Applying to discharge or vary a Special Guardianship Order

The law is as set out at section 14 D of the Children Act 1989, which is set out at the end of this post.  We can see from this that a parent can apply to vary or discharge an SGO but needs the court’s permission first.

‘Vary’ means you want to change the content of the order; ‘discharge’ means you want the order to come to an end. There is probably little point in applying to discharge or vary an order until at least six months have passed since it was first made – if you think that the order should not have been made in the first place, you should consider applying to appeal – but you will have to do that within 3 weeks.

Special Guardianship Orders are meant to be a way of providing a child with a permanent home throughout his childhood so you will need good reasons to say that the order should no longer apply, once it has been made. There is no automatic legal aid for parents in such proceedings.

For more general information about SGOs, see this post. 

The courts have decided that this is a two stage test.

a. First the parent must show a change of circumstances.
b. Then the court will consider the child’s welfare and the parent’s prospects of success in challenging the SGO.

Step 1: What counts as a ‘significant change of circumstances’ ?

The courts are unlikely to place much weight on use of the word ‘significant’ when applied to the word ‘changes’. In G (A Child) [2010] EWCA Civ 300 Wilson LJ decided to proceed on the basis that there is no relevant difference between applying for permission to discharge a placement order [under section 24(3) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002] and applying for permission to discharge an SGO, even though section 14D refers to ‘significant’ changes and the Adoption and Children Act does not.

Various courts have agreed that the bar cannot be set too high so that no parents could ever get over it; parents should not be discouraged from trying to improve their circumstances. But the change in circumstances has got to be a relevant one.

In the case of Re B-S (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 1146 the court described the test for ‘change of circumstances’ in this way, in the context of the Adoption and Children Act 2002:
a. … the court has to be satisfied on the facts of the case that there has been a change in circumstances ‘of a nature and degree sufficient, on the facts of the case, to open the door to the exercise of judicial evaluation’
b. the test should not be set too high, because parents should not be discouraged from bettering themselves or from seeking to prevent the adoption of their child by the imposition of a test that is unachievable;
c. whether or not there has been a relevant change in circumstance must be a matter of fact to be decided by the good sense and sound judgment of the tribunal hearing the application;
d. if there is no change in circumstances, that is the end of the matter, and the application fails.

In another case also called G (A Child) [2015] EWCA Civ 119 the Court of Appeal agreed that a change in the child’s circumstances could also be relevant.

Therefore, the parent will have to demonstrate some relevant changes which on the facts of the particular case in front of the judge, means it is appropriate for the Judge to consider moving on to Step 2 of the process. It is likely that if the concerns about your parenting in the care proceedings were very serious, you will need to show correspondingly serious changes.

For example, in Re G [2010] the mother’s child was living with the maternal grandmother under an SGO after the mother had been in a number of violent relationships. However, the grandmother agreed she would not oppose permission being given to the mother to apply to discharge the SGO, after hearing about the efforts the mother had made to attend counselling/therapy to help her make better relationship choices in the future. The mother was also caring successfully for her second child without any intervention from Children’s Services.

Step 2: What do the courts mean by considering issues about ‘welfare’ and ‘prospects of success’ ?

Having determined that the approach to ‘change’ should be the same for applications to discharge an SGO and to discharge a placement order, it made sense for Wilson JL to also decide in G (A Child) [2010] that courts should take the same approach after deciding that the circumstances had changed.

Wilson LJ confirmed that this means the approach in M v Warwickshire County Council [2007] should be followed, where he said at paragraph 29 of his judgment in that case:

In relation to an application for leave under s.24(3) of the Act I therefore hold that, on establishment of a change in circumstances, a discretion arises in which the welfare of the child and the prospect of success should both be weighed. My view is that the requisite analysis of the prospect of success will almost always include the requisite analysis of the welfare of the child. For, were there to be a real prospect that an applicant would persuade the court that a child’s welfare would best be served by revocation of the placement order, it would surely almost always serve the child’s welfare for the applicant to be given leave to seek to do so. Conversely, were there not to be any such real prospect, it is hard to conceive that it would serve the welfare of the child for the application for leave to be granted.

This means a change in circumstances is a necessary but not sufficient condition to get permission to make the application to discharge a SGO – it opens the door for the Judge to consider it and he or she will then examine the often overlapping issues of the child’s welfare/prospects of success of the application.

The child’s welfare is not however the paramount consideration for the court in this exercise. Also, the issue of  “a real prospect of success” relates to discharging/varying the order NOT necessarily the return of the child to the parent’s care. See Re G [2015].

At this stage, the courts will probably want to consider how long the changes you have made have been in place, and how likely they are to be sustained in the future.


Section 14 D Children Act 1989

Special guardianship orders: variation and discharge

(1)The court may vary or discharge a special guardianship order on the application of—
(a)the special guardian (or any of them, if there are more than one);
(b) any parent or guardian of the child concerned;
(c )any individual in whose favour a [Child arrangements order] is in force with respect to the child;
(d) any individual not falling within any of paragraphs (a) to (c) who has, or immediately before the making of the special guardianship order had, parental responsibility for the child;
(e) the child himself; or
(f) a local authority designated in a care order with respect to the child.
(2) In any family proceedings in which a question arises with respect to the welfare of a child with respect to whom a special guardianship order is in force, the court may also vary or discharge the special guardianship order if it considers that the order should be varied or discharged, even though no application has been made under subsection (1).
(3) The following must obtain the leave of the court before making an application under subsection (1)—
(a) the child;
(b) any parent or guardian of his;
(c) any step-parent of his who has acquired, and has not lost, parental responsibility for him by virtue of section 4A;
(d) any individual falling within subsection (1)(d) who immediately before the making of the special guardianship order had, but no longer has, parental responsibility for him.
(4) Where the person applying for leave to make an application under subsection (1) is the child, the court may only grant leave if it is satisfied that he has sufficient understanding to make the proposed application under subsection (1).
(5) The court may not grant leave to a person falling within subsection (3)(b)(c) or (d) unless it is satisfied that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the making of the special guardianship order.

93 thoughts on “Applying to discharge or vary a Special Guardianship Order

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Yes it would wouldn’t it? And you might think that a Government who cuts legal aid and passes every more complicated laws might think it part of their duty to the people who suffer from these actions, to have a proper website with advice and links and the ability to download and fill in forms.

