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Special Guardianship Order

Learn more about Special Guardianship Orders here

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

  • A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) grants overriding parental responsibility for a child over a child’s parents or others who have PR.
    • Parental Responsibility is given to the mother when a child is born. The father has parental responsibility if he is married to mother at the time of the birth or if his name is placed on the child’s birth certificate. If a SGO is granted to someone else, the parent(s)’ PR becomes “limited”. 
  • You can only apply for a SGO if you are not a birth parent of the child, have had the child in your care for at least 12 months or with the agreement of the Local Authority/ Court.
  • A SGO means a Special Guardian will make day to day decisions for a child and others with limited arental responsibility cannot intervene.
  • There are some things a Special Guardian cannot do without agreement of those with limited parental responsibility:
    • They cannot take the child out of the country for longer than 3 months;
    • They cannot change the child’s name;
    • They cannot give their parental responsibility to anyone else; and
    • They must notify the parents if the child is gravely unwell.

Who can apply?

  • Under Section 115 (1) Children Act anyone over 18 years old who;
    • Is not a parent of a child
    • Is a guardian of a child
    • An individual with a Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order for the child
    • A Local Authority foster parent if lived with child for more than 1 year

The benefits

  • A child who is Looked After by the Local Authority prior to the granting of a SGO will no longer be Looked After. Any Care Orders will be discharged.
  • It offers stability and permanence to the child.
  • A SGO promotes a relationship with family members without the intervention of the Local Authority.
  • Special Guardians have access to benefits and tax credits and are entitled to receive Child Benefit payments.

Ongoing support

  • All Special Guardians have a SGO Support Worker allocated to them for the first year.
  • Special Guardians can contact the SGO support service in Flintshire for support, advice or guidance at any point of an Order (even if this is not in the first 12 months).  We are contactable at
  • Special Guardians will receive a bi-monthly newsletter via email which will update them on any training needs. They can also visit our website.

If you want to get in touch with us, you can contact us below:

Contact us

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a SGO last?

A SGO is a permanent order and will last until the child reaches the age of 18.

Does a SGO override parental rights?

A SGO gives the Special Guardian(s) overriding Parental Responsibility (PR) for the child, as if they were their own child. A birth parent never loses their PR when a SGO is granted however they cannot exercise this over and above the wishes of the Special Guardian(s).

Is a child cared for under a SGO a “Looked After” child?

No, a child who is under a SGO is not considered a child who is “Looked After”. The child might have been cared for under a Care Order prior to the SGO being granted and they would have been a child “Looked After” at that point. Once a SGO is granted, the Care Order is discharged.

What financial support is available?

All Special Guardians complete a financial assessment prior to assessment. This is means tested and you will need to provide evidence of income and expenditure. The financial assessment is reviewed annually and re-assessment can take place at any time if there is a change of circumstances; for example loss of employment. Special Guardian(s) are entitled to benefits and tax credits just as a birth parent would be.

If you are ever concerned about managing financially there is plenty of advice and support available. You should contact the Special Guardianship Support Service initially.

What is the SGO assessment process like?

The SGO assessment is usually ordered by the Court and they use this to help them make a decision about a child’s permanency. The assessment is the same process as general and connected persons’ assessments and will include a number of statutory checks with health, probation, local councils, the police and employers. You will need to provide details of three referees.

What support do Special Guardians receive?

The Assessing Social Worker will complete a Special Guardianship Support Plan as part of the assessment process. This will consider the support needs of the child, the prospective Special Guardian(s) and any other household members. Any support needs identified will be outlined and addressed. This plan is reviewed 12 months after a SGO is granted and the Special Guardian(s) can request a re-assessment of their support needs at any time during the length of a SGO.

What is a private Special Guardianship application?

If you have been caring for a child who is not looked after and you wish to apply to the court for Parental Responsibility, this is considered a private Special Guardianship application. You will need to write to the Local Authority to notify them of your intent to apply for an Order, providing 3 months’ notice, before you make an application to the Court. A Court cannot make a decision without a SGO report being available to them.

How long does a Special Guardianship assessment take?

The Special Guardianship Regulations (2005), updated in 2016, recommend that the Local Authority completes a SGO report within 12 weeks. This timescale begins when the Local Authority receives your written Notice of Intent. This timescale can be delayed when awaiting the outcome of statutory checks for example.

What information is required in a SGO assessment?

The SGO report is structured to include the following; the child’s information, the birth parent(s) information, the prospective guardian’s information, the wishes and feelings of those involved, the support and statutory requirements, key issues of the SGO and any other Orders that could be made, the recommendation of the Assessing Social Worker and a recommendation about contact between the child and their family.

What decisions can’t a Special Guardian make?

Without the consent of others with PR the Special Guardian cannot:

  • change the child’s name;
  • take the child out of the country for longer than 3 months at any one time; or
  • give consent for the child to be adopted.

In addition, the Special Guardian should notify birth parent(s) if the child became gravely unwell.

Who will see my Special Guardianship assessment?

The report will be seen by the Judge, the child’s Guardian and the birth parent(s). If there is any personal information in the report that you would not want birth parent(s) to see, you should discuss this with the Assessing Social Worker and ask for this information to be redacted.

What if my assessment is negative?

If you find yourself in this position, you should ask for a copy of the final report and the reasons for the negative recommendation. The Assessing Social Worker will write to you and expect you to respond within 10 – 14 days to conclude if you will be challenging the assessment outcome and your reasons for this. If a Court believes your reasons are valid they can request the Assessing Social Worker undertakes a further addendum to the assessment or request a new assessment is completed by an Independent Social Worker.

What is the difference between SGO and kinship/ foster care?

They are all achieving the same outcome for the child in your care but they are governed by different legislation. Kinship or general foster carers are governed by Fostering Regulations and the Local Authority holds PR for the child. The Local Authority is responsible for making key decisions about that child’s life. A Special Guardian has PR for the child and can make these decisions without seeking approval from the Local Authority. The child is not “Looked After” when under a SGO.

What happens if the SGO breaks down?

A Special Guardianship placement is not always easy and there may be many reasons for a Special Guardianship placement breakdown. In the first instance you would seek the support of the Special Guardianship Support Service to see what support is available to prevent the placement from breaking down.

In the event this is not possible, the Local Authority may ask the Special Guardian(s) to give consent for the child to be placed into mainstream foster care or in a connected person’s foster placement with another member of the family. The Local Authority will then need to find alternative permanence for the child.