Special guardianship regulations updated to strengthen assessments

New rules, which will come into force at the end of February, focus on guardian's relationship with child and their future needs

Photo: Gary Brigden

The government’s reforms to how social workers assess special guardianship arrangements will come into force at the end of February.

The new regulations follow a government announcement on the reforms at the end of 2015 and are designed to strengthen the assessments for prospective special guardians. Social workers must now focus on assessing the potential guardian’s current and past relationship with the child, and assess their parenting capacity.

This would include assessing the guardian’s “understanding of, and ability to meet the child’s current and likely future needs, particularly any needs the child may have arising from harm that the child has suffered.”

Care until 18

A special guardian’s ability to understand and protect the child from any harm posed by the child’s parents or relatives, and their suitability to bring up the child until the child reaches 18, must also be assessed under the new regulations.

Concerns have grown over the use of special guardianship orders in recent years. Their numbers have risen by more than 190% since 2010, and their role in permanency decisions has come under increased scrutiny since the 2013 Re B-S judgment was seen to have ‘raised the bar’ in terms of placing a child for adoption.

A Community Care investigation last year found one in four special guardianship orders in 2014 had a supervision order attached. The threshold for a supervision order is if a child is viewed to be at risk of significant harm.

In a note attached to the regulations, children’s minister Edward Timpson called the new measures “more detailed” and said the government did not expect a large impact on the private, voluntary and public sectors as a result of these changes.

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