      You might very well think that it is an absolute disgrace that just a handful of individuals are trying to fill in that rather huge gap.

      I am sorry that I have neither the time or the money to make this the resource which I think is so sorely needed. I think the forms are available on some government site but to be honest I am not sure and they don’t make this stuff easy to find. If anyone has a good link, I would be very pleased to know it.

      1. Nu shoes

        Legal forms depot is the website you need to visit. Its a bit complicated with talk of subscriptions but I think that it is just for professionals. Generally I that no they have samples for the gen public

      2. anonoymous

        if you do happen to know if there is anywhere the forms are available other then solicitors and mediations this would be great.

    2. Crystal

      FM1 Form,d.d2s

      C1 Form,d.d2s

      Both these forms are available on the website.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thanks Julie! I should have known that one… still bruised by my last attempt to use the ‘form finder’…

  1. Angelo Granda

    Just a suggestion.Might i suggest that any advocacy services keep a supply of the various Court application forms, templates to copy etc. in stock to assist those who cannot get legal funding.
    At present, i understand paperwork has to be submitted in a particular way and the guidelines are so strict it is difficult even for a solicitor to get it exactly right. E.G. the font used and its size is specified, the number of pages in a skeletal argument restricted etc.etc.
    This service would be of immense help to parents ,especially i would imagine the less educated ones. For one of normal intelligence, the paperwork is a massive task so much so that the sight of court papers and documents becomes too much and they find it difficult even to pick it up and look at it after a while.
    Of course, the solution would be to make legal funding available for Public Law cases.

    1. Angelo Granda

      I also suggest that there would be a good market for any experienced solicitor’s clerk, legal secretary or paralegal if they were to go online and offer a legal paperwork service to LIP’s.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Readers may be interested to know something which has just happened and save themselves a little time possibly. An application on the correct forms in paper format was submitted on the behalf of a family . They waited 5 weeks patiently. They were then contacted by the Court office and it was requested that the application was sent electronically. 3 weeks later,still no word.

  2. Mr Crabtree

    I am a special guardian and have been following the court order to the letter, but every now and then there is a big issue made of certain conversations regarding the childrens parents passing on information as to what happens at home with us. therefore because there is legal aid available to us, we can’t physically or financially challenge the SGO regarding contact. it would be much of a relief for all Special Guardians to be able to exercise some kind of legal right to make other arrangements for the contacts to be supervised by another party to save any mental or distress to children affected. So many of us a basically forced to carry on with what is in the order and just take all the extra abuse, pressure etc that may occur within the framework of the SGO. is that fair, my opinion is no, in the sense Special Guardians are the utmost survivors and gives the parents the ability to see their children or otherwise they may be adopted out where neither close family or the parents will be able to see them at all. It was a great change for GRANDPARENTS to be able to be kinship carers as in SGO’s.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      If facilitating the direct contact with the parents is subjecting you to abuse or unacceptable pressure, then you don’t have to be directly involved. Your legal obligation is to make the children available for contact, I assume – if contact is subject to a court order. If the parents abuse that privilege and make things difficult for you, I think you are perfectly entitled to say ‘unless your behaviour changes/improves, we will no longer be directly involved with you. You will have to find someone else to pick up/be present at contact’. then the obligation to sort that out falls upon the parents. And if they don’t like that, they can make their own application to court.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Mr.Crabtree, I think you can také a cue from Sarah’s advice in respect of parental contact and court orders in general.
        Think about the balance of power and always remember that as you have the child in your care, the power is in your hands.
        Contacts are often difficult for parents and children. Not surprising- it is awkward ,unnatural situation for both.
        If they say or do anything and i mean anything which you don’t like or which upsets you, you always have the power to call it abuse of priviledge if it makes things difficult for you in any way.You can do more or less what you want because you hold the balance of power.After all, why should parents have the freedom to go around talking to others about how you care for their children? Surely that is taking free speech too far and it must be difficult and upsetting for you.The LA’s and foster -carers hate it too. No-one would ever discuss or risk upsetting parents.
        I advise you to make it very clear to them.If they don’t watch their p’s and q’s and if they do anything you don’t like,you will call it abuse of privilege and make it difficult for them.
        They will powerless! If they can afford to get a solicitor and make a court application,it will také a long time.Civil court orders mean very little unless they can be enforced.
        I am no lawyer but i think you are on safe ground to control their behaviour to suit youself.Warn them first but if they don’t change, clamp down hard.For example,if the child is ever upset for any reason after a contact, think about cancelling a couple while you consult CAMHS.
        You have every right to use your power to your advantage and improve the situation.
        I hope this helps.

        1. Angelo Granda

          Mr Crabtree, I am sure i don’t need to mention that you can exercise your power in two ways.Use the ‘ carrot’ as well as the stick and tell the parents that you can also show discretion in their favour ( extra privileges, flexibility of rules and so on).
          As i said before, the court orders and procedures mean very little except when enforced and the CS are unlikely to také matters to court for similar reasons to the parents.You hold the balance of power.

          Exercise it!

          1. helensparkles

            This would be private law, which is why there is no funding, CS would not be involved unless asked to provide a report for the court.

        2. stacey yates

          Hi i was just after a little advice after reading your comment i am wondering what right does a parent have if a special guardian is behaving difficult on contacts infront of the child cared for ? When mediation dosnt work and more barriers being put in place to make contact with the cared for child difficult or stopped ? What can a parent do when its the sg acting iappropertly ?

          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            If you can’t sort it out between yourselves then the only options are mediation or applying to court I am a afraid. But you probably won’t get legal aid to help make an application to court, or it will be means and merits tested. you could apply to court to vary the contact order in place (or ask for a contact order if there isn’t one) or even to discharge the SG order itself – but that’s a tough one.

    2. helensparkles

      This is a link to the National Association of Child Contact Centres, if you want to look for a centre in your area I would advise not ticking the filtering boxes because nothing came up when I did that (for my area) but there are 4.

