View London Child Protection Procedures View London Child Protection Procedures

12.14 Wandsworth Adoption and Special Guardianship Support Scheme

AMENDMENT

This chapter was entirely replaced in December 2012 and should be re-read in full.


Contents

  1. Legal Framework
  2. Policy
  3. Adoption Support Services
  4. Special Guardianship Support Services
  5. Financial Support for Adopters and Special Guardians
  6. Wandsworth's Financial Support Assessments Scheme


1. Legal Framework

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 provided a major overhaul of adoption legislation, and made significant changes to the Children Act 1989, including the introduction of special guardianship orders.

The Adoption Support Services Regulations 2005 places a duty on local authorities to provide specific support services to children and families affected by Adoption.

The Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 places a duty on local authorities to provide specific services to children and families affected by Special Guardianship.


2. Policy

The Adoption and Special Guardianship Support Scheme is applicable to both new and existing adopters and special guardians. The Council will make arrangements to provide a range of services to facilitate placements to ensure that carers can continue to provide care for children and young people into adulthood. 

The Council will ensure that its adoption and special guardianship support services meet the needs of those affected by the adoption or special guardianship process as applicable. The services will particularly aim to support those children, adopters or special guardians who are affected by disadvantage or issues of difference. 

The legislation is designed to enable the Council to achieve permanence via adoption for a much wider range of children than was possible in the past. This also applies to Special guardianship.

The support service offers advice, assistance and support across a wide range of services. Financial support may also be offered, in accordance with the Regulations. A central principal of the Adoption and Special Guardianship scheme is that financial considerations should not be the sole reason that a placement fails. All support packages will be reviewed regularly, to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of children and their families.


3. Adoption Support Services

Adoption Support

  1. The Council will arrange for the following services to be provided;
    • Counselling, advice and information;
    • Financial support;
    • Services to allow groups of adoptive children, adoptive parents, natural parents or former guardians of an adoptive child to discuss matters related to adoption;
    • Assistance, including mediation services, in relation to arrangements for contact between an adoptive child/children and a birth parent, birth sibling, former guardian or a relative of the adoptive child;
    • Services in relation to the therapeutic needs of an adoptive child;
    • Assistance to ensure the continuance of the relationship between adoptive parents and adoptive children to enable placements to continue, including training for the adoptive parent, and respite care;
    • Assistance to adoptive parents and children where there is a risk of disruption to the placement;
    • We offer only a very limited service to adults and refer them on rather than doing the work;
    • Support provided may include cash assistance in exceptional circumstances.
  2. The Council may arrange for adoption support services to be provided by any of its partner or external agencies;
  3. Where the prospective adopter is the foster carer of the child, the Council will write to the carer setting out when the fostering placement ends and the adoption placement begins. This will allow for a clear distinction to be made between the two types of placement.

Adoption Support Assessments

  1. The Council will carry out an assessment of need for adoption support for those who meet the relevant criteria;
  2. An assessment of need for support will be limited to the entitlement of the person making the request;
  3. The assessment will cover all the aspects of the adoption context and, where the assessment relates to the child, all the developmental needs of the child, including education, health or emotional needs and any contact issues;
  4. The following persons are entitled to an assessment for support:
    • Children who may be adopted, their parents and guardians;
    • Persons wishing to adopt a child;
    • Adopted persons, their parents, birth parents and former guardians;
    • Children of adoptive parents (whether or not they are adopted);
    • Birth siblings of adopted children;
    • Relatives of the adopted child.
  5. Step-parents are not entitled to an assessment for support. However, counselling, advice and information may be offered, where appropriate;
  6. The assessments will consider how well the existing services meet the needs of adoptive families. They will also consider whether they should continue as before or be changed in any way. If services need to be changed and appropriate services are not available locally, financial support may be considered to meet the cost of services elsewhere;
  7. The assessment process will be as flexible as possible and where possible will facilitate a joint exploration of difficulties in partnership with the family;
  8. Straightforward requests for advice do not require an assessment and can be given by phone without the need for an interview. Requests for advice will be logged.

Adoption Support Plan

  1. Once the adoption support assessment has been completed, an adoption support plan will be completed that will set out the following:
    • Aims of the plan and the services that will be provided;
    • Timescales for providing the support detailed in the plan;
    • Persons responsible for carrying out the plan, the support services they will be providing and when these will be provided;
    • Measures that will be used to show if the support plan is successful;
    • When the support plan will be reviewed.
  2. In cases where there is a change in circumstances, e.g. serious change in the behaviour of the child since the last assessment, it may be necessary to carry out a new assessment of the child's needs;
  3. The Council may propose to change or end the support provided, as a result of a review, either before or after an adoption order is made. If this is the case, the adopter or prospective adopters or young person (if appropriate) will be notified and informed of the process and will be given 10 working days to make representations on the proposals;
  4. The adopter or prospective adopters will be given a copy of the support plan, with the reasons for any decisions made.

