Why is this needed?
To develop the most relevant and effective services it is crucial both to listen to the views of individual children and to gather information from those children and young people who have experience of special guardianship and kinship care.
Special guardianship guidance (2017) Para 103: “In all cases it is important to accurately ascertain and report on the child’s wishes and feelings.”
Research/Special Guardianship Order (SGO)/Children’s Perspective
“There is a dearth of evidence on children’s views. The very small number of interviews with children identified some important themes around their understanding of the Order, their life story and nature of their family relationships, and the development of a positive sense of identity.” (Nuffield 2019a p10)
The majority of children wished their social workers had listened to them more and asked their opinions at the earliest point. However, they acknowledged that this was difficult as some information is difficult to hear. Therefore, they wanted information given to them by people, including possibly family members, that they trusted, in a sensitive manner. (Shuttleworth – In preparation)
“Its brilliant here. I didn’t want to come at first – I thought it was for just for the little ones and for old people like me nan. But then I came on the trip to Croxteth Park for a big picnic and met loads of new mates there who are just like me – living with me nan and grandad…..Now I love coming here – we do loads of stuff like footie and days out and the holiday group is great. I want to go on the resi next year – to Colomendy if I can. The team here know what its like for me at school and they help me sort some stuff out by chatting with me when I get upset. That’s made it better for me there with the teacher.”Kinship Carer Service User – Young Person, February 2018 (Kinship Carers Liverpool 2018)
Special guardians (SGs) consulted as part of this study noted very little direct communication between Social Workers and children subject to SGOs. Children were often not given clear explanations about their circumstances or the implications of an SGO and many children subject to an SGO do not have an allocated Social Worker post order. Any engagement which did take place with children was often negative and focused on safeguarding issues. Attempts at facilitating group events with children have been experienced as tokenistic, short term, and inappropriate to the age of the children. At the same time, SGs reported that the opportunity for children to meet with peers who have had similar experiences was valued when it happened.
Examples of approaches currently being taken
Kirklees run a programme of support groups and activities for children of different ages. Feedback on these activities has been collated and shared with OFSTED (see PDF).
Kinship Carers Liverpool conducted a sample survey with 32 young people in December 2017, together with a focus group and arts-based family consultation exercise. Very high levels of impact were reported by many young people regarding their use of the service. This was particularly true in relation to the group activities: the Summer Programme, the family days out and the Intergenerational Activities.
A number of agencies consult children via fun/social events (e.g. North London Adoption and Fostering Consortium, Aspire Adoption and Bromley). North London Adoption and Fostering Consortium is working with a local group, Body and Soul, to open their services to children. Body and Soul uses a comprehensive, community-based and trauma informed approach to address the life-threatening effects of childhood adversity in people of all ages. They are aiming to produce material directly to capture views and feelings of children.
There appears to have been very little consultation and engagement with children and young people subject to an SGO at local authority or regional level and few clear links to policy or service development. This is accompanied by a lack of written information for children, or information available via other media (e.g. digitally). Paul Shuttleworth’s research work, material from which is quoted throughout this document, is both comprehensive and revealing and should shed some much needed light on the lived experience of children and young people. (Shuttleworth – in preparation)