Cafcass practitioners in the Humber region have been delivering dedicated workshops on special guardianship orders to ensure best practice across the region.
Having recognised a number of inconsistent care plans for children subject to special guardianship orders (SGOs) last year, the Cafcass team in Hull made it their job to improve local use of this order. They recognised, through performance learning reviews and team discussions of public law cases, that some care plans were not strong enough and assessments were inadequate in exploring the proposed placement. As a result, some special guardianship placements had broken down.
Together Maureen Fitzsimmons, Cafcass Service Manager, and Carla Thompson, Family Court Adviser, created and delivered four SGO workshops to Hull City Council, North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire and East Riding of Yorkshire Council. “The aim was to assist social workers to better understand the need to make thorough assessments, with us advising on best practice when making care plans,” said Maureen.
The workshops took place in September and October. Maureen and Carla covered the guidance released by Cafcass and ADCS in March 2016 and other key areas of learning from research into SGOs. They looked at the special guardianship assessment process in detail, as well as the need for post order support plans.
They encouraged guardians, team managers at local authorities, independent reviewing officers and principal social workers to join them. “We had keen support from the Local Family Justice Board and recently-appointed District Family Judge, who provided his support from the start. He was filmed giving an introductory speech which was shown at the start of each workshop.”
Feedback on the day was positive and Maureen and Carla hope to take the workshop to other areas in Yorkshire. Using feedback from the sessions and inspiration from our adoption practice tools, they are in the process of creating a toolkit to help guide social workers when making SGO assessments. The toolkit will include separate leaflets for practitioners, family members and children where appropriate. These will help all involved to understand special guardianship and the focus on providing permanence for the child.
Maureen is also keeping a number of special guardianship cases under review, to ensure the learning has been embedded and the quality of service to these children improved.