      Referrals can be made by:
      Social workers
      Family Mediators
      Court Order
      If the child placed with you was previously in the care of the LA, they have responsibility for providing support for the first three years after the making of a Special Guardianship Order so you may have a SW you can access, but you should anyway be able to access their first response team or the childcare team responsible for placing the child with you. It is something I would be able to do on a closed case for example (& have) and you are probably best contacting the person that knows the situation best. Contact can risk placement disruption so you should be supported to find a way to make a different arrangement.

    3. Tania

      Well said, being the special guardian for my 3 grandchildren has been truly rewarding but severely hindered by having to supervise contact with the parents. I am fraught and emotionally exhausted by the parents inadequacy to behave like adults and clearly see the detrimental impact had upon the children. I have time and again asked children’s services to intervene and arrange supvised contact, but alas to no avail.

      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        I am sorry to hear that. You must protect your own health as you are caring for 3 children. You cannot be forced to supervise contact if the parents are behaving badly. I would suggest putting the ball in their court and saying that you will make the children available for contact but only IF it is properly supervised, and due to their bad conduct, you can no longer be that person.

      2. helensparkles

        This guidance tells you about post SGO support

        You might also want to look at which is the website of the National Association of Child Contact Centres, you can search by area, and they are staffed by volunteers.

        I don’t know any LAs who have the capacity to supervise contact post SGO, that doesn’t mean none do, I just don’t know any that do unless it is in a contact order and that is uncommon.

    4. Melissa smith

      Hi I’m also an sgo, the child’s parents were granted 6 visits a year, but it was ultimately my choice if I deemed the situation suitable for the child, in the end after abuse to me and them thinking I had to do what they say I refused to meet with them until they had sorted there issues out, after all its not about what they want its what’s best for the child and being around them at that point was not what a child should be around, I was supported with my decision, from SS, and told it was my decision, ultimately we get all the crap, when we are the ones that have gone out our way coz of the parents mistakes, it’s not easy task taking on a child that has been through this situation for all involved, I moved house for an extra room, had to buy a bigger car, and also had my own young children to think about, once the parents are stable I’m more than happy for him to start seeing them again,

      1. Sally P

        Hello Melissa

        I too have a SGO and stopped contact. I also have my own children and have yet to meet anyone who has a SGO and isn’t a grandparent. After 5 years we are finding it really, really difficult. How do you cope?


        1. Elizabeth B

          My daughter lost two children via an SGO granted in favour of her abusive ex partner’s sister. The sister is a female version of the partner but able to pull the wool over SS eyes, apparently. This has only just happened so I dread to think how my daughter will have contact with her children (three years and one year old) when the sister is barely willing to speak to her and blames her for the abuse she suffered.

          1. Sam

            Unfortunately certain types of people can play the game very well, to the detriment of the children. I am not a lawyer, but if there is an order allowing contact to take place, this is what should happen. If it doesn’t get the matter back into court ASAP. it is important from your side to try and maintain the contact as the type of person you describe may try and alienate the children from the maternal family. Sorry not to be more positive, but I do know the behaviour of this type of person first hand, and their controlling is absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of the child and everything to do with they are bullies

  3. Deborah Nelson

    I can offer a family legal paperwork service to Litigants in Person. I am really interested to know if there is a market for this. I offered a local family legal paperwork free service to people but it didn’t have much of a takeup. Any comments would be helpful, I’m a former solicitor now working as a McKenzie Friend and also considering setting up some online courses to help people representing themselves.

    1. Michelle

      Hi on the 29th January 2016 my then 2 year old twin girls were placed with paternal grandparents with a SGO. I see them once a fortnight without fail and all contacts have been positive. They have also all been supervised by their grandma. I’ve asked if it can progress to me seeing them on my own as that is meant to be the way forward, they said “no because contact has to be facilitated by them” Am I right in thinking facilitated means they help with contact and help to sort out contact as in where when n how but doesn’t mean supervised? Please can you help me

      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        You would need to look carefully at how the original order was worded. There can be confusion about ‘supervised’ ‘supported’ and ‘facilitated’. ‘Supervised’ means that someone has to be with you; supported/facilitated usually means just that someone is going to help you set up the contact but not usually that you have to have another adult with you. Problems arise when people mix the words up. It seems clear the PGP think that they are under a duty to supervise you. What does the order say?

        But if contact is going well, then hopefully everyone can agree that it may not need to be strictly supervised. Can you compromise and ask for half the contact not to be supervised, and see how this goes? But if the order is very strict they may have to go back to court and ask the judge to change it.

    2. Angelo Granda

      Yes, I do believe your service is needed.
      Many parents find the paperwork too much for them and appeals ,especially, impossible on their own due to the tight schedules.
      Recently, when one parent applied for care-order discharge using a solicitor, the paperwork was returned for amendment three times .This means professionals are having trouble too!
      Can you let us have your contact details?

    3. sky123

      Daughter is with my sister on a sgo has been with her 3/4 yrs due to dv with her dad. I’ve made a lot of changes and adressed the issue’s that the local authority was concerned about and more, also have plenty of written letters from health professionals and so on.. I have no contact with her dad at all he’s completely out my life. As that was a concern.. my sister deals with him. She is more them happy to come to court, I’ve also been with my partner for 2yrs he’s a good man and works hard, he has no criminal background and no dv at all.. I have my daughter from Friday to Sunday then every holiday. I’ve had her for a full six weeks, I’ve lived in my new home for two years so I’ve been able to give her that stability and love she needs. She has her own bot in my room. My daughter makes it clear to my sister/family/school that she wants to be back with mummy. I’d be more then happy for them to come inspect. I’ve been told court cost can be paid for but I have to set up payment plan with solicitor.. just hoping this will be enough to get my little girl back. She’s been gone since she was 3 and she now 7, I’ve had time to change my life and circumstances and I feel like I have proven I’m capable and not a liability.

    4. Samantha

      My children are with my mother and father on special guardian ship I have been having unsupervised contact with them at my new home for 6 months they have been with my mother and father a year august just gone I’m trying to progress to picking them up from school and having more than once a week unsupervised contact I was in a domestic violent relationship my only relationship , they got taken in to care in January 2015 I have known where the children’s foster placement was from day one I was no risk and was told I was a good parent it was just that I let him back in to see the children , I feel that my mother and father will
      Not let me progress any more before they are scared I have a good fighting chance of them coming home I just need advice to where I stand in this as I feel worthless cause I have a good relationship with my mother and father and they are brilliant with my kids I don’t want to fight against them but they told me they will never give them back because I put them in this situation and its my fault but other times they say you did nothing wrong its messing my head up all I want is to have a life with my kids that begg to come home every week 🙁

      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        The difficulty is that SGOs are supposed to be ‘permanent orders’ i.e. meant to last for the whole childhood. So is is difficult to discharge them and courts won’t do it lightly. But if there is a real change in your circumstances, you have having unsupervised contact and the children want to be with you, it is probably worth talking to your parents and see if you can reach any agreement between you about changing the order. It’s often better to avoid contested court hearings if you can.

