Local authorities are required to undertake more detailed assessment of carers and children further to the introduction of the Special Guardianship (Amendment) Regulations 2016.

Carers currently in the process of applying for a Special Guardianship Order will find that local authorities are now required to undertake a more detailed assessment of their circumstances, further to the introduction of the Special Guardianship (Amendment) Regulations 2016.

The Regulations will help local authorities to obtain a better understanding of the child and his or her carer so that a personalised support package can be put together that meets their individual needs. This spring the Government also published guidance to help local authorities understand their new duties to children and families.

Special Guardianship is a relatively new legal concept that is just one of the options available to full-time carers and has proven popular with family, friends and foster carers due to the support and protection that it provides.

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

A Special Guardianship Order is an Order made by the Family Court which appoints an individual to be a child's "Special Guardian".

A Special Guardianship Order provides additional benefits to carers that they would not normally receive under a Child Arrangements Order (a Court Order setting out where a child will live).

The first of the two key advantages is that the Special Guardian acquires elevated parental responsibility, which means that they can make decisions regarding the child without the consent of his or her parents.

The second is that the Local Authority is required to prepare a Support Plan, which sets out the support, including financial, the Special Guardian and child will be provided with.

How do you become a Special Guardian?

Any individual over the age of 18 years and not the parent of the child can apply for a Special Guardianship Order. Depending upon the carer's relationship to the child, it may be necessary to apply for the Court's permission before proceeding with the application.

The first step is to give the relevant Local Authority three months' notice of your intention to apply for a Special Guardianship Order. Thereafter the Local Authority must undertake investigations and prepare a Report assessing the suitability of the carer. The Special Guardianship (Amendment) Regulations 2016 set out additional factors that the LA must consider when undertaking this assessment.

What is the impact of the Special Guardianship (Amendment) Regulations 2016?

The Regulations set out additional factors that the local authority must consider when undertaking its suitability assessment of the carer. This includes the nature of the prospective Special Guardian's current and past relationship with the child and their ability to meet the child's current and future needs, particularly those resulting from harm that the child has suffered.