Extending Placement Orders to Special Guardianship Orders

Part of Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:30 pm ar 12 Ionawr 2017.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education) 12:30, 12 Ionawr 2017

Under clause 8, when a court is making a decision about a child’s future permanence arrangements, whatever order that may be under, it has to consider the child’s long-term needs and the abilities of the carer. The carer may be a long-term foster carer or a special guardian, or the child may be returning home, but they have to demonstrate the qualities and abilities necessary to meet that child’s specific needs in not only the immediate but the long term. That is an important distinction.

As the hon. Lady said, one concern is that some assessments for special guardianship orders have been cursory at best. That has led, in some cases, to the breakdown of the placement. We all know that that is the worst possible outcome for the child involved. We carried out an important piece of work with those in the court system, in children’s services and in the charitable sector to understand what was driving those decisions and the breakdown of those placements. Our response was to tighten up and make more stringent the assessment process required before someone is approved as a potential long-term carer for a child under a special guardianship order.

The hon. Lady asked about evidence on breakdown rates. I recall that Professor Julie Selwyn from Bristol University carried out an extensive piece of research a couple of years ago, which showed that the breakdown rate for special guardianships was around 6%—double what it was for adoption. I know the figure for those returning to care was much higher, and I can share that with the hon. Lady once it is to hand.

There is cause to look at rectifying that and coming up with the right approach. We must ensure that in doing so, we give the court the tools it needs to make not only the right decision but a timely one. However, I am not convinced that the approach the hon. Lady proposes in the new clause is the right way forward. I want to take a few minutes to explain why so that she is fully aware of the reasons we do not support the amendment.