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SGOs and CAOs

Posted: Thu Feb 18, 2016 9:23 pm
by Supportingfamily
We are grandparents who have been providing the majority of care for a 2 year old child and a 5 year child for the last 16 months. The mother is mentally ill and the father also has mental health issues.
The local authority Children's Department is threatening to take the children into care because of concern about continuity of care for these young children and doubts about how quickly (if at all) the parents will recover, unless we as grandparents apply for a SGO or CAO and has offered to pay the cost of applying for a SGO.
We have a good relationship with our daughter (the mother) although we recognise the health problems. We feel under pressure. We are seeking the advice of a solicitor but we would welcome your advice, please.

Re: SGOs and CAOs

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2016 1:53 pm
by frazzled

Seeking legal advice is your best option here. Family Law is complex.

It looks like Children's Services are seeking a secure, long-term solution, in the best interests of the children, and the options are that they (the local authority) apply for a legal order ('care') or that you do. If the LA apply for a care order the children may well remain with you but they will be considered 'looked after' children with continued Children's Services involvement (the Local Authority will have 'parental responsibility'). A CAO or SGO will give you some degree of parental responsibility (shared with the birth parents to a greater or lesser degree, dependent on which order you apply for).

Sounds like you have your hands full and are doing a great job holding things together. It's not easy.

hope things work out.

Re: SGOs and CAOs

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2016 9:11 pm
Be careful my grandchildren off have been with me for 14 months after just 1 month they were suggesting SGO but the independent social workers report for court had a few negative points about me however judge still agreed SGO. I think you should apply it gives you parental responsibility and an allowance from the LA, even though my case has been stressful I think it was the way forward

Re: SGOs and CAOs

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2016 9:16 pm
I have both SGO and Cao as parents said they wanted their contact to be detailed, and however this means that if you want to stop or change contact then you are in contempt of court and could face a fine or prison

Re: SGOs and CAOs

Posted: Wed Feb 24, 2016 1:12 pm
by Suzie, FRG Adviser
Dear Supportingfamily,

Welcome to the friends and family carers discussion board!

Frazzled and LISALOU68 have given you helpful advice based on their experiences. Both have outlined the two different ways that your grandchildren could come to live with you permanently.

Frazzled is right to say that children services appear to be looking for a long term and secure solution that is in the best interests of your grandchildren.
The law also says that any delay in planning for children is contrary to their best interests. So children services will be keen that long term plans are made and that they can then close their file.
Not only that, you do not currently have the legal parental responsibility to make decisions about the children. Only mum and possibly dad will have legal parental responsibility.

Is your intention to look after your grandchildren long term?
Or do you hope that with support and treatment, the parents will be able to look after your grandchildren again?
Are the parents asking for the children to be returned?
Before that can happen, they would need to be assessed by children services to see what support they might need and whether they could provide “good enough” parenting. Has this assessment taken place?

If the reality is that it is unlikely that the parents would be able to parent then the long term plan may well be for the children to stay with you permanently.

The two different ways that this can be achieved are by either:
• Children services to taking care proceedings
• Or for you to issue private law proceedings (for -either a special guardianship order or a child arrangements order to say the children will live with you.)

Care proceedings

Care proceedings is a way for long term plans to be made about the children.

At the end of the proceedings (which are expected to take 26 week) the court will take decisions about where the children will live permanently.
• Whether back with the parents,
• Or with connected persons (family and friends such as yourself).
• If no family and friends are suitable then the court would consider long term foster care or adoption as a last resort, if nothing else will do.

You say that your grandchildren have been with you for the last 16 months and that the social worker is threatening to take them off you if you do not seek a special guardianship order or a child arrangements order.
If children services say they will support your court application, I do not think they are considering removing your grandchildren from you. To do so, they would need the legal parental responsibility which they don’t currently have. To get parental responsibility they would have to take care proceedings.
If they did take care proceedings, by law they have to place children within the family (such as yourselves) before stranger foster care, unless it is not in the welfare of the children. So it seem very unlikely that your grandchildren will be removed from you by children services.

Private law proceedings

Have a look at our advice sheet about support for friends and family carers which outlines the different legal arrangements and the support that might be available.

