His Honour Judge John Mitchell
Special guardianship orders (SGOs) were designed in part to provide a framework of permanency for 'children being cared for on a permanent basis by members of their wider birth family' (Adoption: A New Approach, Cm 5017 (TSO, 2000). The decision in April 2008 of Black J sitting in the Administrative Court in B v Lewisham London Borough Council  EWHC 738(Admin),  FLR (forthcoming) is the first reported case concerning the support which can and should be provided to special guardians (SGs) under s 14F of the Children Act 1989. It was delivered at an opportune time because two recent research studies J Hunt, S Waterhouse and E Lutman, Keeping Them in the Family: Outcomes for Abused and Neglected Children Placed with Family or Friends Carers through Care Proceedings (BAAF, 2008) (see  Fam Law 435) and A Hall, Special Guardianship: a Missed Opportunity: Findings from Research  Fam Law 148, draw attention to carers' needs for financial and other support.
There is little doubt that carers need more support than formerly offered. Hunt suggests that better service provision might have prevented half of the premature terminations of care and reduced the risk of termination in half of the vulnerable placements which were still continuing. One message from the research is that applicants who have not already had contact with social services as carers may underestimate the support that will be required and the difficulties they may experience in obtaining it. The purpose of this article is to provide a summary of the support available under s 14F and to give examples of support available for common problems.
For the full article, see August  Family Law journal.