Special Guardianship Orders

This order makes someone a child’s ‘special guardian’.

The law concerning special guardians  can be found at:

What is a special guardian?

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 amended section 14 of the Children Act 1989 to create special guardianship orders (SGO). These are a ‘half way house’ between a Child Arrangements Order that provides a child should live with someone (what used to be called a ‘residence order’) and adoption, which severs all legal ties between a child and his birth family.

The aim behind a SGO is that it will give a child permanence and stability but also allow him to retain links to his birth family,  for example in situations where it might not be appropriate to get an adoption order. For example, if a child is cared for by a close relative such as a grandmother, then adoption doesn’t make much sense as his grandmother would legally become his ‘mother’.

However, special guardianship is not intended to be only used for relatives;  foster carers should also be considered as potential special guardians. See Re I (Adoption: Appeal: Special Guardianship [2012] Fam Law 1461.

The court in S (a child) [2007] EWCA Civ 54 discussed the government’s motivation behind creating SGOs at paragraph 11 of its judgment:

In December 2000, the government published a White Paper entitled Adoption: a new approach (Cm 5017) (the White Paper). This followed the fundamental review of adoption policy and practice initiated by the Prime Minister earlier in the same year. The executive summary expressed the government’s belief that “more can and should be done to promote the wider use of adoption”, a sentiment repeated in paragraph 1.13 of the White Paper itself. At the same time, the White Paper recognised that adoption was not always appropriate for children who cannot return to their birth parents. The concept of special guardianship was introduced and discussed in paragraphs 5.8 to 5.11 of the White Paper in the following terms:

‘Special guardianship’
5.8 Adoption is not always appropriate for children who cannot return to their birth parents. Some older children do not wish to be legally separated from their birth families. Adoption may not be best for some children being cared for on a permanent basis by members of their wider birth family. Some minority ethnic communities have religious and cultural difficulties with adoption as it is set out in law. Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children may also need secure, permanent homes, but have strong attachments to their families abroad. All these children deserve the same chance as any other to enjoy the benefits of a legally secure, stable permanent placement that promotes a supportive, lifelong relationship with their carers, where the court decides that is in their best interests.
5.9 In order to meet the needs of these children where adoption is not appropriate, and to modernise the law so as to reflect the religious and cultural diversity of our country today, the Government believes there is a case to develop a new legislative option to provide permanence short of the legal separation involved in adoption. This view was strongly supported by respondents to the consultation on the PFU report.
5.10 The Government will legislate to create this new option, which could be called ‘special guardianship’. It will only be used to provide permanence for those children for whom adoption is not appropriate, and where the court decides it is in the best interests of the child or young person. It will: –

  • give the carer clear responsibility for all aspects of caring for the child or young person, and for making the decisions to do with their upbringing. The child or young person will no longer be looked after by the council;
  • provide a firm foundation on which to build a lifelong permanent relationship between the carer and the child or young person;
  • preserve the legal link between the child or young person and their birth family;
  • be accompanied by proper access to a full range of support services including, where appropriate, financial support.

There has been considerable evolution in the approach of the courts to identifying and assessing Special Guardians – particular problems have arisen when dealing with very young babies, who have no pre-existing relationship with the proposed Special Guardians, or when cases were ‘rushed’ and some SGOS were made when tragically it was not safe to do so. 

Who can be a special guardian?

When there is a question mark over parents’ ability to care for their children in the long term, best practice is that the local authority considers if there are any ‘connected people’ who could look after the child instead, i.e. family or friends. The local authority should undertake an initial family and friends care assessment, or ‘viability assessment’

This can be complicated, particularly if the parents have a wide extended family, who live in other local authority areas or even abroad. There shouldn’t be a ‘cap’ put on the number of people who put themselves forward, but equally, everyone has to be realistic. Someone who is already caring for a large number of children or has challenges of their own to meet, may not be a realistic option.

Anyone who wants to to apply to be a Special Guardian, has to be 18 or over and you can’t be the child’s parent. Some people can make an application for an SGO without the court’s permission, others will need leave from the court to make the application. 

You don’t need permission to apply if:

  • you are the guardian of the child;
  • you are named in a  a child arrangements order as a person with whom the child lives;
  • a local authority foster parent with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application;
  • a relative with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application.
  • if the child is in care and the local authority agrees you should make the application

How do I become a special guardian?

Your position may be very different depending on whether or not you have the backing of the local authority. You won’t get automatic legal aid to be represented in care proceedings but usually local authorities are asked by the court to pay for you to have a few hours of legal advice to explain your options.  If the local authority doesn’t support you, you will have to apply to the court for permission to make an application,

You have to give three months notice of your intention to apply to the local authority which is looking after the child or the local authority where you live if the child isn’t in care. The local authority then have to prepare a special guardianship report which will examine your suitability to be a special guardian. The court can’t make an SGO without this report.

When deciding whether or not to make an SGO the court will consider that the child’s welfare is paramount and it will look at the welfare checklist in section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989. 

There is a ‘residual power’ of the court to make a SGO ‘of its own motion’ (i.e. without any application before it) under section 14A(6)(b) of the Act but the Court of Appeal in P-S (Children) [2018] EWCA Civ 1407-were clear that it ‘should not be the normal or default process’. This is because someone who doesn’t have the consent of the LA needs more scrutiny. The court said at para 53:

In the absence of the local authority’s consent, the grandparents would have been able to apply for leave to make an application under section 10(9) of the 1989 Act where the factors to be considered by the court are specified.  In a case where the local authority does not consent the leave application is an important protection for the child and the child’s parents.  It is not a rubber stamp.  Where leave is granted, an appropriate balance is struck between the applicants, the child, the child’s parents and the local authority.  It is relatively common to find that local authorities who give consent to an application being made, that is who support the application on the merits, will help fund the applicant by providing representation.  That happened in this case when the matter came on appeal and after a case management indication to that effect was given by this court.  It ought to have happened earlier.

