A special guardianship order (SGO) is an order of the court under the Children Act 1989, which grants the holder(s) parental responsibility over a child until they reach the age of 18. This enables the special guardian to make day-to-day decisions on behalf of the child, for example in relation to their education.
Who can apply for an SGO?
- Any guardian of the child
- A person who already holds a child arrangement order or a residence order for the child
- Anyone with whom the child has lived with for at least three years out of the last five years
- Anyone with the consent of the local authority if the child is in care
The responsibility for completing SGO assessments rests with the adoption/SGO team, for applicants where the child was not previously looked after and for foster carers seeking SGO. Single assessments for connected persons where the outcome could be either fostering or SGO are completed by the fostering team.
SGO support plans
Once the SGO assessment has concluded, a support plan will be drawn up. The plan will list all of the support that is going to be made to the carers, the child/young person and family.
All parties should be involved in writing the plan including the assessing social worker, the carer and the child/young person. The plan will detail any financial support, any contact arrangements, training for the carers, lifestory work, pupil premium and access to the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) to provide specialist therapeutic support.
The support plan will be signed and agreed before the SGO order is granted and will be reviewed annually.
The Adoption Support Fund
The Adoption Support Fund (ASF) has been established to help families' access therapeutic support more easily for adopted children and children from care who are now subject to SGO.
The fund will enable them to pay for services such as play therapy and family support sessions, which will help adoptive families understand and work through their children's difficult start in life, improving relationships and promoting a positive family life.
Without this type of support, children can struggle to settle into their new homes, which can create difficulties at particular stages in their lives, such as adolescence. The SGO social workers will assess each child and family's needs allowing them to make applications to the fund if required.
Introduced in 2011, the pupil premium is a sum of money given to schools each year by the government to improve the attainment of disadvantaged children.
This is based on research showing that children from low-income families perform less well at school than their peers. Often, children who are entitled to pupil premium face challenges such as poor language and communication skills, lack of confidence and issues with attendance and punctuality.
The pupil premium is intended to directly benefit the children who are eligible, helping to narrow the gap between them and their classmates.
Primary schools are given a pupil premium for children previously in care who have a special guardianship order. For these children, the pupil premium is currently £2,300 per pupil per school year.
Schools can choose how to spend their pupil premium money, as they are best placed to identify what would be of most benefit to the children who are eligible.
Common ways in which schools spend their pupil premium fund include:
- Extra one-to-one or small-group support for children within the classroom
- Employing extra teaching assistants to work with classes
- Running catch-up sessions before or after school, for example for children who need extra help with maths or literacy
- Running a school breakfast club to improve attendance
- Providing extra tuition for able children
- Providing music lessons for children whose families would be unable to pay for them
- Funding educational trips and visits
- Paying for additional help such as speech and language therapy or family therapy
- Funding English classes for children who speak another language at home
- Investing in resources that boost children's learning, such as laptops or tablets
There is no obligation for your school to consult you about how they use the money they claim for your child, although some schools may involve parents.
However, schools do have to show that they are using their pupil premium fund appropriately. This is measured through Ofsted inspections and annual performance tables showing the progress made by children who are eligible for pupil premium.
In addition, they have to publish details online, including how much money they have been allocated, how they intend to spend it, how they spent their previous year's allocation and how it made a difference to the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.
SGO social workers
SGO social workers are based in the adoption and SGO team. They are responsible for reviewing SGO support plans and delivering/negotiating SGO support packages.
St Helens is responsible for delivering and reviewing support to children subject to SGO and their carers who reside in the authority. For families who do not reside in the authority, St Helens as the assessing authority will be responsible for delivering support for the first three years following the making of the SGO and then responsibility will fall to the family's home authority.
The adoption and SGO team can be contacted on 01744 671869.