Foster carers are being pressured by local authorities into considering permanently caring for children through special guardianship orders (SGOs), a charity has warned. Fostering and adoption charity The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (Tact) has said it is concerned by the rapid increase in SGOs and wants the issue to be investigated to find out the reasons for it. Government statistics published this week show that the use of SGOs has soared in recent years.

Between April 2013 and March 2014, 3,330 SGOs were issued by courts – a rise of 20.2 per cent from the 2,770 made in the previous 12 months.

The figure has more than doubled since 2010, when 1,290 SGOs were made.

An SGO is an order made by the court under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which gives legal status for non-parents, meaning a child or a young person can live with them permanently.

Crucially, the child is no longer the responsibility of the local authority.
The cost of supporting a child on an SGO is also considerably less than if they were in foster care.

Fostering and adoption charity The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (Tact) has said it is concerned by the rapid increase in SGOs and wants the issue to be investigated to find out the reasons for it.
Andy Elvin, Tact chief executive, described the rise in SGOs as "dizzying" in light of the fact that adoptions – a top Department for Education priority – have increased at a far slower rate.

He said: “SGOs were introduced to allow young people stability and permanence.

“We are, however, worried that this dramatic rise indicates that they are being increasingly used inappropriately.

“We are aware ourselves of some pressure being brought to bear on some foster carers to apply for SGOs.

“Foster carers have been asked to consider special guardianship shortly after a placement is made, or placements being made only on condition that an SGO is part of the care plan.

“SGOs should only be considered when the time is right for carers and the young person.”

There is evidence that local authorities are looking at how they can increase their use of SGOs.
In March, CYP Now reported that as part of efforts to reduce “excessive” numbers of children in care in Norfolk, the county council had been considering whether children and young people currently placed with foster carers could be “migrated” to an SGO.

The DfE spokesperson said: "Councils must always act in the best interests of the child when considering options for children, and SGOs provide greater security than long-term fostering. Furthermore, SGOs can only be granted by independent courts, which must ensure that all decisions are based on a child's welfare.
"The department has commissioned the University of York to research the impact of SGOs and the findings will be published shortly."

 http://www.cypnow.co.uk/cyp/news/1147190/charity-warns-inappropriate-special-guardianship

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