A record number of special guardianship orders were made in 2015, new figures have revealed.
Ministry of Justice family court figures, published this week, showed that more than 5,300 special guardianship orders were made in 2015. This is first time the number of special guardianship orders surpassed 5,000 in a single year and represents an 81% rise in the total use of the order since 2011.
The figures take into account all special guardianship orders made last year, while looked-after children statistics published by the Department for Education (DfE) only take into account those made for children who ceased to be looked after.
Children in care
The DfE reports that over a similar time period, the number of special guardianship orders made for children in care rose 98%, from 1,780 to 3,520. However, the DfE publishes figures across a financial year while the Ministry of Justice looks at the calendar year, so what proportion of the 5,386 orders made in 2015 were for children in care is unclear.
The huge rise in special guardianship orders over the past five years has been attributed to local authorities trying to keep costs down because the orders could be cheaper than fostering, and a reaction to the Re B-S judgment, which was perceived to have changed the threshold for adoption.
The regulations for assessing potential special guardians were changed by the government in February to limit them being made in circumstances where they were not appropriate, and from this month special guardians have access to the Adoption Support Fund. Concerns had been raised about the level of support available to special guardians after a review of special guardianship was published by the DfE in December.