This case is also important because it looked at the issue of providing legal advice to people who might be thinking about applying to be a Special Guardian.  This case saw a successful appeal against final care orders in a case where the Judge had been worried that the child had never lived with the proposed Special Guardians. It sets out general guidance on the approach to be taken to consideration of Special Guardians and the making of SGOs within care proceedings. It is very important that proposed Special Guardians get access to proper legal advice about their options.  The Court called for more authoritative guidance to sit alongside the regulations. This has now been provided by the June 2020 report of the Public Law Working Group – see below for discussion. 

What does being a special guardian mean in practice?

Section 14C confirms that a special guardian is entitled ‘to exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of any other person with parental repsonsibility for the child’.

But that doesn’t mean the special guardian can just do as he or she likes. Under section 14C, if any law requires the consent of more than one person with parental responsibility the special guardian can’t ignore that. Nor can the special guardian give the child a new surname or take him out of the country for more than three months if the parents don’t consent.

Becoming a child’s Special Guardian is clearly a very significant step; its going to impact you financially and possibly your relationships with other family members.

The Best Practice Guidance (see below) says it is important for Special Guardians to understand the following:

  • The order will remain in force until the child reaches 18;
  • they will have parental responsibility for the child – this means all aspects of the child’s care including decision-making about the child’s day-to-day and long-term welfare, health and education and the provision of the resources that are needed to enable this to happen; (
  • their position within the family will change as they take on the responsibility for both the day-to-day and long-term parenting of the child; this may result in strong feelings being expressed by the birth parents and other family members towards the SG particularly during any contact they have after an order is made;
  • when an order is made and the child was previously looked after, that the SG will be entitled to an assessment of their own and the child’s support needs. This right to an assessment will continue until the child reaches 18;
  • following an assessment of support needs, it is at the discretion of the local authority as to whether any services will be provided, balanced against any eligibility requirements as set in law: this includes housing and financial services;
  • if the child was not previously looked after before the order was made, the eligibility for an assessment of support needs is at the discretion of the local authority.

Should a supervision order be made at the same time?

The Best Practice Guidance from 2020 (see below) does not think this is a good idea. 

The purpose of an SGO is to provide a firm foundation on which to build a lifelong permanent relationship between the child and the carer. A supervision order should not need to be used as a vehicle by which support and services are provided by the local authority. All support and services to be provided to the SG and to the child by the local authority or other organisations should be set out in the SGSP which should be attached as an appendix to the order. The cases where it would be appropriate or necessary to make a supervision order alongside an SGO will be very small in number. The issues that are intended to be addressed in the making of a supervision order are most likely to be achieved through the process as set out above.

How can I vary or discharge a special guardianship order?

This is dealt with at section 14D of the Children Act. Parents will have to get the court’s permission before making this application and the court won’t give this permission unless there has been a ‘significant change’ in circumstances since the order was made.

However, not too much weight should be put on the use of the word ‘significant’ . In G (A Child) [2010] EWCA Civ 300 Wilson LJ decided when considering an application for leave to discharge a SGO, courts should take the same approach as they took in applications for leave to revoke placement orders and that the guidance in M v Warwickshire County Council [2007] should be followed.

Applications to revoke placement orders only require a ‘change’ in circumstances and various authorities have commented that the test should not be set too high; parents should not be discouraged from trying to improve their situation.

Applying for leave to discharge/vary is a two stage process; if you cannot show a change in circumstances, the court will not give you permission to make the application and the matter ends there. however, if you can show a relevant change, the court will then consider if you should go on to make the application, looking at the child’s welfare and whether your application has a real prospect of success. Therefore you will need to show a change of circumstances that is relevant to the particular facts of your case and is the kind of change that will open the door to the court considering to allow you permission to apply to discharge.

For example, if your child was removed because you were in a violent relationship, have you taken steps to understand the risks posed by such relationships, by attending the Freedom Programme or similar intervention.


What support do special guardians get?

Under section 14F of the Children Act, the LA must make provision for special guardian support services such as counselling, advice and information. Under the Special Guardianship Regulations, the LA must provide appropriate financial support and make an assessment of the relevant needs. It will consider the fostering allowance as a starting point and may make appropriate adjustments to that.  See R (TT) v London Borough of Merton [2012] EWCA 2055.

Concern over the increase in numbers of special guardians.

TACT, the largest charity in the UK which specialises in providing fostering and adoption services, was concerned to note the sharp increase in numbers of special guardianship orders which were revealed by statistics from the Department of Education in 2014. Concerns have also been raised by Coram/BAAF.

Those statistics show that the use of special guardianship orders rose in England from 2,770 in 2013 to 3,330 in 2014.  But in 2010 there were only 1,290 orders which is an increase by 2014 of 158%.

TACT CEO Andy Elvin said:

SGOs were introduced to allow young people stability and permanence. We are, however, worried that this dramatic rise indicates that they are being increasingly used inappropriately. TACT is aware of foster carers being asked to consider special guardianship shortly after a placement is made, or placements being made only on condition that an SGO is part of the care plan. SGOs should only be considered when the time is right for carers and the young person.

Amended Regulations 2016

Throughout 2015 these concerns about the increase of SGOs grew; see the note from CAFCASS in October 2015 below. The fear was that children were being placed at risk if subject to an SGO without proper consideration of the long term viability of that placement.

These concerns lead to amended Special Guardian Regulations in February 2016. Now assessments of capacity to be  Special Guardian include:

their 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;

their understanding of, and ability to protect the child from any current or future risk of harm posed by the child’s parents, relatives or any other person the local authority consider relevant, particularly in relation to contact between any such person and the child;

their ability and suitability to bring up the child until the child reaches the age of eighteen;”.

