Use of special guardianship orders continues to rise

By Neil Puffett

| 01 October 2015

The number of children being made subject to special guardianship orders (SGOs) is continuing to rise, government figures have shown.

The Department for Education is currently conducting a review into the use of special guardianship orders. Picture: Janaki Mahadevan

Statistics published by the Department for Education (DfE) show that between April 2014 and March 2015 a total of 3,520 children left care due to an SGO being granted.

This compares with 3,360 in 2013/14 – a 4.8 per cent increase in the space of a year. The total number of SGOs granted has close to doubled since 2010/11 when 1,780 orders were made – an increase of 97.8 per cent over the period.

Confirmation of the continuing trend comes amid concerns that some children are being placed in inappropriate arrangements due to a preference among family judges for special guardianship orders (SGOs) over adoption.

Last month CYP Now reported on research stating that SGOs, which are used predominantly to give relatives of a child legal responsibility for their upbringing, are sometimes being granted to carers who are not members of the extended family and who have no existing relationship with the child.

The government is currently conducting a review of SGOs, and children's minister Edward Timpson has pledged that improvements to the way they are used will be made in the wake of concerns.

Experts have linked the rise in SGOs being made to significant falls in the number of adoption placement orders being granted by family courts in the past two years.

In July this lead to Adoption Leadership Board chair Sir Martin Narey warning that there could be an “alarming drop” in the number of children being adopted.

However the DfE statistics show that numbers of children being adopted actually rose by more than five per cent in the past year.

Between April 2014 and March 2015 a total of 5,330 children were adopted, a rise of 5.5 per cent on the 2013/14 figure of 5,050.

Hugh Thornbery, chief executive of Adoption UK, said that due to the time lag between adoption placement orders being made and children being adopted, the expected fall in adoptions will not be evident until the 2015/16 figures.

“It won’t be until next year that the full impact of what is going on washes through into the official figures,” Thornbery said.

“It could be down to 2,500 or 3,000, taking us back to the low point that prompted the Conservative Party to start doing something about it.”

The statistics also confirm that the total number of children in care has risen for the fifth consecutive year.

In June CYP Now revealed that the number of children in care was set to rise after a freedom of information request found that of the 109 councils that responded, the number of children in care increased 1.26 per cent between March 2014 and March 2015.

The official DfE figures show that across all councils, the number of children in care rose from 68,800 in March 2014 to 69,540 in March 2015 - an increase of 1.1 per cent.

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