About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Special Guardianship Allowances

I will do a complete round up on this topic soon but a couple of preliminary thoughts.

The Regulations do not say that SG allowances can only be paid for 2 years - they say that the remuneration element of a foster care allowance cannot continue to be paid to a former foster carer beyond 2 years.

The payment of all residence/  kinship  / SG allowances are essentially dependent on council led policies and cannot be committed to for a child's minority.

Government guidelines on calculating SG allowances which have been adopted almost wholesale by many local authorities specifically state that if the SG is in receipt of income support the maximum allowance should be paid without the need for means testing.  Case law and current practice indicate that the same amounts should be on offer to a kinship carer, foster carer or SG (less the remuneration element).

The fact that a lay person, often unrepresented and unadvised, chooses to accept an amount offered by the LA does not remove the burden on the LA to assess their needs and apply their own policy to that person's situation.


I would be really interested in feedback about this to provide some definitive answers. This is a thorny topic and currently one it is difficult to deal with in court.  Potential SG's in particular and they are often grandparents do not realise what they might be entitled to and are hesitant about asking for it for fear that they are seen as mercenary or as not being able to cope on their current income.  I appreciate that there are policy issues to consider here: why should an SG carer or post care proceedings relative carer get more than the average single parent, for example. Why does a looked after child cost more?  But as long as the current policies exist they should be applied fairly and transparently.  I find myself baffled by the inconsistency of approach.  Some allowance decisions in LAs are being made at a panel level - perhaps we should be routinely asking for the minutes?  In any event you should be routinely asking for copies of the policy documents, not to mention the actual calculations applied to decide what amount should be paid to a particular carer.

38 comments:

East Kilbride Solicitors said...

"This is a thorny topic and currently one it is difficult to deal with in court."-> spot on. We'd also like to follow this discussion given the family law issues raised. Looking forward to more posts. East Kilbride Solicitors & Lawyers

Barbara Hopkin said...

The other element to be considered is the lump sum payment. I have had several cases where one is paid eg for furniture for the children or a family car for the children. I also had a case where the LA paid to make the garden safe for children. the maximum I have had is £20,000 but I always ask and usually get at least £1000 so worth a try!

Anonymous said...

I am a Special Guardian. We have raised the daughters of a former foster child. Allowances are £35 per week per child.
We have a child still at home and one now living independently. We are still very much involved in her care and support, eg driving lessons.

We were not given fostering allowances because the other track was adoption by strangers and the SW said that they would not have to pay anything for that.

The girls were severely neglected and abused and hence as a family we have gone through some traumatic times.

My opinion is that more help should be offered as a right to those (very few) in our situation.

saphy222 said...

We are currently heading down the SGO path, our grandchildrens guardian seems to think that we will almost definately get legal aid, and someone else has said that there is a set of legal circumstances that automatically get LA is that true?
Also, the two boys are being 'held' in their rooms for 2 days at a time as punishment, along with various other things they have told us, and the social worker goes over and 'smooths' things over to get them to believe that they are over reacting, but this has happened from the moment they went there. Two of the girls have not been moved and are very tearful and disturbed as their foster mum is dealing with her mother dying. The girls want to be moved too. Is there anything we or their Mum can do to get someone to do something!!!???? It's so frustrating!!
Many Thanks for reading!

rich b said...

rich b
we have had special guardianship of our two grandson's for the past five years,they are now five and six.We also took on our granddaughter two years ago she is now two and half.
We have seen your allowances go down by half in the last year.We deal with Cumbria,but a friend who deal with Devon and only has one child has seen no reduction.
Can anybody tell me why.

Anonymous said...

We are currently involved in court proceedings in respect of my partners sisters children. Social Services were the ones that have requsted a residency ans supervision order in respect of twins aged 3. We hope that their Mother wins the case, but to retain the children in the family have accepted the proposal to become their carers should this be the courts decision. Initially we were told that we could be foster carers but now social services have changed their position and the residency order allowance that they are offering to pay should they win the case is significantly less than a foster care payment as they have taken our wages into account. We already have our own children so we are more than a little annoyed to find that we will be expected not only to alter ours lifestyles significantly for the next 15 years but also to make a financial contribution to maintain 2 children who we love dearly but would otherwise had no legal responsibility to maintain financially. IS THERE ANY lEGISLATION OR CASE HISTORY TO SUPPORT OR ARGUEMENT THAT SPECIAL GUARDIANSHIP ALLOWANCE OR RESIDENCY ORDER ALLOWANCE SHOULD BE MADE TO KINSHIP CARERS AT THE SAME RATE AS FOSTER CARERS ALLOWANCE.The childrens needs are the same irrespective of what court order is made.