Concerns from CAFCASS October 2015

Intended audience: Local authorities, Cafcass, judiciary, HMCTS, LSCB’s
1. Since their introduction, Special Guardianship Orders have been made in a wide variety of situations – much wider than the original legislation anticipated. The rate of increase in their use has accelerated in the past year, especially for infants. Many practitioners have expressed concern about the impact on the processes used and the future outcomes for children.
2. Whilst Special Guardianship is a positive option for many children, we are writing this note out of concern about a number of cases where we believe children have been placed at risk through a Special Guardianship Order being made without sufficient consideration of the placement’s long-term viability. Many of these placements have been arranged at a late stage in care proceedings without adequate time to carry out a suitability report to safe minimum standards. Sometimes it is clear the Special Guardianship Order process and sign off has been undertaken to ensure the case is completed within the statutory 26 week timescale. Our note is borne out of concern that this type of placement is not taking into sufficient account the requisite long-term viability for the child and, as a direct result, avoidably increases the risk of placement breakdown or the risk of immediate and significant harm.
3. Our guidance is written for learning and prevention purposes. It is clear that many Special Guardianship Orders are being made positively as a result of intensive family finding within the child’s kinship care network. When Local Authorities have been able to carry out a thorough analysis of the strengths within a family prior to or in the early stages of care proceedings, a Special Guardianship Order can be a positive permanence option. However, for reasons of risk and speed, or simply as a result of an inability to engage effectively with a family network, it is not always possible to explore this option to the right depth and at the right time. It is our view that Special Guardianship remains an important permanence option that can be a creative way of resolving a wide range of needs but the basic safeguards routinely applied to other forms of permanence should be followed with every Special Guardianship assessment and court process.
4. Where an SGO is being considered at a late stage in proceedings, care must be taken to ensure that minimum standards are complied with and that the suitability report covers the issues sufficiently. This is just as crucial if professional concerns relate to the long term capacity of the proposed special guardians to parent well, as it is if the child has neither lived with the proposed special guardian/s nor has a relationship with or attachment to the proposed special guardian.
5. If such a late assessment means that the 26 week limit cannot be complied with, this should be clearly presented to the court as a legitimate reason for assigning the case to the non-standard track.
6. All assessments/suitability reports, whether started and finished pre-proceedings or whether started and finished during proceedings, should comply with the Schedule set out in Regulation 21 of the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 (2005 No.1109). The threshold for a Special Guardianship Order in social work terms is that there is an evidence base that neither a co-parenting agreement, nor a s8 Order under the Child Arrangements Programme, will guarantee the child sufficient security and stability throughout their childhood. Conversely, the social work assessment and the children’s guardian’s analysis must demonstrate that the special guardian can meet the needs of the child in question including, where appropriate, recovery from the trauma associated with severe abuse or neglect if that has been the child’s prior lived experience.
7. It is important not to regard a Special Guardianship Order as a default option because of the higher hurdle of an adoption recommendation – ‘the nothing else will do’ test, or ‘last resort’ concept. Care must be taken to provide a balanced assessment of the special guardian, rather than over-emphasising untested positives.
8. In short, Special Guardianship Orders should neither be recommended nor endorsed nor determined expediently where the test and bar for a carer to pass is lower than that for a permanent placement outside the family, whatever the proposed legal framework for that placement. A Special Guardianship Order is a valid and compelling permanence option for many children but fundamentally the principles underpinning a Special Guardianship assessment and care plan should be no less than the test and standards for other forms of permanence outside the child’s immediate family. 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.
9. No child should be placed in the care of a Special Guardian without DBS and other necessary checks being carried out.
10. Our note applies to all practitioners in the case. We are not singling any profession or agency out for criticism over and above any other but this has become a real problem and a real risk for the children concerned.
Andrew Webb (ADCS) Anthony Douglas (Cafcass)

Reform Proposals

A review of the law around SGOs was commissioned by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory in response to the Court of Appeal’s call for authoritative, evidence-based guidance for the use of SGOs.  It was led by Dr John Simmonds from CoramBAAF and Professor Judith Harwin from Lancaster University.  The review was published in August 2019 and called for significant changes:

  • Increase focus on working with family members who might become the child’s special guardian before care proceedings commence.
  • A statutory minimum amount of preparation and training for prospective special guardians.
  • Ensuring that prospective special guardians have direct experience of caring for the child before making a Special Guardianship Order, evidenced by a thorough assessment of suitability.
  • Ensure that support services are available locally and align with entitlements for adopters and foster carers such as parental leave, housing priority and financial support.
  • Address the glaring gap in research on children and young people’s views and experiences of special guardianship.
  • Undertake research to address the challenge of how best to ensure safe and positive contact with birth parents and the wider family.

Final report of the Public Law Working Group

This was delivered in June 2020 and made four recommendations for immediate change at page 12:

  • more robust and more comprehensive special guardianship assessments and special guardianship support plans, including a renewed emphasis on (1) the child-special guardian relationship, (2) special guardians caring for children on an interim basis pre-final decision and (3) the provision of support services;
  • better preparation and training for special guardians;
  • reduction in the use of supervision orders with special guardianship orders;
  • renewed emphasis on parental contact

There were also four recommendations for longer term change

  • on-going review of the statutory framework;
  • further analysis and enquiry into (1) review of the fostering regulations, (2) the possibility of interim special guardianship orders, (3) further duties on local authorities to identify potential carers, (4) the need for greater support for special guardians;
  • a review of public funding for proposed special guardians;
  • effective pre-proceedings work and the use of the FRG’s Initial Family and Friends Care Assessment: A good practice guide (2017)

Appendix E sets out Best Practice Guidance, which the report recommends is implemented immediately.  This was endorsed by the President of the Family Division.