Adoption Financial Support

  1. The adoption support plan will include any proposed financial support including:
    • Frequency of payments;
    • Period over which it will be paid;
    • Date that the first payment will be made;
    • Consequences of failing to meet the required conditions;
    • Arrangements for review, variation and termination of support.


4. Special Guardianship Support Services

Special Guardianship Support

  1. The Council will arrange for the following services to be provided:
    • Counselling, advice and information;
    • Financial support to special guardians;
    • Services to help groups of relevant children and their parents, special guardians and prospective special guardians to discuss matters related to special guardianship arrangements;
    • Assistance, including mediation services, in relation to contact arrangements between a child and their parents or others who may share a significant relationship which the Council feels is beneficial to the welfare of the child;
    • Services in relation to the therapeutic needs of a child who is the subject of a Special Guardianship Order;
    • Assistance to support the continuance of the relationship between the child and the special guardian or prospective special guardian, including training to enable the special needs of the child to be met, respite care and mediation in matters relating to the special guardianship order;
    • Support provided may also include some cash assistance in certain circumstances.
  2. The Council may arrange for support services to be provided by any of its partner and external agencies;
  3. Where the prospective special guardian is the foster carer of the child, The Council will write to the carer setting out when the fostering placement ends and the special guardianship placement begins. This will allow for a clear distinction to be made between the two types of placement.

Special Guardianship Support Assessments

  1. Where the child is or was a Looked After Child immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order, the Council will undertake an assessment of needs for special guardianship support on request of:
    • The child;
    • The special guardian or prospective special guardian;
    • A parent (in relation to their need for support with contact and/or discussion groups);

  2. The following people may be offered an assessment for support services:
    • The child (where not looked after);
    • The special guardian or prospective special guardian;
    • A parent (where the child is not looked after);
    • A child of the special guardian (where the child is looked after or not);
    • Any person whom the Council considers to have a significant and on going relationship with the child (whether the child is looked after or not).
  3. Straightforward requests for advice do not require an assessment and can be given by phone without the need for an interview. Requests for advice will be logged;
  4. The Council will aim for the assessment process to be as flexible as possible. Assessment should not delay the provision of services;
  5. The assessments will cover all aspects of the special guardianship, including education, health or emotional needs of the child and any contact issues, and will consider;
    • The developmental needs of the child;
    • The parenting capacity of the special guardian or prospective special guardian;
    • The family and environmental factors that have shaped the life of the child;
    • What life with the special guardian might be like for the child;
    • Any previous assessment of the child or special guardian;
    • The needs of the special guardian or prospective special guardian and their family;
    • The impact of the special guardianship order on the relationship between the child, parent and special guardian.
  6. The assessment will consider how well existing services meet the needs of special guardianship families. It will also consider whether they should continue as before or be changed in any way.

Special Guardianship Financial Support

  1. In completing the financial assessment, the Council will have regard to:
    • The special guardians' financial resources;
    • Financial resources that would be available to them if there were a child living with them (including benefits);
    • The amount required by the proposed special guardian in respect of their own reasonable out-goings and commitments;
    • Financial needs relating to the child;
    • The amount of fostering allowance payable if the child had been fostered.
  2. The Council has a discretion not to means test in exceptional circumstances:
    • In considering "one -off "payments associated with settling in a child;
    • Recurring costs in relation to travel expenses for contact;
    • Any special care the child needs;
    • To provide a transitional period of payment to a former foster carer who becomes special guardian.
  3. The Plan will include any proposed financial support including:
    • Frequency of payments;
    • Period over which it will be paid;
    • Date that the first payment will be made;
    • In the case of a single payment, when that payment will be made;
    • Any conditions attached to the funds, and consequences of failing to adhere to them;
    • Arrangements for review, variation and termination of support.

Special Guardianship Support Plan

  1. Following an assessment, a special guardian support plan will be completed that will set out the following;
    • Aims of the plan and the services that will be provided;
    • Timescales for providing the support detailed in the plan;
    • Persons responsible for carrying out the plan, the support services they will be providing and when these will be provided;
    • Measures that will be used to show if the support plan is successful;
    • When the support plan will be reviewed.
  2. A copy of the proposed Plan will be provided in writing;
  3. The proposed Plan will be sent to the person requesting support, giving them 28 days to make representations on the proposed plan;
  4. Copies of the agreed plan will be provided to special guardians, or those who have requested support, with full reasons given as to the decisions that have been made;
  5. Special Guardianship Support Plans will be reviewed at the following stages:
    • When any change of circumstances takes place, e.g., when the family moves, the child ceases to live with the special guardianship family, the child dies; or
    • There is any notable change in the family's financial circumstances, in the child's financial needs or resources;
    • At any stage of implementation of the support plan, where this is considered appropriate;
    • At least annually.
  6. Where there is a significant change of circumstances, such as serious changes in the behaviour of a child, a new assessment of needs will be undertaken;
  7. Changes to financial support will be determined by an assessment using the Council's means testing scheme;
  8. The Council may decide to vary or terminate the provision of support after a review is carried out. In these cases, the person who made the application for support will be notified in writing and will be given 28 days to make representations.