Carol

Anonymous said...

I am a Foster Carer. My supervising officer asked me if i would like to do SGO and when i refused asked me why. Since then ive been looking at all the information i can. In a magazine for S/Workers theres and article which says 'councils pressuring F/carers to take on Special Guardian ship orders to save Cash. Now is that the way forward and the best reasons? I think not. I will stick to being a Foster Carer and the child will be financially better off for it.

Anonymous said...

Current we have had a meeting with Social services regarding the sgo of our grandson, he is currently in care, we have passed our assessment and so to be the a bigger family, we advised social services that we would need a 7 seatter car for this to proceed as we have 7 children between us as we have both been married before, we currently only have 1 child at home aged 10 and see the youngest 2 aged 8 and 4yrs every other weekend and half terms/summer holidays, we take them camping and on picnics, days out to the seaside,play areas and zoo/theme parks in the spring and summer times. We have now been told we need to make a decison whether we want to carry on with the bridging meeting starting on the 13th feb 12, but with no help to keep our family in the lifestyle they are used too, until recently we both worked full time, i am no longer working, finances are tight, yes as all grandparents we love him very dearly, he is only 7 months old but this is causing me heartache, surely if its documented that the vehicle issue is met for the family to be a family and stay a family at all times surely the well being of all children in this family is important. im talking about a new vehicle just one for the purpose of outings shopping and the like.

Anonymous said...

I have been a special guardian now for 3 years and I can honestly say that it is the most dreadfull and appauling law that has ever been passed eg. lack of correct information even in written form no special guardian support services available, I have had to constantly explain what SG is to every benefits advisor (ie Tax Credits, Housing and council tax benefit etc etc) no one has heard of it and no one seems to know what the rules are. (We love our daughter with every bone in our bodies she is truly delightful and thats the only good thing out of all of this)
I would strongly advise DO NOT go special guardian it truly is horrendous.

Anonymous said...

we are special guardian for our 20month old grandson who we have had since brith. the la paid for the s.g but have offerd no other payments for his up keep. kids dont come cheap these days. at the moment i am lucky i can work overtime to help with his up keep. we dont know that they is a allowance to be had. we took our grandson on to stop him going into care. we wouldt swap him for anything. but the l.a should pay something for is upkeep just to help ends meet. how can i find out how to make a claim

Anonymous said...

These comments have been really helpful. We were asked yesterday if we wanted to become an SGO family, and told that it would not affect our current fostering allowances, this appears not to be the case. Will investigate the matter further.

02380jenni said...

I have been a speical guardian with my husband for my two grandchildren for 6 years it took 2 years to get the order was promised help ie bigger council house so the children had room, we had to find a house with enough bedrooms untiil this could be addressed as we were told to have the children we had to move so we did, we would get regular payments once the order was made and support as soon as the order was granted i received a letter that they were unable to help with houseing and as we were doing so well no longer felt it was a need to the family to have a social worker no finacial help would be available as we are on income support and family tax credits and to add insult to injury our houseing bennift was cut by £26.00 a week as they feel the rent was to high, even tho the rents on all the propertys around us are more, I dont understand any of this as when the childrfen lived with my daughter and partner social services were falling over backwards to help them and they were the ones abuseing the children, none of this makes any sence to me, if any one has any ideas i would be interested as i thought the laws were changed in 2010/2011 i can find no proof of this

Anonymous said...

I was contact by Social Services asked to be a SG for my nephew.My nephew lives in Wales and I in Tenerife. I said yes and I am in the process of having meetings and evaluations. I not a bad income but I have looked in to child care and school cost here and I am looking at at leased 550 pounds a month.That is without food clothes etc.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous

Me and my partner became SGO's in April and we had our salaries means tested and we were told that we are not entitled to a penny as we earn to much. We have had to buy everything that a young baby needs and more and I just think it is awful if the child was kept in care they would have had to pay.Dose anyone know if we are entitled to any money.

Anonymous said...

no wonder social services wanted us to have SGO because they dont have to pay after 2yrs how unfare is that you foster get paid twice asmuch and all help you need. we have had nothing since september 2011 took my partners great nephew on as there parent neglected the 4 kids so all family put in for them we all got them but only under SGO social workers said we wouldnt be able to foster them its hard enough as he is well bhind with skool work and he is bad temperd growing so quick that we have to spend our own money on his clothes ect but only to get back for 2yrs we then have to try and keep him on the income we are on so not right thanks for letting me comment marc

suki said...