This incorporates interim guidance specifically to address the lawful extension of care proceedings beyond 26 weeks when special guardianship is being considered as an option. 


Further Reading

  • See what Coram BAAF say about special guardians.
  • There is a blog for special guardians which provides advice and support.
  • For a discussion of the merits of adoption versus special guardianship orders, see this post by suesspiciousminds.
  • In December 2015 the Department of Education proposed a major review of SGO assessments after concerns were raised about the large increase in the number of SGOs.
  • Report of the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory.  March 2019. This is the first largescale study of supervision orders and is the most recent national report on special guardianship. It provides crucial new evidence regarding stability and disruption for children who return to their birth parents on a supervision order or are placed within their extended families on an SGO. Powerful messages come from focus groups with special guardians and family justice professionals. They resonate with the issues raised in the recent Re P-S court of Appeal case. The report calls for better access to justice and a more transparent court process for special guardians. It also calls for a major overhaul of the process of selecting special guardians and significantly more support for this kind of placement. It has been the Cinderella for too long and needs to have parity with other types of care.
  • Special Guardians – impact of local court guidance CPR October 2016
  • Special Guardian orders and Supervision orders – is it right these ever go together? CPR October 2016 

65 thoughts on “Special Guardianship Orders

  1. julie parker

    hii i am a grandmother of a little boy who is living with his aunt under a sgo the aunt is on the paternal side of the family whereas i am on the maternal side my problem is that this aunt has refused to let my grandson have any contact with our side of the family apart from his mother i find this very distressing and was hoping that you could give me advice as to what action to take thankyou

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Sorry to hear that. Does she give any reasons why she won’t allow contact? You could apply to court for permission to make an application for a child arrangements order but you may have to go to mediation first. It’s always worth trying to sort things out as a family before taking a matter to court, but if she won’t tell you why or you don’t think her reasons are good enough, then court may be your only option I am afraid. There may be some helpful information on our links and resources page.

      If you look on Parents and Families https://childprotectionresource.online/parents-and-families/ there are links to three specialist charities that deal with grandparents. I bet some of their members will have been through exactly this situation and may be able to give you more focused advice about best way to proceed.

  2. Lucy Smith

    Hi I have residence order of two siblings for five years now .There birth parents have made no contacts I’ve applied for special guardianship order I’ve made contact with them and both of them are not contesting so what does that mean for me

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Then it should be a quick and easy process if they are not contesting. I only deal with court hearings when people can’t agree so I am afraid I don’t know what happens if there is no disagreement from the birth parents. But I assume the process must be much more straightforward; presumably the parents will have to sign a statement saying they agree and understand what they are agreeing to.

  3. Natalie

    My child was placed under a sgo on her preternatural side since court I haven’t seen my child in 15 months even though the order states at least once a month it isn’t all the other parties fault as I was away for 4 months then got extremely ill but have always asked when I can see her ect now my letters texts and correspondence gets ignored I want to know if you can appeal the sgo order as my life is completely different cm paired to when it was first issued also they lowered my contact time ect I wanted to know if I would get legal aid or would have to fund it myself also thanks

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I think it is more realistic to think about applying to discharge the SGO, rather than appealing against it as it was made so long ago. But its going to be pretty difficult to over turn an order that was made so long ago.

      I don’t think you would get legal aid I am afraid, but you need to see a solicitor to find out. If you can’t afford to pay for a lawyer, there might be someone who could help you here.

    2. ian josephs

      Natalie , Fight for your child now ! Do not appeal as that would mean you think the order should never have been made in the first place and would be very hard to do;Apply instead for the order to be set aside on the grounds of “changed circumstances” so that your child can be restored to you. Act for yourself or get a McKenzie friend from “jusice for families” to help you explain clearly how your life has changed for the better since the time they made the SGO; Good luck !

  4. Pingback: Parental Responsibility | Child Protection Resource

  5. Heather Jordan

    Hi I don’t know if anyone can help but myself and my husband were in the very late stages of an assessment for an SGO for my niece and nephew. I have since found out that I am pregnant I was obviously honest with the social worker and assessor but they have since come back to me and said because new guidelines state that due to me being pregnant we are no longer allowed to apply for the SGO due to statistics showing there will is usually a breakdown in placement when a pregnancy factored in. I really don’t want these kids lost in the system and truly and whole heartedly know that breakdown of the placement will not happen. Any help and advice would be greatly appreciated

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It’s not the SW who makes a decision about an SGO, it’s the court. But obviously, having a positive assessment from a SW is a big help. Make sure the court knows you want to apply for a SGO, ask to be parties to the proceedings if the LA doesn’t support you – but you probably won’t get legal aid. If you think the assessment is unfair, ask the court to order an assessment from an independent SW.

      It’s true that having a baby is a massive big deal in this kind of scenario and it will certainly make things tougher. But I don’t think it should automatically rule you out – they should be looking at how you could cope and what supports they could put in place.

  6. Jen Hart

    Hi I am my children were placed with my in-laws last year. I am struggling immensely with the situation and was wondering who can provide support and advice for the parents in this situation? My mother in-law had no relationship with my children before they were placed with her. She has become very grandiose and the power/authority has gone straight to her head. She messes around with my contact (sometimes counselling it completely) I have 6 children – 5 in her care ( my other child passed away 3 years ago & have been struggling to come to terms with it hence why my children were removed from my care ) the SW have had no issues with my parenting skills only my emotional state and this is only of meant to been a short term measure to sum up their deadline on the case.
    I was told I could apply to have it discharge within 2 to 3 years if I was well enough. Since the order had been made it had been hell – my mother in laws attitude changed and it is a nightmare. On top of this I am considering leaving my husband due to his domestic abuse and infidelity and I can see my mother In law making it even worse for me to have contact although she allows their father ( my husband ) to pop in and out & go see them whenever he wishes.
    So basically my question are – where is the support for the parents in all of this? What happens if contact is being made inconstant / used to ‘bully’ the parent by the person with the SGO and also how exactly to do I go about applying to the court to discharge the order when the time is right ( I feel ready and well enough )

    Thank you

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am sorry you feel unsupported – this is a big problem. there isn’t much support for parents. There might be someone worth contacting here https://childprotectionresource.online/parents-and-families/

      You can apply to discharge the SGO BUT I question whether the time is right now. You say you are considering leaving your husband ‘due to his domestic abuse and infidelity’. That does not sound to me as though you are presently living in a stable and happy environment, certainly not if he is abusive. If you do end the relationship that is going to be a big emotional upheaval.