  4. Mike

    Im now 15, i was taken away due to my mums mental health when i was about 7-8. it has been many years and my mum has become much better. i want to apply to go and live with her as i find where i live now horrible. and would like a fresh start. My question is would i get a say in the matter being under 16. My mum wants me to come home and is going to apply for a discharge

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      As you are 15, the courts should listen to you very seriously. Your views won’t necessarily decide the issue but you are old enough for them to carry a lot of weight.

      You could apply to get your own solicitor and join your mother in the application. Do you have an advocate, or someone you can talk to in the local authority? (I am assuming you are currently in foster care?)

    2. helensparkles

      It’s good to hear your mum is doing better now and she can think about a revocation of the Care Order. If I assume you are in LA care, you can talk to the Children’s Rights Officer (CRO). They are employed by the LA but their role is advocacy for children in care. The CRO will also be able to support you to find a solicitor to represent you. I realise you might not feel that anyone in the LA is independent, but my experience of CROs is that they are much more independent of the social work teams than your IRO for example, so I would give it a try.

      Your social worker will know who the CRO is, as will the fostering social worker, and your IRO – depending on who you have the best relationship with and want to ask. But you don’t have to involve any of them. It should be fairly straightforward to find out who the CRO is – if I Google my LA + Children’s Rights Officer, the right name comes up. You can just try phoning the main switchboard for your LA and asking for them by title, they should be able to give you the name and number.

      I don’t of course know why you don’t like where you are, it would be reasonable to just not like being in care, but the CRO can help you with any problems there as well.

  5. kymthomas

    i have two children who are currently residing with my mother (maternal grandparent) i recently split up with the childrens father due to years of domestic abuse, social services were not involved during the 8 years of my abusive relationship but became involved a few months later due to me having a bit of a break down not knowing what to do with my time as i was never allowed to socialize/go out or even meet friends. so eventually the freedom got to me and i lost all control of what was going on in my life, i was drinking and taking drugs none of which was around the kids but i was still doing it. anyway cut a long story short social services were getting reports off people saying that i was partying and taking drugs around my kids (which i wasn’t). my kids have always been looked after their father did not want them so i was always the main carer for them even when their father and i were together so when we split i was able to cope with looking after them, they were always fed i never layed a finger on them but they missed a few odd days off school. my mental health is still going down hill but the kids are still my priority Evan though it was hard for me to function throughout the day especially when i didn’t know i was going through a breakdown until social services advised me to let the children stay with my mother until i was feeling well enough to look after them, which i agreed as i didn’t want to disrupt their life anymore than what it was. after that i was trying to sort myself out going to appointments etc we had a conference meeting on which everyone attended their come to the conclusion that the children where suffering from emotional abuse. i couldn’t really argue with that as i was an emotional mess myself so i went with it so the children where appointed to reside with my mum. 8 months has now passed and i’m doing really well seeing the children on a regular attending all my appointments going on the specific courses social services has appointed me to so in my eyes i’m heading up and there’s light at the end of the tunnel but now for some unknown reason social services are making my mother apply for a special guardianship order which means the children will reside with her until they are 18, although you can appeal this order many have been successful so i really don’t understand that if i’m doing everything they ask me to do i don’t drink anymore or take drugs I’ve just started work too. so why after everything i have done to better my life so i can better my kids lives and eventually have them back have social services felt the need to apply for this SGO? i am doing my own research on this matter but very little is on the internet to do with the parental rights on trying to stop an SGO going through or what grounds the local authority have to have before making an application for an SGO. If anyone knows anything that will help me id be very grateful.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I would guess – but can’t possibly know, without seeing the relevant papers – that the LA don’t have as much faith as you do in your recovery. They have to take a cautious approach because if they get it wrong, children are at risk. I know this is very frustrating when you feel you are doing everything that is asked of you and are doing well. What does your mum think? If she is persuaded to apply for an SGO you can go to court and argue against it – but I appreciate it is very difficult when it is family involved and court proceedings can often end up making things worse. I think you need to understand the precise arguments the LA are making – have they provided you with any paperwork? Notes of meetings?

      1. Angelo Granda

        Please help us out? You are saying that Social Services are ‘ making’ your Mum apply for an SGO.
        I don’t believe the Local Authority have the power to make her apply for anything! You and she should consult the Family Rights Group (FRG) website which issues all the advice sheets about SGO’s you will need.
        I can only guess that both you and your Mum attend Looked after Children reviews every six months. It is the purpose of the reviews to ‘review’ the ongoing situation, as the name implies, and if you are recovered , the IRO has a duty to reunite the child with you if possible.
        Thus you should not really need to go to court in theory.
        Have you raised the question of a reunion at the reviews? Is Mum supporting it?
        Are there alternatives to continued separation? Could you move in with Mum if only temporarily?
        I suggest you contact the FRG and get an independent advocate asap.Otherwise your rights ( and those of the child) may be ignored.
        There are tests which can prove you are off drugs etc.

        1. Lilly may

          Social services have to got my mother to apply for a SGO … Instead of taking it to court themselfs under PLO they have payed for my mum to do it meaning that unlike under PLO legal aid isn’t available as its classed as a private court matter according to all the solicitors I have been too.

  6. Angelo Granda

    There may not be any Looked After Children reviews because your children are not actually looked after by the LA, are they and there is no order.
    Are the LA threatening to apply for a care-order for some reason? Perhaps because you had the breakdown?

