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What is special guardianship?

Special guardianship is one way of providing a permanent home for a child or children when they can’t live at home with their birth parents. It is a court order that gives a child permanent legal security with carers who have an existing relationship with them.  Carers have the majority of parental responsibility for the child but, unlike an adoption order, the child maintains ties with their birth family.  However special guardians have overriding parental responsibility to make day to day decisions concerning the welfare of the child or children.
If a child is ‘looked after’ the Special Guardianship Order will replace the Care Order and the Council will no longer have parental responsibility for the child.

Who can be a special guardian?

You must be 18 or over to apply to be a special guardian and can apply either individually or jointly with someone else.  If two of you apply, you do not need to be married.  
You will need to meet any of the following criteria:
  • You have the consent of the birth parents  (or those with parental responsibility)
  • You have the local authority’s consent if the child is in care 
  • You have been given permission by the courts to apply
  • You are the legal guardian of the child
  • The child has lived with you for three of the last five years
  • You are a local authority foster carer and the child has live with you for a year immediately before the application
  • You have a Residence (Child Arrangement) Order relating to the child, or consent of everyone a Residence Order relates to
You cannot apply to become a special guardian if you are the child’s parent. A local authority cannot apply for special guardianship.

Parental responsibility

Special guardians have all the responsibility for the day to day decisions relating to the care and upbringing of the child or young person.  Special Guardians should consult with birth parents about  important decisions such as which school a child attends.
There are some decisions special guardians can’t make without birth parents consent or permission from court. They include:
  • Changing a child’s surname
  • Removing a child from the United Kingdom for more than three months
  • Very serious decisions where the law states that the consent of all those with parental responsibility is required 

How do I become a special guardian?

  • If the child is ‘looked after’ you need to give the local authority three months written notice.
  • A social worker will assess your suitability to become a child’s special guardian
  • You make an application to the Court. If there are already legal proceedings about the child, the court may invite you to join in those proceedings.
  • The court asks the local authority to write a report about your suitability. This report explores the background and information on those applying, the merits of specifically applying for a special guardianship order over other forms of care and the wishes of the child being considered and the birth parents or those with parental responsibility.
  • The court decides whether you can be a special guardian.

If you live in Oldham and wish to discuss your interest in becoming a special guardian you can contact us on 0161 770 7777.  If the child is in care, you need to notify the local authority responsible for the child. If the child is in the care of Oldham Council you can write to:

Head of Service-Children’s Social Care;
Unit 7 Whitney Court;
Southlink Business Park; 
OL4 1DB.

Special guardianship support services

Local authorities are required to provide a range of special guardianship support services. These are defined as:
  • Financial support
  • Assistance including mediation in relation to contact
  • Services to enable special guardians, children subject to special guardianship orders or their birth parents to meet to discuss issues relating to special guardianship.
  • Therapeutic services for the child
  • Support services for special guardians including training
  • Counselling, advice and information.
The guidance states that special guardian support services should not be seen in isolation from mainstream services and that families should be encouraged to access these services or claim any state benefits that they may be entitled to.

How can I get support? 

  • If you are someone involved in special guardianship (for example a special guardian, a child or a birth parent) and you think you need support, you can ask the local authority to assess your support needs. Your needs may have changed since the order was originally made.
  • You should contact the local authority where the special guardian lives unless the child was in the care of a different local authority immediately prior to the special guardianship order being made.
  • The local authority in whose area the child was a child in care is responsible for assessing support needs for the first three years after the special guardianship order is made and should be contacted in these circumstances.
  • Three years after the order was made the local authority where the special guardian lives become responsible for assessing support needs and should therefore be contacted.

Eligibility for care leaver services

A child who was in care immediately before the making of a special guardianship order may qualify for advice and assistance as a care leaver. 
  • When the child reaches 16 and before they are 21, you can contact the local authority who last looked after the child to discuss needs and services.
  • Care leaver services can be provided up to the age of 21 or 25 if the young person is in education or training.

Adoption Support Fund

Since the 01/04/2016 the Adoption Support Fund has been extended to include children with special guardianship orders, who were previously looked after.  This is to reduce the gap between adoptive children and children subject to special guardianship orders needing therapeutic services and receiving them.  The fund is provided by the Department of Education and is available until 2020.
The fund will be available for young people up to the age of 21, or up to 25 with a SEN/EHC. It is specifically to fund therapeutic services that are identified to: 
  • Improve relationships with friends, family members, teachers and school staff
  • Improve engagement with learning
  • Improve emotional regulation and behaviour management
  • Improve confidence and ability to enjoy a positive family life and social relationships
For more information about the fund please visit:

To access the fund, you will need to have an assessment of your family’s support needs by the local authority. This is a current legal obligation of all local authorities.

The local authority that places the child with you is responsible for assessing your support needs for three years after the special guardianship order. After three years it becomes the responsibility of the local authority where you live (if different).

Where the assessment identifies that therapeutic services would be beneficial to your family, the local authority will apply to the fund on your behalf, who will then release funding to the local authority.

Contact us

If you wish to know more about support services for special guardians or have a general enquiry about special guardianship then please phone us on 0161 770 7777.