      I think you need to be honest with yourself about whether you could now offer the children a stable and happy home. Unless you can convince a court that things have changed and you can sustain the changes, you won’t have much chance of discharging the SGO I am afraid.

      If you want to discharge the SGO you will have to make an application to the court that made the original order. The court staff will give you a copy of the relevant form to fill in and you may have to pay a fee unless you are claiming benefits.

  7. Lisa

    I have a child under an ago and they have now informed me they will be moving abroad, I know they can leave the country for 3 months at a time and need my consent to permanently move but if they did go for 3 months and came back how long do they have to stay back in the country for before they can go again? I am in the middle of applying for a prohibited steps order
    Any help would be greatly appreciated

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Good question – I don’t know I confess as I have never come across a situation where SGs would go for three months and then come back for just a short period of time and then go again. That would be quite a weird situation and wouldn’t be likely to be in the best interests of the child. If they are trying to mask a permanent leave from the jurisdiction by coming back for short stays, I think that would be quite obvious (for e.g. where is the child going to school?) and you would be entitled to object.

      If they have told you they are moving abroad, that sounds like they intend it to be for more than three months. If you don’t give your permission, they can’t go without the court’s permission so I would make it clear that you don’t consent. If they don’t make an application for permission, you can make an application for a PSO.

  8. leanne

    hi my kids gt taken off me for rong reasons social services are on bout sgo wat will be my rites how can i get em bk

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Its not the local authority or social services who get the SGO – it is another person, often a relative such as a grandmother. Often SGOs go hand in hand with a Supervision Order so the LA is often still involved, but they don’t share PR, like they do if there is a care order.

  9. Neil Gate

    Hi could you please be able to give me some information on parents rights to visitation after an ago has been made. My partner’s cousin has an ago for our son we have had regular visitation since he went there we asked for nothing to make things easier for her . But she was the one who made it so we seen him every weekend and told him he could soon come to stay weekends if he was good. Then three month ago she stopped all visits even with his extended family she tried to say everything but the kitchen sink as a reason why she stopped it all but SS came out to investigate but everything came back as there were no evidence as to what she had alleged however there has been no change and SS don’t seem to want to help us saying she has all the rights. We have been more than fare by not contacting her etc but still no change when all this happend we were told he should have a decent level of contact with ourselves and extended family so why is it that she can get away with this when we’ve done nothing wrong And now my son is the one suffering plz could you email me anything at all that could help us sort out this sorry mess thank you.

    1. helensparkles

      If contact has not been set out in an order, the person with the SGO is responsible for ensuring it meets the needs of the child, and it seems they have decided it currently does not. I can’t comment on that but they have the PR to make that decision, which means you might need a solicitor. Contact is always considered by the court and there are times when it is decided that the person with the SGO should be able to make that decision, because otherwise contact is inflexible, and can’t easily be increased or decreased if circumstances improve or deteriorate. Children’s Services are not in a position to help once an SGO has been granted so it isn’t about whether they want to help or not.

  10. Daniel Rayner

    I desperately need help my son is subject to a special guardianship order however the special guardians have banned me from giving him Christmas/birthday cards and also banned me from taking any photos or videos of him what can I do about this a social worker has told me I can apply for a child arrangement order to have these things included is this true

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      You could apply for a specific issue order, but the whole point of an SGO is that it gives the SG ‘super’ PR so they can override yours in almost every area. I don’t know anything about the facts of your case so I can’t comment on how reasonable the SGO is to ban you from giving presents and cards or taking photos – that sounds a bit harsh.

      But I am afraid if you can’t come to any agreement with the SGO you will have to take it back to court. I couldn’t say what your chances of success would be, but presumably not high as a court has already ordered a SGO for this person.

  11. Daniel rayner

    They have given no reason at all for banning cards the reason for banning photos is I took one photo while gently holding my son still so the photo would not blur they are saying this is inappropriate behaviour I dont see how it was for about 3 seconds and in said photo my son is smiling it caused him no harm at all

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It’s not uncommon for people to have very different perspectives on each other’s behaviour, and think they are doing things to be nasty when in fact they are not. I don’t know anything about what lead to this SGO but it may be that the SG is worried because of what happened in the past. The SG may be overreacting or you may just not have any understanding as to how others see your behaviour. I simply don’t know.

      I would however be a bit concerned as to why anyone would need to ‘hold a child still’ to take a photo. But I wasn’t there and didn’t see what you did so can’t really comment!

      that is why, if you can’t agree between yourselves, you may need to put it before a Judge who will have an overview of everything and can try to reach the fairest conclusions.

      1. Angelo Granda

        What a burke! Of course a child might have to be held still in order for a photograph to be taken especially if he or she has behavioural difficulties. Get real ,please, child protection professionals. How can one take a photograph unless every one remains still. I hope to God a Court would not assume that holding a child still for a photograph is cause for ‘concern. Bollocks!

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Of course it could be a cause for concern. a one off? Probably not. But if every contact session was dominated by a parent holding a child still to take a photograph, even if the child cried and protested. As with everything it is a matter of degree. And the impact behaviour has on a particular child. You can’t just dismiss it out of hand without knowing what impact it actually had.