  7. sue

    Am facing a court battle for my 8-year-old. The LA has applied for a care order and has also suggested that the foster carers want to seek for SGO. I have not agreed to this as I am hoping the judge will have mercy and give me supervision order instead. My child is in care as I drank on the day she was taken into care. iI have been sober for 9 months and I am so determined to stay that way in the long term. However, this is the third time my child has been removed from my care due to alcohol. The third time I took a hair strand test which was negative showing that I was not using alcohol excessively. Am not proud, of the impact I have caused to my daughter. Please advise.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It isn’t possible to advise you or anyone about your particular situation on this site as all the information I have is this short paragraph. I can only make some general points which may or may not apply to you. You really need to sit down with a lawyer in real life and have a proper conversation about your options, but I appreciate that is not always easy to do if you don’t qualify for public funding for legal representation. But if you are talking about a supervision order, I assume you are in care proceedings, so you should qualify for non means, non merits tested public funding.

      Generally, the fact that anyone’s child has been removed three times for the same problem, I am afraid makes it very, very unlikely that you are going to convince any judge to return that child. Everyone deserves at least once chance, some people deserve a second chance but a third or fourth chance is rarely granted. This is because the impact on a child of not having a stable and consistent home during childhood can be very serious and cause harm to their emotional development that will last all their life.

      However, if you have been sober for 9 months then you have done really well – all I can ‘advise’ is that you go to court and tell the judge what you have done and explain why you would not let alcohol get in the way of your parenting in the future.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I don’t think you automatically get it as these aren’t care proceedings. I think it is both means and merits tested – i.e. you have to have a very good case and you have to be very poor. But you would need to speak to a solicitor about this -it’s not my field of expertise.

  8. Huxley

    We fostered for a few years. Our first placement broke down when normal teenaged angst was exacerbated by a life story that I won’t post here. It broke our hearts and we subsequently resigned as foster careers.
    We maintain contact and supported with our ex-foster daughter (and I use daughter as oppose child deliberately as we treated her as such) as much as we can. Whilst it was clear we could not really control behaviour, we hoped that the few years we spent providing a loving family home and our ongoing support would influence a young mind and her moral compass; I do think to some extent it has.
    A few years after the placement broke down or foster daughter fell pregnant within an abusive relationship and we effectively rescued her, circa six month pregnant, from a refuge.
    We gave her a place of safety, aka our home, and worked hard with the Local Authority but couldn’t offer a mother and baby placement as we could foresee it would jeopardise the relationship we had with her if things went wrong and also that we would effectively be parenting both. We both work fulltime in demanding jobs.
    The Local Authority provided two opportunities of a mother and baby placement but both failed and the new born child was placed in an independent foster placement. We supported our ex-foster daughter through the care proceeding and after some discussion with all parties concerned took the decision to pursue an SGO for the offspring child; we were approaching the 26 week threshold. All parties supported the SGO and it was granted.
    After 12 months of holding the SGO the mother has fallen pregnant again and as is demanding unsupervised contact and seeks her return.
    I’ve read all the information about ‘significant change of circumstances’ etc. but we feel we are now between a ‘rock and a hard place’.
    We long for our foster daughter to be happy and have the family unit she calls her own and a child in her care but her current pregnancy (not to the same farther as the first child, but neither is he present or willing) is immediately subject to invoked proceeding by the Local Authority.
    We feel stuck because we do hope she can raise this new child and he/she not to be removed by the Authority. We want to support her but in doing so are we effectively proving our foster daughter with the opportunity to discharge the SGO for the child, who has been in our care for over 12 months, should she prove capable of raising child number two?
    It terms of contesting the SGO is our foster daughter entitled to Legal Aid. As we spend over £1000 a month on child care and neither biological parent contribute anything financially so we can’t afford an advocate. Also, the contact arrangements have been placed in the ‘recordings’ of the SGO not a specific Order of Contact, does that reinforce or diminish our position that contact must be supervised.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am so sorry to hear this. Sometimes no matter how much love and support you can offer people, it just isn’t ever enough and that is heartbreaking. An SGO is supposed to be an option of permanence so they won’t be lightly overturned. From even the brief history you give of your foster daughter, I am afraid I wouldn’t be optimistic that she is going to turn her life around to the extent required. She will not automatically get legal aid to apply to overturn any SGO, as far as I am aware. Only parents in care proceedings get non means, non merits tested public funding. If there is no contact order from the court, then you as holders of ‘super PR’ get to decide what to do about it – so if you say contact has to be supervised, that is your decision, unless and until a court overrides it.

  9. Lilly may

    My children where placed with my mother in may “voluntarily” (due to domestic abuse) while me and there father did a contract of expectations. During the time of the 8weeks given me and the father separated. We have been separated since July. I have done all what was in my agreement (which even social services have said I have completed it all) I now have UNSUPERVISED contact 3 times a week and any extra my mother allows. There was never an issue with my parenting or drink/ drugs. Neglect ect it was due to the impact of domestic abuse. Like I say we have been operated since July yet social services last month have paid for my mother to privately apply to court for a SGO (at there request and advise) the reports ect have to be in for court in December , ready for the hearing in January … By which point we will have been separated for 6month. I am also due to have another child on the 4th of December which social services are letting me keep. My mum for some reason still has it in her head that once the baby’s born the children will start to come back home to live with me. She seems oblivious to what the SGO means

    1. Lilly may

      Nor do I understand when iv showed changes that they can after separating and after completing my contract of expectations they can now go for a SGO especially in January and after letting me keep the baby due in December!

    1. helensparkles

      Or she could just speak to an actual lawyer, she would need one to make an SGO application regardless of the LA supporting her or not.

  10. Eudora Phillips

    Hi just wondering I have been a sgo for last 15yrs for my niece she has decided she no loner wants to stay with me an is residing at my mother’s her grandmothers. She does not want to come back and her behaviour is affecting my other two children. It’s difficult for me but I want to withdraw from my sgo but social services said if I do so it’s automatic procedure to open a case on my two children which I am unhappy about. My children have no problems at home or school but I don’t want social services intervening I just want to close my sgo is this possible or am I stuck with two options keep going for next 3 years or try withdraw an have social services involved in my own children’s lives I am totally lost an feeling depressed

    Many thanks for reading

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I don’t think it can be right to say that asking to discharge the SGO means an ‘automatic’ investigation into your other children. I assume your niece is at least 15 years old by now? So she is certainly old enough to ‘vote with her feet’ and it certainly makes no sense for you to continue with an order which isn’t in fact being obeyed. But in the circumstances, whether or not the order is formally discharged, in reality it is ineffective and it is ineffective because the child will not longer accept it – so it can’t be your responsibility. So if you are really worried that a formal discharge of the order might lead to investigation then I can’t see any harm in just letting the situation alone. Just make it very clear to the LA that your niece is making her own decisions and you can’t control that.