Good luck to anyone navigating the SGO route. The allowance goes up and down. We've yet to work out who is rsponsible for deciding the allowance or what is taken into account when deciding the amounts.

Out of the blue we have just had a letter stating that the allowance is transitional and will end after the two years are up.
They are giving us until September to "re-organise our finances".
As the cost of keeping a 12 year old is ever increasing, the tax credit has gone down and my self employed hubby is desparate for work. We feel that we have become the councils latest "cut"

Maria said...

I just got an SGO for my grandchildren after having them since 2009. Today I received a letter from the LA informing me I would get the full alowance for 12 months, then another means test which if it showed my income was stll low I would then receive 50% for the second year then nothing.. not once have I been told that the allowance was only for two years. Does this mean the childrens needs change then? I feel like I've been sold down the river especially when the LA have been aware of the hardship this situation has caused already.

Anonymous said...

Caroline - Ashington
Our grandaughter came to live with us on a sgo 3 years ago. Social Services are still involved because of the trouble we have with her mother. I have actually got them to pay for 2 days child care each week, which was quite a battle, and now I have applied for the allowance because of change of circumstances. I am keeping my fingers crossed as we are now in dire need of it. All I can advise everyone is to persue the matter and never give up, wheter it be for the allowance or for help with child care. My grandaughter is my sons child, my youngest daughter is 18 and we thought we would be financially secure by now, but we love her and wouldnt have it any other way, but I do not think it should be means tested, children are expensive and we are saving the system so much money you would think that they would help regardless. So now we are just waithing to hear.

Anonymous said...

I hav my grandson under sgo and we get an allowance which is means tested it doesn't cover our costs and I hav given up work to care for him...did u know that legally the parents are still financially responsible for the child....I'm going to call the csa for advice tomoz its worth asking

Anonymous said...

althoug we agreed to an sgo it was under duress as they woul take child away for adoption, wehad fostered cild from 2-4 yrs of age. child is now almost 14 yrs having home tuition and in trouble with police.allowances have not increased and we are both now in reciept of pension shoul we expect the LA to increase allowance.

Anonymous said...

A friends of mine were foster parents to an unrelated child but they were so stupid to become Special Guardians. A LA officer convinced them that SGO means PERMANENCY. They had received £ 180/w allowance which stopped immediately because the LA used Standard Means Test.

Anonymous said...

Hi I have had my grandson for 5 years, I have a SGO and get a allowence that was hacked for years, I never heard of SS for years untll last year when they chopped my support, its hard work managing challanging behaviour and difficult relationship and feelings, yet there has never been the support network that was outlined in the original report, back then I asked if I could attend local foster carer meetings but they said no! I feel now the goverment is making all these cuts SGO support and allownce is no doubt be phased out! While we are sruggling on!

ali said...

my husband and i have just been asked to take our nephew, we have agreed. we were then asked wether we want to foster or become an sgo with no explanation of the difference, we chose fostering and after reading these comments feel we did the right thing, there was no mention of allowances or anything, so thanks.

Anonymous said...

see call me untrusting but the sgo was suggested to me yesterday and my gut reaction (is never wrong) told me to research and found this

my take is if social services are that keen its never good so thank you to everyone that has honestly posted their experiences needless to say i wont be going for the sgo

Anonymous said...


As annonymous we are being pushed into an sgo under duress.
My husband and i are both retired and our pension is al we have so if our payments (if we actualy recieve any) how the devil are we expected to feed and clothe our grandaughter?
Are we suppose to starve and freeze in order to keep her fed and warm.
I,m so confused all i seem to be able to do lately is cry.
Tak about having you over a barrel.

Anonymous said...

As annonymous we are being pushed into an sgo under duress.
My husband and i are both retired and our pension is al we have so if our payments (if we actualy recieve any) how the devil are we expected to feed and clothe our grandaughter?
Are we suppose to starve and freeze in order to keep her fed and warm.
I,m so confused all i seem to be able to do lately is cry.
Tak about having you over a barrel.

Mick Gallagher said...

Any sgs from suffolk please contact me chance53.mg@ gmail.com ref allowances

Anonymous said...

I became a sg almost 5 years ago and have had my child since a baby he is now 7 years. I have just received a letter informing me someone from the finance dept is coming out to ask questions and do an audit.! I am on ESA support group due to ill health and this is the first time I have had any audit done. I get the impression this is due to council cutbacks and fear the sg allowence is to be stopped. This will mean drastic cuts to the lifestyle I am providing for the child, ie.... Clothes, shoes internet, cricket practice and general everyday things such as outings etc. I was depending on this for future tutoring from primary school to secondary school to prepare for grammer school tests as I want the best education wise for him. If it stops we will loose half our income. I only had yearly finance forms to fill on but never this now I am do anxious but that won't matter to the dept facing the cutbacks, please let us as SG's raise the children without financial worry to enable all sgs to give the children a stable, secure loving family upbringing which they all deserve.

