Special Guardianship (Clause 14)

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 21 November 2001.

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Adoption provides security and permanence to children, and at present the majority of children placed for adoption are under 5 years of age. Older children also are placed for adoption and this option should always be considered. However, although for some children the new provision of special guardianship may be appropriate there will continue to be a group of other children, many of them older, who will continue to need a high level of support and professional involvement within a foster placement.

With this proviso we welcome the proposal in Clause 14 to introduce special guardians however, we do have some concerns about the funding of financial support. The right to an assessment of their needs will be available to children and families but the local authority is then under no obligation to provide any of the services that it may have decided are needed. Any potential guardian reading this Bill will not be reassured that should they decide to take on the task of parenting a child with very complex needs, they will not be left to cope without any real entitlement to support. In many cases the lack of funding could deter foster carers or extended family members from being willing or able to take on the extra responsibilities of this role without additional financial support. There would also need to be a duty for the local authority to provide support for the education of a young person in a similar way as exists at present for care leavers.

New section 14 A of Clause 110 allows for people who are not married to apply jointly to become special guardians. We would like to see this principle extent to all unmarried couples wishing to apply as adopters and valued for the skills and experience they have to offer together.

Barnardo's believes that the voice of the child must be heard when such orders are being considered and would hope a Children's Guardian would be appointed.