    2. helensparkles

      With an SGO you have the balance of PR so can make a family arrangement for your niece, which is what you have done. Children’s services won’t be interested in that, 15 year olds vote with their feet, and (unless there is any limited capacity) have the competence to make that kind of decision. Keeping the SGO in place doesn’t mean your niece has to live with you if you think it is better for all that she is with your mother and she is ok there.

      Revoking the SGO legally does put children’s services in a different position, because they placed your niece with you. This would mean ‘opening a case’ but, unless there are any concerns, this would be the completion of an assessment rather than an investigation. The extent it would involve your children would be limited unless your niece gives SW a reason to be concerned about them. It won’t be a fishing expedition and you would be asked for your consent for any checks they want to make.

  11. Angelo Granda

    Sarah, this is not a blog is it? I don’t read blogs normally.
    The only one I have taken a look at in years is Sam’s new one but I doubt if I will be a regular reader.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I think its a mixture of website and blog. I try to update general factual stuff, but I also post my own and other’s personal views; which is more blog territory.

  12. looked_after_child

    I’m grateful for the blog-ish opportunity Sarah. I am not in a position to have a web presence in my own right yet I want to effect change so thank you

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Start a blog! its easy! And I have found Twitter quite useful for trying to spread the word.

      1. Sam

        Looked -after-Child It is easy to start a blog, if I can do it anyone can . Email me if you get stuck, though I just Google when I get stuck.

  13. looked_after_child

    I get around a surprising amount – I recognise the web presence of more and more people I’ve met at APPG (Autism, Children, Dual diagnosis) and various events – ( Autism, stakeholder consultations and the Care system mostly) and usually for professionals. I always stand up and do my best to ask a killer question and say why the answer matters. I wear lots of ‘hats’ I’m the ONLY natural parent on the SCIE study into mental health support for looked after children ( says it all really – everyone else is saleried so paid to work with these children – well meaning but a whole industry in itself, yet I had to fight like you would’ent believe to be ‘a stakeholder’ as obviously are Mums are abusive and neglectful) Mums with children who entered Care are never meant to be listening to the conversation and certainly not contributing to the debate and that is where I challenge (and others do too such as Sam). A big media presence can bring out a nasty streak in people and I do’nt want to go there plus this stuff is sometimes quite raw and you have to be able for it…..Anyway enough said -Have a good evening

  14. June

    I have SGO for my 5 1/2 year old granddaughter.
    We are now looking at dissolving the SGO so that she can live permanently with her BP.
    She is my son’s daughter and the issues surrounding the SGO were to do with her mum. She has always had regular contact with her bp and has been living with them for just over a year.
    We have regular written reviews, which are done between myself and her bp and the local SS are aware that she is living with them.
    Mum has really turned her life around and completed a 2 year college course and has definitely sorted out the eating issues she had! Lo has 100% attendance in her first year at school and things are going really well.

    How do we go about doing this please?

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Her mum will need to apply to the court that made the SGO and you can say you are supporting that. Or you could apply! Either way, someone has to get it back before the court who made the SG order.

  15. Lizzie

    I am hoping someone can help me. My partner and I have had his grandchildren under SGOs since they were 6 months and 8 months old. We also have a child of our own but we are not married. The children do not see their biological parents much but we are in contact (me more so than my partner). Under the financial pressure, working full time and having no time to ourselves our relationship has sadly broken down to the point where I feel we may need to live separately. However, I am unsure of my legal rights in terms of being able to keep the children. Would my partner have a stronger case as the paternal grandparent or would we be given equal standing? I desperately want to keep the children together and would hope that my partner would act responsibly and in a civilised manner but from initial discussions I suspect he will fight to keep his grandchildren. Both of them know me as mummy and think of our biological child as their sister and it breaks my heart to think of losing them. I have a very good relationship with my partner’s ex wife and her family and would happily continue to facilitate contact with the parents (I.e. her son and partner). Does anyone know who I can speak to or if I would need to talk with Social Services in the first instance?

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am sorry to hear that. If you can’t reach any agreement between you and your ex then I am afraid you have to go to court. I don’t think that you need to contact social services; SG orders are ‘private’ law orders, which means they are orders made between two individuals, rather than a ‘public’ law order like a care order which is made between individuals and the state (the local authority). If the local authority no longer have any involvement in your life, then the courts should treat you just like any other parents who can’t agree on where the children should live. I don’t think that the biological connection should be treated as more important than the actual relationship the children have with the adults in their life. I think you do need to speak to a solicitor to get an idea of what you need to do. I assume that if you are splitting up there might also be issues of property/finance you need to sort out, but I can see you state you are not married.

  16. Tom

    Hello, I really need some advice. It’s abit of an odd case: the special guardian is the child’s maternal grandmother, and she has been living with the child and the mother in the same house for 5 years. In a way they have been co-parenting the child. The situation that led to this decision is completely different now, both the special guardian and mother herself are happy to pass custody to the mother, so they can move out with her partner. But we do not know how to begin revoking. Who do we speak to? Do we just walk into a court and ask? Any help or advice would be really appreciated.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      you will need to make an application to the court that made the SG Order. Do you know what court that is? If you don’t, just go to your local court and ask them for the right form to fill in. There may be a charge to process the form. The court staff can’t give you any legal advice but they can hopefully point you to the right form.

      this might help with finding forms

      this might help you find the court

      But remember that a lot of courts now don’t have any counter staff available after lunch or even won’t do drop in appointments and you need to ring and make an appointment to issue an application. So check before you go!

  17. Mrs N

    I have some very specific questions about process. I have had an SGO for a grandchild for approx 12m but the child has been resident with me for approx 24m. The SGO was awarded as an outcome of care proceedings. Children’s Services have remained involved with a 12m Supervision Order (to monitor and assist with contact arrangements rather than concerns about the viability/quality of the SGO placement).

