Why is this needed?
Young people who are subject to a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) often require more coordinated support than others in their transition to independence. This is exacerbated by the fact that the SGO ceases when the child reaches 18, often together with any financial support.
“18. Children who were looked after by a local authority immediately before the making of a special guardianship order may qualify for advice and assistance under the Children Act 1989, as amended by the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 and the Adoption and Children Act 2002. In the context of special guardianship, to qualify for advice and assistance, section 24(1A) of the Children Act 1989 provides that the child must:
- have reached the age of 16, but not the age of 21
- if less than eighteen years old, have a special guardianship order in force
- if eighteen years old or above, have had a special guardianship order in force when they reached that age, and
- have been looked after by a local authority immediately before the making of the special guardianship order
“19. The relevant local authority should make arrangements for children who meet these criteria to receive advice and assistance in the same way as for any other child who qualifies for advice and assistance under the Act, as amended. Regulation 22 provides that the relevant local authority is the one that last looked after the child.”
“The entitlement of children in special guardian (SG) families to leaving care services should be strengthened in line with provisions in the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010.” (Wade 2014 p243)
“The grandparents were aware that the SGO ended when their grandchildren turned 18. They were concerned about what would happen at this point and how they would support their grandchildren in early adulthood.” (McGrath – in preparation)
SG consulted in the preparation of this document commented that it is usual for no plan to be in place for financial support beyond 18, introducing a perverse and unwelcome incentive for carers to abandon the young person they have been caring for in order to secure financial and other support. This is a period when young people often try to return to their birth parents and to a position of vulnerability. SGs can themselves feel helpless and unsupported in this; without coordinated support, much of the previous work of SGs can be undone.
Young people’s Perspective
“A third (8) of the young people had moved following conflict with the carers (6 of these had been under the age of 18 at the time). These young people had left because they were dissatisfied or their carer had told them to go, usually because of their challenging or violent behaviour.
“Nearly half (45%, 24) of the young people had moved out of the kinship home by the time of the interviews, 12 of whom had been under 18 at the time, representing 23% of the whole sample. In addition, two fifths (42%) of the young people who had moved out were not in education, employment or training (NEET) at the time of the interview, three of whom were bringing up children full-time.” (Grandparents plus 2018 p9)
Examples of approaches currently being taken
- Assessments of need are available for young people who qualify under the leaving care act
- Those who were previously looked after are targeted as needing a leaving care package.
- Leeds Staying Put Policy aligns payments for SGs who have children beyond 17
Brighton and Hove
- Has a template letter for SGs, if they request advice and support when the young person turns 18, which signposts them to other services
- Has an agreement with their local Youth Employability Service to provide advice and support to any NEET young people who were previously in care up until 25 years, which matches the offer to children in care
- Regularly write support letters for SG’s to pass onto University and Colleges confirming the young person’s additional vulnerability, previously ‘in care’ status and supporting their need for bursaries and any other support available
- Those young people who were LAC prior to an SGO are eligible for support including finance. An education worker based within the Leaving Care Team can liaise with FE colleges etc.
- Additional grants are available to assist with accommodation and resources for those going to university.
- Other services are signposted.
For children previously looked after, £500 settling in home allowance is available to purchase essential items.
Many areas appear to have a gap in provision for young people on an SGO, who were previously looked after, and who are entitled to advice and assistance once they reach 16 (see regulations above).
Support to young people transitioning to independence is a good example of the need for services (e.g. housing, education, employment social care, welfare rights & mental health) to work together in a coordinated way and to common protocols (see section 13).
SGs who were consulted in the development of this document suggested:
- Their children require support similar to the Staying Put arrangements available in foster placements.
- That online support to young people would be one effective way of providing information.
- That peer to peer support for young people at this time would be valuable.