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  • 29 Apr 2024

    What is a Special Guardianship Order?

    A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) is an order, introduced by the Children and Adoption Act 2002, primarily to provide permanence and stability for looked after children who are either the subject of a Care Order or who is being provided with accommodation by the local authority on a voluntary basis as a less permanent alternative to adoption. 

    If a SGO application falls outside the scope of local authority care proceedings and a person wishes to apply for a SGO, they must notify children’s services where the child lives in writing three months prior to submitting their application to the court. Children’s services must conduct an investigation and prepare a report for the court to determine whether the applicant is suitable for the position of special guardian.

    A SGO falls between a Child Arrangements Order and an Adoption Order which will allow the child to still have a relationship with their family, and is therefore likely to be appropriate where there are good reasons why the child should retain formal links with their birth family. The parents will still have parental responsibility; however, the special guardian will also be granted parental responsibility, which the special guardian can exercise over and above the parents parental responsibility.   

    The following persons can apply for a SGO:

    • Anyone who for at least one year prior to the application has been the child’s local authority foster parent
    • The holder of a Child Arrangements Order (formerly a Residence Order) in respect of the child
    • Any guardian of the child

    The special guardian will be able to change the child's school without their parents consent, however, the special guardian would need to let the parents know that they have done this. Should the special guardian wish to change the child's name or surname, they cannot do this without the parents consent or an order of the court. 

    A SGO will remain in place until the child turns 18 years of age, which is a big commitment for any special guardian to take and more often than not, the special guardian is more than happy to take this on. Should any special guardian encounter difficulties in the future with the child, then they can apply to discharge the SGO should they need to. 

    The advantage of a SGO over a Child Arrangements Order is that the local authority are under a statutory duty to provide a package of services, including financial support, to a special guardian.

    Once the court has granted the SGO, a copy of this should be kept with the child’s birth certificate and passport. 

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