You could also ask for your local authority’s policy about supporting friends and family carers.

Do you know what is legal status of the children?
Are they “looked after”? If so you would be considered to be foster carers and should have had a fostering assessment and receive foster care allowance.

Or are they with you under a private arrangement?

(Often children services will say it is a private arrangement to save costs when in fact the the children are “looked after”).
Pages 16 and 17 of advice sheet 21( linked above) explains this.

Between the two types of private law orders,(special guardianship orders and child arrangement orders) generally, a special guardianship order has more support available to friends and family carers.

However, any support (financial or practical) provided, will be in the discretion of the local authority (although they need to apply their policy).
If you decide to seek a private law order, make sure that an assessment of your needs and your grandchildren s needs takes place before the court order is made.

I hope this helps but please post again if you have any questions.

Best wishes,


Re: SGOs and CAOs

Posted: Mon Jul 04, 2016 8:25 pm
by Supportingfamily
Thank you all for your advice earlier in the year. It was very helpful. My wife and I continue to care for the two young children for the majority of the time. It is a sort of informal family kinship caring arrangement.

But we have resisted so far applying for a Child Arrangements Order because we want the younger child to go to the same primary school as his brother. It is a good school, and the younger one will be starting at the pre-school group in the school building in September.
However, the school is heavily over-subscribed, and the younger child would not go there if the children are classified as resident with us by a Child Arrangements Order. We live seven miles away from the school.

So we are delaying applying for a CAO until the younger child has been offered a place at his brother's primary school. This will happen next January by the normal school allocation process.

After that school allocation has happened, it is likely that we would apply for a CAO and we would be strongly supported by the local Children's Services Department who are happy with our care of the children. We have a good relationship with the children's social worker.

But we would prefer the Children's Services Department to pay towards the substantial cost of applying for a CAO, and we are asking them to provide a written statement showing why they want us to apply for this Order. Then we would hope to use this statement to argue for them to contribute towards the cost.

When the social worker visited us today, she said that there is a fostering? regulation that would require us to apply for a CAO after the children have been living in our home for a year. (The children have been with us since August last year.) I am aware that the duration of a year would help our case in applying for a CAO, but I am not aware of any regulation that requires us to do so - which would be a different matter.

Is there anyone who can help with advice on this question, please?

Re: SGOs and CAOs

Posted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 7:28 am
It could be a local policy ask for a copy of their Kinship Carer/Connected Persons policy every LA must have one and it should state this in there.
My own personal experience was that I represented myself at court for my SGO so no legal fees but I don't think it's advisable for everyone to its quite a daunting experience. I had to pay the £215 court costs when I submitted the application but this was eventually refunded after about 6 weeks of my having to keep on to them even tho they had previously agreed to pay the costs.
My SGO was granted in January and we have already had problems with contact and parents DV and having the SGO rather than a CAO has enabled me to protect my grandchildren by adjusting contact as an SGO gives the power to make final decisions

Re: SGOs and CAOs

Posted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 11:29 am
by Supportingfamily
I've had a range of estimates for the cost of applying as a Litigant in Person through all the processes of applying for and obtaining a Child Arrangements Order - rather than using a solicitor.

Can anyone give me the benefit of their experience, please?

Re: SGOs and CAOs

Posted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 4:43 pm
by Suzie, FRG Adviser
Dear supportingfamily

Thank you for your further post.

I must say that I do not know of any regulation that states you have to apply for a child arrangement order after 1 year. It may be the policy of your local authority that they want a child to have permanence and not be in foster care for the period of time.

If you do decide to apply for a child arrangement order, you could ask children services to assist you with the cost of obtaining legal advice from a solicitor. You can of course apply as a litigant in person, the children have been with you for some time, so the court would take this into account. The children’s parents would be respondents to your application and could oppose the application but at the end of the day the judge will make the final decision based on what is best for the children.

It is possible, if you cannot afford the issue fee, to apply for a fee exemption from the court. Your local court may also have a Personal Support Unit which offers help at court to litigants in person.

A copy of our do-it-yourself advice sheet will give you more guidance about making the application.

Should you wish to speak to an adviser, please telephone our advice line on 0808 801 0366. The advice line is open from 9.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.

I hope you find this helpful.

Best wishes