The government has announced plans to amend special guardianship regulations after major issues were highlighted within the current system.
In a newly published response to a consultation launched over the summer, the Department for Education promised to strengthen the assessment process for special guardianship, a form of foster care in which children unable to live with their parents are instead cared for by friends and relatives.
Following concerns that the assessment process is frequently rushed, the Department announced that in future it would be “more robust and consistent for all children” and “based on the fundamental principle that the person being assessed is capable of caring for the child for the whole of that child’s life to adulthood”.
Future assessments will have to include a consideration of the proposed special guardian’s understanding of the child’s needs and of any risk posed to them by their birth parents. Social workers will also have to consider the strength of the carers’ existing relationship to the child.
Respondents to the review had complained that children were sometimes placed in potentially risky homes due to less than rigorous assessments of the friends or extended family members proposed as their carers. In some cases, the existence of risk has been recognised by the addition of an order stating that social workers must supervise the new family pairing. This applies in particular, the government notes, to situations in which the special guardian and child has little or no pre-existing relationship.
Children’s Minister Edward Timpson said the review “provided a clear rationale for creating a stronger, more robust assessment framework for potential special guardians. I want this to be implemented quickly”.
Read the full response here.