    The mother has reported, informally, that as soon as the Supervision Order is discharged (end of month), she intends either to apply to revoke the SGO, or to have the contact arrangements changed significantly (although there is no Contact Order so my understanding is that she would make an application for such). She appears to have recently made some positive changes but I am concerned about the extent and sustainability of these – Children’s Services advice thus far has been that I should be very cautious about increasing the frequency of contact or allowing it to be unsupervised, and the SGO is their ‘permanence’ plan. Unfortunately, relationships are strained and mistrustful.

    I understand that the first step a parent would take is an application for leave to apply to revoke the SGO and I’d like to know what actually happens next. I understand that the Court (ie a Judge) would determine whether to allow a full application to be made on the basis of a case made by the applicant parent but would all parties to the original proceedings as named on the Order be informed (which would include the local authority and CAFCASS in our case) or just those with PR? Would there be a hearing at this stage, or any other opportunity to submit evidence and/or a statement? Would there be an expectation of mediation beforehand?

    I have been unable to find this information elsewhere in the internet and hope you are willing to help!

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      The court should list it for a preliminary hearing as the mother will need the court’s permission to make the application. I think you will be the only other party but I think the LA ought to be informed as well, but the court can look at all this at the first hearing. I don’t know how quickly your local court can list anything so there may be a few weeks before the application and turning up at court. I don’t think the court will want any written or oral evidence from anyone at the first hearing but check what the court sends you and what they require.

  18. Lisa H

    My son is currently living with my mum under a sgo. He was placed with her last year after I suffered a serious sexual assault. He cries every time I have to leave him and tells me he wants to live with me. He’s seven with autism so the social services didn’t try to hear his wishes. I’m currently homeless at the moment so couldn’t safely house him, but hoping my circumstances will improve soon. When I’m settled how much weight will my sons wishes have when it comes to removing the sgo? Or will we have to wait until he is older? My mum wants us to be reunited but is worried my son will be put in care if she agrees with me and my son. Also our separation has caused us both trauma, is there any counselling for us as a family to help us cope?

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Sorry, counselling available for family members in this situation is – so far as I know – pretty much non existent unless you can pay privately. But it might be worth contacting your GP and seeing what he/she can refer you to.

      If you can get secure housing and your child wants to be with you and your mum supports this, it would definitely be worth exploring what can be done. However, its not easy to overturn SGO as they are meant to be permanent options. However, you could at least make sure there is a good regime of contact in place even if you can’t succeed in getting your son living with you.

    2. Angelo Granda

      Lisa H, Who was it who suggested that because you suffered a serious sexual assault that you were unable to care for your son? Was it the Local Authority lawyers?
      I doubt whether any social worker would be so inhumane; it must have been the Local Authority. Surely the Social Worker reported to it that your son was crying and begging to be returned to his Mum and it was passed on to the Court? Did it tell all the expert assessors involved? Or did it forget? Or worse still, did it dishonestly state he was happy and thriving without you? What did the Guardian think about it?
      Did the Judgment specifically state that the SGO was meant to be a permanent option or is that just one of the arguments which Local Authority lawyers may use to support the continuation of the great pain ,mental suffering and degradation forced upon your son?
      I understand that adoption orders are permanent but I’m not sure about SGO’s.
      I suggest you get a good lawyer willing to argue SGO’s aren’t intended to be permanent and one who will visit your son ( perhaps at a contact) and bear witness to your son’s wishes.

        1. Angelo Granda

          I respect your assertion re-SGO’s and permanent options, Sarah. I understand perfectly that L.A.s and CP professionals award themselves the power to make all sorts of dictat like that one based upon their own professional opinions but the question is ” Do they act lawfully?”

          We have already discussed and agreed that the very word ‘permanence ‘ has been adopted and used as ‘jargon’ by these people to mean until a child is 18 but I have suggested to Lisa H. that she engage a lawyer willing to question such an abuse of power. Clearly , her child wants to go home to Mum and Grandma supports reunification ,if possible.

          The problem is with professional jargon like ‘permanence’ ,Sarah arises when the LA flouts legal guidelines and safeguards and ignores its duties. For example, it does not inform vulnerable families of plans for children, keep them suitably informed or explain issues to them. Neither are families given the chance to express agreement or disagreement or contribute . When the LA does this and when the Judge does not stipulate strict time scales ,it renders the Court decision unlawful .It should never be that children are parted from Mums unlawfully. They should be included and kept informed ( according to Munby and other Judges like Mc Farlane. Especially they should have care-plans explained fully to them.
          Many parents would appeal lower court decisions immediately were it explained to them that these SGO orders and foster-care plans were permanent. They are conned by the professionals who assert down the line that the plans are to last until a child is 18. ‘Conned’ is the right word for it .Foster-care and special guardianship is ,IN REALITY, temporary. Even foster-carers understand they are to care for children only until they can be returned to parents. Other wise they would become unofficial adoptive parents.
          Parents need lawyers to argue the legality of these issues rather than make assumptions.
          Sarah, have you any idea why so many parents appear to make comments and ask for advice but only once? They don’t acknowledge replies or follow up queries.I suspect that, as in one particular case I know of, the parent’s solicitors advice to a parent was to steer clear of this resource and the FRG and other internet sites. Parents are warned off!

          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            It is not a ‘self awarded’ diktat. It is a matter of law. SGOs were devised to be an option of permanency. That is what the law says. That is the law that Parliament enacted. Nothing to do with the lawyers.

          2. Angelo Granda

            But we already know that ‘permanency’ is professional jargon and I am suggesting that the law is arguable in this respect . Obviously, I am also suggesting parents need a good lawyer willing to argue in this child’s favour in order that his wishes are granted not one who goes along with such professional opinion. The child has a rights to life with his natural Mum and the law says so. The word permanency is clearly misused by lawyers biased towards Local Authority ulterior motives.
            Lawyers should look into the dictionary (as ordinary parents do) and re-examine the meaning of the LAW they are supposed to be administering and argue points on the behalf of this unfortunate child who is likely to continue suffering until they do so. Permanent means permanent NOT until a child is 18 as Local Authorities would have us believe because the Local Authorities prefer it that way. If return to natural family is possible before then, it should be undertaken as soon as possible ESPECIALLY WHEN the child is distressed as this one is.

