Rise in special guardianship orders made by courts

Neil Puffett
Thursday, March 31, 2016

The number of children placed with special guardians each year has passed the 5,000 mark for the first time.

Figures published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) today show that during 2015 a total of 5,386 children were involved in special guardianship orders (SGOs) made in family courts in England and Wales, compared with 4,835 in 2014 – an increase of 11.4 per cent. In 2011, the figure stood at 2,975.

The figures are higher than similar statistics collated by the Department for Education, which in October showed that a total of 3,520 SGOs were granted in 2014/15, because the DfE figures only count SGOs made relating to children in the care system, rather than all children.

Details of the increase come as the DfE is trying to take action to toughen up the process for granting SGOs, after finding that a “significant minority” of children are being placed at risk through inappropriate SGOs.

Revised regulations on the use of SGOs that came into effect last month mean that reports prepared by local councils for the court must consider the capacity of the prospective special guardians to address the child’s needs.

It is believed the changes could result in a drop in SGOs being issued.

The MoJ statistics also show that the number of emergency protection orders being applied for by local authorities when there are immediate concerns about the safety of a child have fallen.

In 2015 a total of 1,689 emergency protection orders were applied for, compared with 1,953 in 2014, a drop of 13.5 per cent.

The fall comes despite increasing numbers of applications for children to be taken into care.

Figures published earlier this month show that in February a total of 1,225 care applications were made – the highest-ever figure recorded by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.

It represents an increase of 9.4 per cent, or 105 applications, on the previous record of 1,120 recorded in July 2015.