Why is this needed?
Just as with adopters, special guardians (SGs) themselves are best placed to evaluate service quality, gaps in provision and priorities for future development. Relationships between SGs and statutory services can be very strained; sensitive engagement can promote trust and partnership.
“24. Under section 14F of the Act, as amended, the local authority must make arrangements for the provision of special guardianship support services. Local authorities are required to make a range of support services available in their area to meet the needs of people affected by special guardianship. Special guardianship support services are defined as… services to enable groups of children for whom a special guardianship order is in force or in respect of whom is being formally considered, special guardians and prospective special guardians, and parents of the child to discuss matters relating to special guardianship (regulation 3(1)(b)).” (Department for Education 2017 p11)
Research/Special Guardianship Order (SGO) perspective
Grandparents Plus and the Family Rights Group have undertaken a number of consultation exercises with SGs and kinship carers. See
Grandparents Plus content here and Family Rights Group content here.
The Kinship Care Alliance brings together key stakeholders in this area and has produced a number of briefing documents and responses to government policy initiatives.
Examples of approaches currently being taken
North London Adoption and Fostering Consortium have engaged with a consultant and researchers from University College London to undertake a survey of SGs and to identify priorities for future development and service commissioning (see summary at appendix one).
Kinship Connected is a service delivered by Grandparents Plus in partnership with various local authorities including North London Adoption and Fostering Consortium and Leeds CC. Due in part to the fact that the project is managed independently of the local authorities, it has managed to build connections and trust with SGs who are reluctant to engage with statutory services. It provides a range of informal meetups in the community, particularly targeted at hard to reach kinship carers. These can be used as a means of consultation. These support groups are also opportunities to consult with SGs on their needs and priorities.
In a project supported by the Baring Foundation, Kinship Carers Liverpool worked with Liverpool City Council and Liverpool University Law Department to consult with kinship carers on a rights-based approach. This involved local authority service managers from a range of teams across Children’s Services. (See PDF).
Leeds CC has recently established a Voice & Influence Group including SG carers. Examples of the work which this group has initiated are included in appendix four. A Yorkshire / Regional Stakeholder event was held with a focus on support and finances.
Brighton and Hove collect feedback at a number of points in the carers’ journey.
- Carers are invited to provide verbal feedback on their assessment report for Court
- Carers are invited to provide written and verbal feedback on the assessment process if they attend Panel
- Carers are invited to provide written feedback on each training workshop
- Carers are invited to add written feedback on their Assessment of Support Needs and on their Reviews of SGO Support Plans.
- A Carers Participation Project facilitates engagement and consultation with carers including those willing to share their experiences with other stakeholders e.g. the Judiciary
A number of agencies obtain the views of SG carers as part of regular support groups. (E.g. Aspire, Bromley, Kirklees)
Service user engagement in the development of services is an obvious direction to explore but is limited by resources and sometimes by initiative. Some respondents point out the limited time which SGs and other kinship carers are able to give due to the pressures they face, however, it is not clear that this is the biggest obstacle to engagement taking place. This observation highlights the need to:
- Make use of occasions when carers do come together to engage and consult.
- Work with voluntary sector providers who can act as brokers and advocates between SGs and services.
SG consulted on a draft of this document commented that:
- SGs need to be given the opportunity to be consulted at different organisational levels (and not always through a third party)
- Lack of willingness and receptivity on the part of many local authorities is a major obstacle to effective consultation
- Local authorities need to be prepared and willing to act on the results of consultation if confidence is to be developed
McGrath’s (in preparation) research into the experiences of SGs and kinship carers is a very comprehensive capture of the views and experiences of SGs. The final draft should be a valuable addition in helping all stakeholders appreciate the complexities and challenges which SGs face.