          3. Worried

            In our case we were definitely advised by the SW and LA that the the SGO was a temporary measure and had I known a bit more about it I would have questioned it ( or attempted to as I am biological Grand parent)being given solely to one individual, who is very controlling and is now making Decisions which both BP and extended family do not believe are in the interests of the child. What can we do to challenge these decisions? We have all been told by SG that it’s her decision and we can do do nothing about it! Very worried.

          4. Angelo Granda

            Sarah, Please clarify a point. When you say the Law means SGO’s are a permanent option, it is a little confusing . Does that mean it can be a temporary ( impermanent) option or a permanent option depending on the best needs of the child?

          5. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            An SGO is a slightly diluted version of an adoption order. It is to cover situations where Grandparents want to care – that would be odd to call them ‘parents’ which they would be under adoption order. It is also for those religions which do not permit adoption – I understand Islam is one.

            Therefore it is meant to be an option of ‘permanence’. It is meant to be made only in those situations where all are reasonably confident the child will be able to live with the SG for the rest of his/her childhood. It is emphatically NOT a ‘holding position’ for a year or two while mum or dad get it together.

            However, that doesn’t mean that the parents can’t try at a later stage to discharge the SGO. It must means its quite a tough application and you will need a strong case.

          6. Angelo Granda

            Thank you ,Sarah.
            To Worried. If the LA advised you that an SGO was only meant to be a temporary measure and if neither the Social Worker or any of the sets of family lawyers did not inform you either that it was indeed meant to be a permanence plan akin to adoption then I suggest you were conned by all of them.
            According to the Law, of course , family are to be fully involved in care-plans, to be fully informed throughout and on no account must they be mislead like that.
            The LA has flouted legal guidelines, ignored its duties and misled not only you but the Court.
            From Sarah’s comments I gather that Lawyers are able to adapt the meaning of the word permanent more or less as they wish depending on whose behalf they are putting arguments. Permanent usually means just that, for life. They seem to be saying that , for LA’s ,the meaning has been changed to until 18 years. Thus ,I suggest ,as a fellow parent, you get a good lawyer who will argue for you that it is a ‘movable’ option and that the order should be discharged. As Sarah suggests it can be difficult ,don’t forget to tell your new lawyer how you were misled. Perhaps you should have appealed the order at the time.
            It may be difficult now to get the SGO discharged but ,frankly, the LA’s always have a massive advantage due to the imbalance of power and because of bias so you should be very, very careful when choosing a lawyer.
            If you have anything down on paper where the LA and SW told you it was temporary ,show it to the lawyer.

          7. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Angelo, you persistently misrepresent what is said and it isn’t helpful. Of course permanency means only until 18 for children. Because after 18 they aren’t children any more!! they are adults! No parents have a legal or moral right to house/care for children after the age of 18 – bar some exceptions for tuition fees etc – although of course I hope that most parents would still want to be loving and supportive of their adult children for all their lives.

          8. Angelo Granda

            Sarah, I am not mispresenting anything nor trying to be unhelpful. In my opinion the Authorities should not use the word permanence at all unless they mean permanence. If it can mean just until 18 in the child’s best interests then it can also mean until any age in a child’s best interests and possible to return to parents at any age.
            IN REALITY ,in my opinion ,an SGO is not a diluted adoption order , it is more like a foster-placement but because the child remains with family ,the LA don’t have to pay foster-carers and it saves expense. All such placements should merely be temporary. Indeed when the SW told Worried it was ,clearly he or she thought so too!
            This matter of permanence rankles. Who decides that foster placements are to last until 18? I know the Care-orders last until 18 but often it maybe in the child’s best interests to go home before that.
            The Judge doesn’t order fostering until 18.
            Care-plans should be changeable when parents become able to care for their children under a care-order if necessary. It is inhumane to decide on so-called ‘permanence’ without due process in which parents should be fully involved.
            I shall tell you what I think happens and hope I’m not being unhelpful. The Court makes the care-order, the LA abuses LAC Review procedures and a Review ( to which no parent or neutral is invited) decides arbitrarily to make the placements ‘permanent’. The case is then transferred to a ‘permanency’ team without proper, due process. Next LAC review the parent attends, it is too late to do anything about it.
            All comments welcome.

  19. looked_after_child

    You are doing the right thing staying close to your son in what sounds like very difficult circumstances and your mother sounds great and hugely supportive of both you and your son.

    Our LA has family group councelling that we could access but that was for slightly different reasons.
    CAMHS gives this kind of councelling too but it may be very difficult to access. Your GP can send their patients for councelling but not sure how specialist.
    Could you ask the LA to help you increase your parenting capacity? They might stick you on the Troubled Families Programme and you would get a Family Support Worker that ( in theory, possibly in practice ) would help you access services you need to help you?

    As your son is autistic ( Does he have a medical diagnosis, special support in school?) there will be a lot of things he experiences differently. Where I live there is a very active branch of the National Autistic Society and they organise lots of sessions for families about autism related issues. I know some people do’nt like joining in group activities or feel others will judge them if they open up but I’ve found these groups very inclusive. People don’t judge and you can tell as little about yourself or as much as you feel comfortable with. Not everybody’s life is perfect and parents of children with autism know this more than most.

    If you click on my name above ( it is looked_after_child) it will bring you to my website that hopefully is a source of information about all things child protection and autism related. There is a list of organisations ‘at the back’ that may be able to help with non-autism related support.

    Good luck and keep going so you stay in your son’s life.

  20. looked_after_child

    It is my experience that people will tell you things like “You don’t fit within our service criteria” or ” your chances are very low” or whatever. The key thing is to focus on what you want, and then do all the legwork building from the ground up, working at getting/staying well slowly making one thing better at a time and you will get there.. It may not be the ”there’ you imagined but it will be OK. If you and your son are happy and well, that may be more than enough in itself.

  21. donna brown

    hi whom it may cansider my stepsister and her husband has sgo and the ss seid i can have my children back if i get rid of my ex partner who was adiveive to me so now i do have a good relationship with my new partner i am so happy now. i have moved out of grimsby now i live in bradford so i am what some adive to get my 3 children back

    1. HelenSparkles

      You need legal advice. An SGO is an order which is intended to provide permanence and stability for children, so not only do you need to evidence change, it may depend on how long the children have been with your step sister and her husband.


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