SGO Help

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Lovebed
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:12 pm

SGO Help

Post by Lovebed » Mon Jun 24, 2019 1:53 pm

Hi, just wondered if i could get some advice please. My nephew who is 8 currently lives with me under a 'private arrangement' although it was SW who asked me to have him (he wasnt allowed to return home after an incident that occurred) so shouldn't he be classed as looked after?? I asked the social worker if he could be made a looked after child but she said no because then it will look like he has been removed from my care and then given back but surely they could put notes on to explain why??
I am currently in the process of getting an SGO but have so far only had the permissions hearing. Am i right to think that as childrens services are classing him as being in a private arrangement he wont be entitled to 'after care' help when he reaches 18?? I know this is a way off yet but i need to know he is going to be ok, he has learning difficulties so is probably going to struggle.
Can i get it written into the SGO that he will need support when he is 18?? He also goes to respite care once per week, can this be carried on after the sgo is granted??
Also i read you can be entitled to financial help (sgo allowance).... i already receive his child benefit, tax credits and DLA.... is the allowance for people who dont get these?? And im unsure i should be getting these as i dont have any parental responsibility at the minute.

Thanks in advance.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 642
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: SGO Help

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Tue Aug 06, 2019 12:58 pm

Dear Lovebed

Welcome to the Family and Friends Carers’ discussion board and thank you for your post. My name is Suzie, FRG’s online adviser. I am very sorry that we have not been able to respond to your query before now, due to the current high volume of posts. I am also sorry to hear of the difficulties that you and your nephew have experienced.

You are caring for your 8 year old nephew, who has learning difficulties, and are currently in the process of applying for a Special Guardianship Order (SGO).

From what you say, children’s services are treating the arrangement as a ‘private arrangement’ and as such are not providing you with support. However, if the social worker removed the child from his parents’ care and placed him with you then you are right this may be a looked after child arrangement.

Here are some points to consider:

• Was there a child protection plan put in place before or after the incident which occurred?

• Were restrictions placed on your nephew having contact with his parents? Does contact have to be supervised?

• Was there any discussion about financial support with children’s services at the time that your nephew came to live with you?

Family members who are suitable can be temporarily and later fully approved as foster carers for ‘looked after children’. The social worker’s comment is not accurate.

Have you looked at our advice sheet relatives and friends taking on the care of a vulnerable child in an emergency especially pages 16 and 17 which address the question: What if children’s services place the child with me, but are now saying it was a private arrangement?

You can discuss your situation in more detail with an adviser if you contact the Freephone advice line on 0808 801 0366, Mon – Fri, between 9.30 and 3.00. It would be a good idea to do so.

You are currently applying for a SGO – this will give you parental responsibility for your nephew – it would also end any looked after child arrangement and any fostering allowance, if payable.

Do you have a solicitor or has the local authority offered to pay for you to obtain some legal advice (which could assist you in arguing for a suitable support package to be put in place)? If you have not been offered this, you can ask for a copy of the local authority’s policy on supporting kinship carers to access legal advice and you should also make sure that you have a copy of their family and friends care policy (if it is an English local authority). You may be able to find a copy here .

The assessment of yours and your nephew’s support needs is a very important part of the SGO assessment especially as your nephew has special needs and may need ongoing support and as you have not been financially supported up to now. Also as your nephew has regular respite care you are right to want this to be included in any support package that is offered to you.

Children’s services have to assess a prospective special guardian’s support needs if the child is looked after and they may carry out an assessment of your support needs if the child is not looked after. It is essential that they do carry out an assessment in your situation and that you try to set out all the needs your nephew or you have or may have in the future.

You are right to identify that your nephew will need support until he is 18 and it is important to have this recognised in the assessment for support. You should be given 28 days to comment of the draft support plan – this can be a really crucial time to get independent or legal advice and to negotiate for the best support you can get.

SGO allowances are means-tested and discretionary. If you are offered a SGO allowance it is not instead of child benefit, child tax credits or DLA but they will deduct child benefit and tax credits from any SGO allowance paid. A SGO allowance should be guided by the amount of foster care allowance you would be paid if you were a foster carer. Please see the information in part three of this DIY Special Guardianship advice sheet. This also sets out financial help for the child in further education and it clarifies (as you thought) that leaving care support is only offered to those young people who were looked after before the SGO was made. Please also see our two advice sheets on children’s services support for relatives and friends caring for someone else’s child and on social security support for relatives and friends caring for someone else’s child.