          1. Angelo Granda

            Apologies for the language in my previous comment. I don’t know what came over me, especially to suggest that our benefactor is a burke.
            It just seems overly fearful and disproportionate to suggest that holding a child still for a photograph might be a cause for concern.

  12. Daniel rayner

    Well my son moves around a lot and my phone camera blurs all the time its very hard to get a pic of him that isnt blurred. So like I say I gently held him still for 2/3 seconds to get a clear shot that wasnt blurred as I say this causes him no upset or stress at all in said photo he is actually smiling, the SG said absolutely nothing at the time because it was nothing it was 2 weeks later she hit me with this, I have taken 100s of photos of my little boy personally I think anybody in the SG shoes would simply ask me not to do that again. I think thats wat most fair and reasonable people would do I have even tried to compromise and say ok ill just stick to videos but she has banned that as well.

    Just for yr information I have no record of being a danger to children in any way at all

  13. Daniel rayner

    I think I will take this to a judge as its not just the photo ban its the card ban, I know why she wants to ban cards because she plans on lying to my son about his situation, I obviously buy him cards with “son” on the front and she doesnt want him to see this, she put a stop to him calling me dad as well and his natural mother being called mum all on the advice of a child psychologist so she claims, I have an email from her which ok doesnt 100% prove she plans on lying to him but it strongly suggests so in it she says she is not sure its going to be fair to reveal the truth to my son until he is in his teenage years as she wants to give him a stable childhood and not cause him emotional harm, im of the opinion that its best he knows the truth from the beginning as this will mean he naturally grows with this knowledge, hitting him in his teenage years with the information his whole life is a lie is wat can cause him emotional harm

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      The whole point about an SGO is it recognises that the SG is NOT the parent. I agree that it would not be right to keep the truth from your son. He must know that you are his dad, and his mum is his mum but he lives with his SG. BUT if he wanted to call his SG ‘mum’ i wouldn’t stop him. As long as the reality of his situation isn’t hidden from him, but shared with him as he grows in ways he can understand.

  14. Daniel rayner

    I have absolutely no problem with my son calling the special guardians mum and dad in fact it would be quite abnormal if he didnt, I don’t in all honestly have a problem either with him not calling me dad he can call me micky mouse if that makes him happy, I just dont want the truth kept from him and as explained above its not just the calling me dad thing that makes me think the special guardians plan on lying to my son, I have discussed these matters with social services but believe it or not they dont seem to care

  15. Donna Dosanjh

    My daughter is living with my sister under A SPECIAL GUARDIAN ORDER
    TO I WAS GIVEN A LETTER FROM THE HEART SURGEN THE INFORMING ME SHE Can be never Have ears pierced due to an uncommon heart syndrome. Should I of been asked and could of caused great danger even loss of life
    It is wrong ingnoring medical advice

  16. HelenSparkles

    You might find this guide from FRG useful https://www.frg.org.uk/images/Advice_Sheets/20%20-special-guardianship-for-birth-parents.pdf The most relevant to your query is that you keep PR when an SGO is granted and the special guardian also get PR. The special guardian has the right to make specific decisions about your child and they don’t have to ask if you agree. There are some things they can’t do such as change a child’s surname, take them outside the UK for longer than 3 months, or place them for adoption without your agreement.

    The medical advice that you were given regarding a heart condition would have been about the risk of infections and is very likely to have stressed the need for good oral hygiene, as well as advising against piercings and tattoos. Ear piercing is less risky than other piercings and can be made safer by the use of antibiotics. It is possible that the special guardian contacted the cardiologist for advice.

    It is very difficult for decisions about your child to be made by others, especially if you think they are putting your child at risk for a pre-existing condition. I wonder if it is at all possible for you to either discuss this with the special guardian or to make use of an intermediary to do so, such as an advocate? That way you might be able to discuss what kind of decisions you would like to be involved in.

  17. Concerned sg

    I’m about to become sgo to my nephew my sister’s son. I’m appalled at how parents are treated and would never treat my sister or ex husband like that. I want my nephew to have a great relationship with them too.

    My sis has mental health issues, no drugs or anything involved, her drug intact is her religion(she’s a fanatic). We but heads over this but still I won’t prevent her from having a relationship with her son and often talk to the son about his lovely mum.

    She’s in and out of hospital as she refuses medication.

    Sgo people, if the parents aren’t causing harm, don’t be selfish and want the child to yourself, or else, the kids will grow up asking you uncomfortable questions.
    If you love the child, you want the best for them and that includes the right to have a relationship with their parents if they are not harming them of course.

    Daniel(above) hope your sgsees sense and allows your don to know you as dad as your child deserves this surely.

    This is why sgo should be given to families first if possible.

  18. Daniel rayner

    Thanks concerned sg I wish the special guardian of my son was like you. Since my last post things have im afraid got worse, the male special guardian has unfortunately died leaving just the female who fully intends to allow my son to grow up thinking his dad is dead until such time as she sees fit to tell him the truth, I have been in contact with social services about this but so far they are ignoring me although I did only contact them for the first time about this a week ago, I really hope social services will actually do something to stop this vile plan of hers because the psychological damage this could do to my son is immense although I have to be honest I dont hold out much hope and think social services will just let her get away with it

    1. HelenSparkles

      An SGO is a private law order, to address the issues within a private law order you need recourse to private law. Children’s Services do public law (which is what care proceedings are) during which they sometimes make applications (or others do) for private law orders. It isn’t a case of anyone letting the SG carer get away with anything, or ignoring you, so much as you needing legal advice and an application for a contact order for example. If there is any issue about the child being harmed or needing social work intervention in any way, you need to make a referral as anyone would.