Anonymous said...

my sister and partner have had sg of twins since they were born one of twins is special needs they were receiving an allowance for them but this has now stopped, social services just stopped it without imforming them and now they are really struggling they have appealed and still been turned down for the allowance so it looks like they have to go down the court route, how can social services do this and deprive the children of a decent living.

Anonymous said...

I have agreed to take my niece under a sgo. This is such a grey area. I will have to take time out of work when she arrives which will be unpaid as unless you are adopting or having a baby there is no support or money available which I think is totally wrong. I agreed with ss that I will do contact with parents, two separate visits every week. I had to fight to get paid for mileage and parking, which was 10p per mile! Yet foster carers and contact workers both get 39p a mile. According to the law when undertaking a SGO you should not be financially worse off. I likE doing the contacts but don't want ss to take the mickey. So frustrating...you are made to feel like you have done something wrong and they want to know the ins and outs of everything. I have had regular contact with my niece since she was born. She has been in care for a whole year and is nearly 2. I have never dealt with an organisation that are so contradictory, not consistent, have lack of basic information , constant staff changes and never being able to get hold of anyone. I understand that they have had to make cuts but if they take a child into care they should have the resources to deal with it. Dealing with social services will be the worst experience of your entire life. I think the majority of social workers need to take a step back and realise they are dealing with real people who have feelings and emotions. There is only one social worker i have met that actually realises its a person they Are dealing with and not just another case or statistic.

Anonymous said...

I have had my little sister now for 4 years and have been getting my SGA since she came to live with me and my family. I have been informed I should have been claiming tax credits also which nobody informed me of so I put in a claim today . I have now rang the council to inform them of my partner starting work . I have now been told claiming tax credits for her may now effect my SGA also my partner working may also effect it ... I'm in shock as I didn't take on the financial burden along with paying for my own too children . I'm in shock the LA can get away with it .. Any advice please ?

Anonymous said...

Special guardianship allowances seem to vary from borough to borough !
I get £172 a week for my niece but that only stays in place so long as I am on income support.I also get tax credits and child benefit for her.Fostering is definitely the better option but I wanted to give my niece more security in my care.

Anonymous said...

When sga stops can you become long term foster carer for the same child non related instead of child being placed with another family when they are setteled with me

Anonymous said...

SGO's should be considered very carefully and seeking legal advise is absolutely essential. A particular challenge is access to support post SGO. Many of the children due to their early experiences will present with complex needs during adolescence. I am speaking from experience as a foster carer who has an SGO for an adolescent child.
I am raising the difficulties we are having and L.A's lack of support with my MP next month.
SGO's should be based on the needs of the child and be made when the time is right for both child and carer. It should be as a result of a fully informed decision and not made under duress or pressure by local authorities, as was my case where L.A said child's plan was SGO with me or adoption with new family. ( even though I raised concerns over my ability to parent long term due to child's severe attachment disorder)
A report published last month by the ombudsman will be of relevance to family and friends carers, especially around entitlement to financial support, there is also mention of SGO and Residence Orders. Hope this helps.

Nicola Harwood said...

I am an SGO for my grand daughter who is now 8 next month, we have had her since she was 1. I receive a very small sgo allowance and when i raised the fact expences are getting more, i was told the payment would not change. My husband works and i receive family allowance now, but not entitled to anything else. I am just trying to find out about the new ruling about bringing payments into line and will it effect us.

Anonymous said...

We have SGOs for our 2 grandchildren. We receive an allowance for both of them and I gave up work to care for them.
What happens to the allowance when our circumstances change?
For example: my husband is hoping to retire early next year so our income will drop significantly as will our outgoings as our mortgage will be repaid. We will still have the added expenses surrounding bringing up 2 young children in our twilight years. Do the Local Authorities take this into account when assessing for the allowance

Anonymous said...

We have SGOs for our 2 grandchildren. We receive an allowance for both of them and I gave up work to care for them.
What happens to the allowance when our circumstances change?
For example: my husband is hoping to retire early next year so our income will drop significantly as will our outgoings as our mortgage will be repaid. We will still have the added expenses surrounding bringing up 2 young children in our twilight years. Do the Local Authorities take this into account when assessing for the allowance

Anonymous said...

What is the latest rule of law regarding CHALLENGING Social Services kinship over SGO ???