It may be that you will want to argue, if it is appropriate, that your nephew should have been treated as a looked after child if he was placed with you, that you should have been supported as such all along and this should be addressed now and in the SG assessment.

Please do discuss your situation further with a solicitor or with an adviser.

If you need to you can make a complaint.

I hope this is helpful. It is good that you are thinking ahead about what help and support your nephew needs and seeking advice before the order is made.

With best wishes

Suzie

Lovebed
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:12 pm

Re: SGO Help

Post by Lovebed » Sat Aug 10, 2019 9:20 am

Hi Suzie, thanks for your reply. Just to clarify my nephew was placed on a child protection register due to his mother being charged with neglect. He is currently having telephone contact with both parents but no actual contact is allowed until they have successfully done risk assessments (and then it will only be supervised contact). It was very quick that he was placed with me.... he came for his usual 2 hour visit with me, the social worker came and said due to an incident with his grandma (who he was placed with before myself) he couldnt return there and could he stay with me, i obviously agreed and had said in previous meetings that i figured he would come to me eventually (grandma was struggling with his behaviour). They told me to apply asap for tax credits and DLA. They did provide a bed and chest of drawers after a while.
I have got a solicitor that childrens services are paying for (they wanted me to just have an initial consultation and the solicitor to do the paperwork to apply for the order but i said im not happy to represent myself because i dont lnow what im doing... this was all new to me, i'd never heard of an SGO before)
Anyway, i have since had court dates in which both parents attended and have said they dont contest the application. The social worker has been given until the 25th aug to do the report (she hasnt been to see me as yet) and a court date to be made beginning september. My solicitor said we will go through the report before the court date to ensure everything is in there but is there going to be enough time to change anything in that time??
Sorry its so long but i have read so much that says anything you dont have written into the order before court will probably not happen.

One last thing, he currently has respite care once per week (he is very routine driven) but they are wanting to change that to fortnightly (will is going to confuse him definately) can i argue this or should i just be grateful of any respite offered??

Thanks again, and sorry its so long.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: SGO Help

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:56 pm

Dear Lovebed

Thank you for your further post and apologies for the delay in responding to you.

You have now provided further clarification on the circumstances in which your nephew came to you i.e. he was at risk of significant harm and already had a child protection plan in place, there were (and still are) restrictions around contact and the social worker asked you to care for him.

In this situation, based on the information you have provided, this should not have been treated as a private arrangement (unless you agreed with the social worker at the time of placement that you would be financially responsible for the child). Instead, your nephew should have been treated as a ‘looked after’ child. Children’s services should have assessed you as a foster carer for the child and approved you (if successful) and paid you the full fostering allowance from when your nephew first came to live with you. Where the child is looked after the social worker should not have advised you to apply for tax credits as foster carers cannot claim them although you can apply for his DLA. Have a look at pages 13 to 17 of our advice sheet on 'relatives and friends taking on the care of a vulnerable child in an emergency' which I signposted you to last time, for more information about this.

I think you should discuss this with the solicitor who is helping you with the SGO process (if they are still involved).

I will direct message you with some additional information about this too.

If your nephew is treated as a looked after child before you get a SGO for him this will also help him access support from children’s services when he is older too (please see pages 45 and 46 of our DIY SGO advice sheet which I sent last time). This would also mean that you would be eligible to apply for support for your nephew from the Adoption Support Fund , if you needed to.

You mentioned that the court date was to be made at the beginning of September so I don’t know if this has happened yet. You should be given 28 days to comment on the draft SG support plan (and get your solicitor’s help with negotiating this). However, sometimes carers are only given the plan at the last minute. You should definitely argue for what you think is best for your nephew including the amount of respite he should be offered. If children’s services are suggesting less frequent respite you can ask them to provide you with clear written reasons why they think this is best and of course you can ask your solicitor to challenge their recommendation (or if need be you can make a complaint) if you disagree with them. You are right that it is best to try to address any issues and support needs during the court process. If the SGO has been made then you would have to raise any concerns afterwards and argue that you should receive a backdated payment for your nephew from the date you began caring for him when the social worker asked you to do so.

Our advice sheet on complaints will tell you how to go about this if you need to. The local government ombudsman (LGO) regularly investigates complaints about how family and friends carers are treated and if you were unable to resolve matters or any complaint you make is not upheld you can get in the touch with the LGO .

I hope this helps and that everything works out for you and your nephew.

With best wishes

Suzie

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