5. Financial Support for Adopters and Special Guardians

  1. The provision of financial support will only be given in circumstances, where:
    • It is necessary to ensure that adoptive parents or special guardians can look after a child;
    • A child needs special care that requires greater expenditure on resources as a result of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties or the continued consequence of neglect or abuse;
    • It is necessary for the Council to make special arrangements to facilitate a placement, adoption or special guardianship, by reason of age, ethnic origin of the child or the desirability of the child being placed with siblings or a child with whom he/she has previously shared a home;
    • Such support is to meet the recurring costs of travel for visits for the child to members of the birth family or significant others;
    • The Council considers it appropriate to contribute towards expenditure on legal costs in adoption cases, including Court fees (if the case is supported by the Council), or expenses in relation to the child's introduction to adoptive parents or expenditure on accommodating the child, such as adaptations to the home, furniture, clothing or transport;
    • The Council decides that the proposed special guardianship is in the child's best interests; and that the special guardianship placement would not be practicable without the provision of financial support, it may decide that special guardians are eligible to receive financial support, providing the relevant criteria are met;
    • The Council considers it appropriate or uses its discretion to contribute expenditure on any legal costs associated with securing permanence, including court fees.
  2. The Council may also provide financial support to adoptive parents or special guardians resident in Wandsworth if the child was not placed by the Council and the person applying for support meets the criteria for assessment, where the Council feels it is appropriate;
  3. The Council may use its discretion to provide financial support either before or after placement, as appropriate;
  4. Financial support should supplement not replace any existing means of support available;
  5. Applicants will be helped to access advice on their entitlements to benefits, tax credits and allowances, as these will be taken into account when considering the amount of financial support entitlement;
  6. Applicants should ensure that they take advantage of all benefits and tax credit entitlements available to them;
  7. The Council may consider any additional needs as a result of the placement on the respective family, and whether any lump sum payments be made;
  8. The Council will take into account any special circumstances and may consider a two year transitional allowance where foster carers are applying to be Adopters or Special Guardians.


6. Wandsworth's Financial Support Assessments Scheme

Criteria

  1. To be eligible for a basic financial allowance for adoption or special guardianship, the adoptive or special guardian will be means tested and must either require financial support to look after the child and / or the child should have additional needs that the adoptive parent(s) or special guardian(s) cannot meet from their own income;
  2. The Council will use the means test to determine the amount of financial support payable in each individual case (currently under review September 2012);
  3. Financial support cannot include any element of remuneration payment to compensate adoptive parents or special guardians for any losses of income incurred. Any adoption leave arrangements will be taken into consideration in financial support assessments. However, Regulations allow for foster carers to receive an additional allowance equivalent to their foster carers allowance for a transitional period of two years. This will allow the foster carer time to adjust to their new circumstances;
  4. Adopters and special guardians who are in receipt of financial support will be sent a Financial Assessment Form, Financial Assessment Review Form and, annually a Financial Assessment review form. These will inform the entitlement to the basic financial support allowance;
  5. Adopters or special guardians who do not return the assessment form(s) within 28 days will have their financial support suspended. Adopters or Special Guardian are required to sign an agreement to confirm acceptance of the level of financial support and the terms and condition of payments;
  6. If the information on Financial Assessment Forms is found to be false, the payments will be suspended until the Council carries out an investigation into the matter and the family will be given notice of this. The outcome of the investigation will be notified to the family. If the outcome of the investigation finds that the information was correct, all payments will be reinstated and any outstanding monies backdated;
  7. Where the Council investigation reveals that the information provided is false, the Council may take steps to prosecute for fraud and ensure that previous payments made are refunded.

Types of financial support packages

  1. The Council's Adoption and Special Guardianship Support Scheme provides four other types of financial support packages for adopters and special guardians;
    • Time-limited financial support

      This may be paid for 1, 2 or 3 years, to allow for a period of adjustment during the early years of adoption/special guardianship.
    • Tapering financial support

      The amounts payable may be tapered as follows:
      • 100% in 1st year;
      • 75% in 2nd year;
      • 50% in 3rd year;
      • 25% in 4th year and then cease.
    • Support payments for specific purposes

      Payments for specific purposes which will cease once the objective had been achieved. The payments may be paid by way of a lump sum, or paid in instalments.

Types of Payments

  1. Payments may be made in the following ways:
    • Regular payments, based on the age of the child and calculated as agreed by the Council;
    • Lump sum payment;

Assessment for Weekly Basic Rate of Financial Support

  1. There will be age related allowances, subject to the means test.

End