Rise in Special Guardianship Breakdowns in light of Covid-19
Over the last few months we have all faced difficulties because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic however, we have become increasingly aware that Kinship Carers in particular, face more day to day difficulties than most.
Many Kinship Carers have had to face the added difficulties of trying to manage children’s contact with their parents and siblings virtually whilst dealing with pressure from the parents to break government guidelines and allow direct contact whilst having children at home full time to care for.
We have heard from a number of Kinship Carers who have received abuse from both parents and children, verbal and physical, due to their frustration over contact. Experiencing child on carer violence is never ok and should not become a new normal for carers who have taken the selfless decision to care for children who cannot be cared for by their parents.
If you feel that for whatever reason a child’s placement with you is breaking down, whether this is due to the children’s extreme behaviours, violence or a general change in circumstances, you can ask the Local Authority to intervene and assist. Asking for help early can sometime prevent the relationship and/or placement from breaking down in its entirety.
Kinship Carers are often ‘fobbed off’ by the Local Authority and told that they cannot access support as they have a Special Guardianship Order – this is false.
Support Plan Reviews
If you believe that the initial support plan provided by the Local Authority is no longer appropriate, carers are entitled to ask for a review of the plan by the Local Authority. The Local Authority must review the provision of services if there is a change in circumstances and in any event, they should review the plan annually.
Child in Need Assessment
If you believe that the child may have additional needs and that support is needed, for example behavioural, educational or emotional needs, you should ask the Local Authority to undertake a Child in Need assessment to identify any additional support that may be necessary. Unfortunately, there is no duty on the Local Authority to provide any recommended support however, this can be an excellent starting point to then challenge the Local Authority going forward.
Section 20 Placements
If you feel like additional support is just not enough and that the placement is at risk of completely breaking down, you can ask the Local Authority to accommodate the child under a section 20 agreement.
Anyone who holds parental responsibility for a child can request that the Local Authority accommodate a child under section 20. In reality, this means that the Local Authority provides an alternate carer for a child either a Foster Carer or Residential Placement, for an unspecified time. You will maintain Parental Responsibility, and this is not shared by the Local Authority. You would sign a section 20 agreement to provide consent however, you can revoke your consent to this agreement at any time.
Section 20 placements must be provided by the Local Authority in a wide range of circumstances including when a carer is unable to parent a child for whatever reason. This includes not being able to parent a child due to violence, a child’s behaviours, interference from parents and any other relevant issue.
Section 20 placements should only be a temporary solution and if the placement goes on for too long, or it becomes apparent that the child cannot be returned to your care, the Local Authority may issue Care Proceedings where the long-term plan for the child will be considered by the Court.
We appreciate that difficulties are often faced when approaching the Local Authority for assistance and that this will often be refused initially. Should it be that you are concerned about a child’s placement with you breaking down and feel that the Local Authority is not assisting as it should please do not hesitate in contacting a member of our Kinship Team at the Grandparents Legal Centre on our freephone 0843 289 7130.