Local authorities are fuelling a rapid rise in the use of special guardianship orders, a charity has claimed.
Recently published government statistics reveal that the number of special guardianship orders (SGOs) issued in the year to March was more than 20 per cent up on the previous year – a total of 3,330 , compared to only 2,770 in the preceding 12 months. In 2010, only 1,290 SGOs were made.
Issued under the Children Act 1989, special guardianship orders provide a legally secure placement for children unable to live with their birth families. Children covered by such orders cease to be the responsibility of their local authorities.
The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT) now claims that foster carers are being pressured by local authorities into covering placements into SGOs, saying the rise in the number issued was “dizzying” when compared to the much slower increase in the number of adoptions.
TACT chief executive Andy Elvin claimed:
“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. We are aware ourselves of some pressure being brought to bear on some foster carers to apply for SGOs.”
“SGOs should only be considered when the time is right for carers and the young person.”
In May, the High Court approved a special guardianship order allowing disabled parents to regularly visit their two year-old son while he remained in the care of a foster family.