome, but, it also gives practitioners the ability to assert themselves in court according to this note and show child safeguarding is more important than hitting time targets. It is always good to be reminded of the basic essential elements of Special Guardianship Orders and be given guidance for going forward and making positive changes.

The full note is a firm reminder for ALL practitioners involved in these types of cases to remember the child at the heart of them. It is a positive in some ways for Avadis and Co practitioners in that it shows that the ADCS and CAFCASS recognise the difficulties in working to such time constraints especially in care cases when they are doing their best to prevent the ‘final’ aspect, adoption, for the benefit of the child if there is an appropriate person to consider.