  19. Daniel rayner

    Well helen I already have contact as part of the sgo, as for legal advice I simply dont have the money for a solicitor. I have been told I can make a referral to social services because of her behaviour and to be honest I think im going to because I really feel I have no choice but I know this will just cause more bad feelings between us because lets face it she is not going to like being referred to social services is she, nobody is going to like that but ive got to protect my son from these twisted plans of hers the woman is absolutely ridiculous, her behaviour is self centred and morally disgusting. I just thought I should contact the manager of the special guardianship team first as felt this was a less drastic way to maybe sort it out but as said already im getting ignored there and its over a week now I will try one more monday if still no joy then yes think referral is the road to take

    1. HelenSparkles

      It is a problem in private law that it often costs money and people don’t have access to legal aid.

      You can of course make a referral to Children’s Services if the child is being harmed by the Guardian’s behaviour, that would be emotional abuse, and possibly neglect.

      A referral is exactly what you need to do in those circumstances, the team who work on SGO’s will not be able to help you as far as I am aware, those teams are generally set up to assess and support carers. You are talking about a child. They don’t work with those children. It would be better if they rang you and told you that, but maybe they think they have already.

  20. Daniel rayner

    Yes I know the sgo teams are mainly for carers. Wat really gets to me is many times during this process I warned social services the kind of person this woman is (and her late husband) and the hostility she has torwards me and my sons natural mother but it fell on death ears I was made out to be the jealous jilted father who was being unfair on them and not thinking of my son. With all this stuff going on now with the truth being kept from my little boy, bans on cards bans on photos, she has even put gifts given to my son from his maternal grandparents up for sale on a site called andover facebay! (its like a facebook version of ebay) I think I have been more than vindicated,. Now though all the original social worker does is basically tell me its not her problem and refers me to the sgo team, I think its an absolute joke and she should bloody well help me sort this out, she was the one who told me countless times my concerns were completely unfounded and it was her decision to give my son to this woman after all, but then we all know social services are good at passing the buck and not admitting their mistakes

    1. HelenSparkles

      I completely understand that you feel like they are passing the buck, but I don’t think either the SGO team or the child’s SW at the time of the placement is who you need.

      Teams are called different things in different LAS but you need their team involved in first responses, the SW who will go out an assess the current situation.

  21. Daniel rayner

    Yes I know you are right Helen, it’s the system and thats the way it works it just shouldn’t be like that. The manager of the sgo team knows wat shes up to ,him and him and his team are there to support her as you say but yet they cant do nothing to stop this. so in other words they put her needs/wishes before wats right for a child seems a bit backwards to me, I have to instead report her to social services like a new case which will send them round to her door which is then going to create far more bad feelings between us than if the people already involved do it and I dont see how thats the best for my boy either, the system is completely wrong

  22. Alexandra

    Hello, myself, partner and also my mum are about to have an SGO on my 2 nephews and my neice. Myself and partner have the youngest child and my mum has the eldest 2. However,my mum’s SW who’s doing tje assessments is a right Umm dinger and makes my mum feel so small.
    In my mum’s home there is herself, my nephew and neice and my 2 younger sisters, both of which have there own issues. My younest sister self harms BUT has NOT selfhrmed in months and a few other conditions. My other sister who lives with my mum has alosid halusinations (I cant spell the words-Sorry) or bipolar ( which thst lavel hasnt been given to her offically yet) autism and ADHD. Which is ALL medicated and under a DR. Now this social worker has told my mum today, that there is no way is she getting to keep this kids and In November will be going Into care ????????. Where does my mum stand on this? What help can she ask for? Is this SW in the right for telling her this?
    Someone please help because this is destroying my mum and it’s breaking me to see her so upset, hurt and feeling like she’s failed the babies!!

    1. HelenSparkles

      An SGO assessment needs to capture the ability to meet the needs of the child/ren both now and in the future. It isn’t possible to know all of the issues the SW has concerns about, nor would I wish to, but it is possible that they are a barrier to caring for these children.

      You can seek independent legal advice and you should. It might be possible to request an independent social work assessment or to make an application for a private law order such as a CAO.

    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      She needs to get a lawyer, if she can or make sure she applies to intervene in the care proceedings so that she can be considered as a carer for the children. Unless those with parental responsibly agree that their children should go into care, it isn’t the social worker who decides if children go into care, it is a judge. It does sound as if your mum has a lot to cope with but hopefully there is support that could be put in place to help her carry on looking after your nephew and niece.

  23. Daniel rayner

    I took yr advice and have reported the special guardians behaviour of lying to my son to the relevant social services department, they are refusing to investigate the matter and as far as they are concerned my son will suffer no ill effects from her deceitful behaviour, its absolutely unbelievable! Everybody I speak to says this behaviour from her is emotional/psycological abuse including yourselves. I can only think that they won’t do anything as if it goes down on record that my son is suffering anything from her behaviour then its not going to look good for them as after all it was their decision to give my child to her,.

    Im sure you here this kind of thing all the time but im telling the truth. I can prove that this social services department took my son from me by lying and falsifying tests, I understand thats a strong allegation but as I say I can prove it, I tried to complain to their complaints department about this and presented tmy evidence but they refused to investigate my complaint telling me that it was a matter for the court which im not sure how it is so as my complaint was ENTIRELY about the conduct of social workers who work for them its got nothing to do with the court but this is what they said to me to get out of investigating my complaint.

    I cant afford a solicitor so I was wondering and hoping if you mite be able to forward me any details of any organisations that could hekp me get justice here as ive said ive got evidence to prove what I say, I want something done about these social workers, treating me badly is one thing but now they are allowing my son to be treated badly as well, enough is enough.

