On paper special guardianship appears a positive move designed to benefit looked-after children. It gives carers more freedom to make day-to-day decisions such as giving permission to attend school trips. In other words it creates a more “normal” family environment.
However, it seems some councils are using the option to cut costs because under the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 councils only have to provide financial support to former foster carers for two years. After this they can cut or remove funding altogether.
Some foster carers have felt pressurised into becoming special guardians and then faced a cut in income, making it harder to provide the “normal” experience the measure was intended to provide. Perhaps as a result, uptake of special guardianship has been lower then expected.
The logic of the situation is baffling – the same child with the same needs placed with the same carers but because the carers have more day-to-day responsibility that child needs less financial support.
Not every council is applying the regulation in this fashion creating further inequalities in the system.
This aspect of special guardianship needs urgent review with either the regulation being removed or at the very least a consistent code of standards applied across every council so that foster carers know what to expect if they become special guardians. That way the children are less likely to lose out on this positive move.
➔ See p7, p16