  24. Sam

    Daniel They cannot stop you using the complaints procedure. Phone the council up or look up on their website who the head of children’s services is and send an email to them explaining that you have been not allowed to use it. If that doesn’t work email the chief executive. In my experience all council emails are the persons name @the councilname.gov.uk. So quite easy to get to the right person. Good luck

  25. Daniel rayner

    thankyou sarah

    Sam I have complained directly to the mamager of childrens services as I say they told me its a matter for the court, this social services department really are currupt to be the core mate, not tried chief executive

  26. Daniel rayner

    Thankyou sam yr a great help, I have emailed the chief executive of the council today as well, cheers mate

  27. Pingback: Special Guardians – Impact of ‘local guidance’ for courts? | Child Protection Resource

  28. Kathleen Jane White

    Hi We have been granted an S.G.O. for my Grandson. And agreed in court to have a one year supervision order with Social Service. There have been no major problems and all are agreed our Grandson, is doing well in all things School, Socially etc.
    The order is due to run out next week. However we think they are going to try and extend. Have we got to agree. They have implied reasons may be my sons lifestyle. Although he has never harmed our Grandson. And the fact that his Mum and her boyfriend, who oversees Mums contact are going through a rocky patch. Please help.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      No you do not have to agree. The LA will need to take it back to court and if you don’t agree you can tell the judge why not and let him/her decide. If you don’t feel there is a need for a further Supervision Order and the judge agrees, the court should not make any orders.

  29. Melina Lake

    Hi can anyone help me I have my neice and nephews from social services as they are on a child protection order since November last year I’ve been having them on and off for year but this time had them since January social worker now wants me to go for an emergency SGO me and my hubby both work and was told we will get financial support as these kids have nothing and I feel like I’m starting from scratch how long does an emergency sgo take plz x

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am not aware that any such order as an ’emergency SGO’ exists. SGO orders should only be made after very careful assessment including looking at a support package for the carers. This usually takes 3-4 months. the children could be placed with you by a variety of routes while that assessment is ongoing – by a child arrangements order or by treating you as foster carers, but that would also require an assessment. Do you know what basis they have been living with you since January?

  30. El

    I live with my nan under a sgo … im now about to turn 16 and have wanted to be moved from her care since i was 12 , once i am 16 can i still legally leave/move out with her consent or does the sgo need to be removed through court first ?

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      At 16 it would be impossible to keep you somewhere you didn’t want to be. Its a very tricky age however as you are considered to be competent to make your own decisions in many areas but you are unlikely to have access to money etc to find your own accommodation and I don’t think legally you can have a tenancy at 16. I imagine any court who was asked to enforce an SGO against your will at 16 would refuse. But its also difficult to get a LA to offer you accommodation if it thinks there is a safe family member. So it may depend very much on if you have somewhere else to go or would be asking the LA to house you. But at 16, I don’t think any court would enforce an order for SGO, contact or residence against you.

      1. El

        Thats kinda helped , i spoke to my social worker about it and she said that they would help me find something semi dependant if i am adamant to move after my birthday and i can also get a paid job with their help which would make money for things i needed

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          That’s brilliant, glad you have got the support you need in RL. Its a tricky age – you are old enough to start deciding the course of your life but young enough to still need help. Hope you continue to get it.

  31. Loraine

    I have my 4 grandchildren on an sgo (daughters) and was wondering if I could leave the children over night with her to visit my sick father in law who doesn’t have long

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      you as Special Guardian have ‘super PR’ so you are able to make these decisions UNLESS there is a court order in place which limits your daughter’s contact.

  32. Dee

    Hi, I am an SG to my grandson who is only 16 months old, I originally fostered him then went for the SGO as my daughter and her ex boyfriend were and are into drugs. My daughter volunteered to social services that she felt her drug taking was out of control and she needed help. Hence I now have my grandson. His father has not seen him or tried to come and see him since leaving them when my grandson was 3 weeks old. He is allegedly still doing drugs and providing there with drugs however he has never been caught. Of curse I wish for both parents to see their son once they are clean. The father is convincing the social worker that he is clean, however, sadly drug users and sellers do tell on each other and I have been regularly informed that he is still a drug user. My daughter had her son taken due to her drug-taking however the father has now asked to see his son albeit at a contact centre however, he is still using. I have informed the social worker of this however she seems to favour this lad and telling me that he will not have to have a drugs test whereas my daughter had to. I signed my time away to help my grandson to keep him safe and free from drug environment so I do not understand why the social worker will not put my grandson’s father through a drugs test to prove he is not using. The father was also quite violent in the relationship he has two other children from another ex and he did the same to her he left her many times and the children do not live with him. He had not paid a penny of maintenance for his son either, I know the law here is not worried about that however in the USA the law is very different. So my final question is where do I stand in this if I am to protect my grandson and also to be fair to all in that both his parents have/had drug and alcohol issues seems a little un fair on my daughter to have gone through this to only see her ex walk in and be able to see his son who he left and yet she is not?
    kind regards
    SGO to a lovely little boy

  33. Ramin

    Hi all,
    I am in the case where we have been told that the LA will apply for us to have SGO status over my two nieces. I have been told this is the “public route.” I know that there is also a “private route” and I understand the differences procedurally. However, I don’t quite understand the long-term impact e.g. will children’s services be more involved after the SGO has been granted versus if we went the private route?

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      i think there is some confusion here. Care proceedings are public law proceedings as they involve a public body, the LA. An SGO can be made in care proceedings but it is what is known as a ‘private law’ order, i.e. its between two or more individuals and the LA doesn’t have a role to play. So any future disputes about the SGO will be dealt with by the individuals concerned. Sometimes SGOs are made along side a Supervision order so the LA would be involved in that, but its generally discouraged to have Supervision Orders running alongside SGOs. If there is no Supervision Order, there should be minimal involvement from the LA after SGO is made. But this may depend also on the nature of the support they are offering.

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