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Working together to address pressing questions about Special Guardianship.

The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, CoramBAAF and the Family Justice Council to work together to address pressing questions about Special Guardianship.

The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (FJO) has commissioned adoption and fostering academy CoramBAAF to undertake a rapid evidence review on Special Guardianship to support the Family Justice Council, as the Council seeks to revise the protocols and guidance for the family courts and local authorities as identified in the recent judgement of Re P-S handed down by the Court of Appeal.

The making of a Special Guardianship Order has a lifelong impact on children and their carers – typically family members.  The Court of Appeal identified that the current process frequently involves a series of compromises that are not child or carer centred and do not enable a confident and well thought through beginning to a new family life for the child.

There is a growing body of research evidence on Special Guardianship but, at present, this is not formulated in a way that can support any revision to current protocols. In addition, practitioner experience and insights about current barriers to best practice are equally dispersed or have not been summarised.

The review will draw evidence together in a single accessible document, with a target date of February 2019.  It will be available on the Nuffield FJO website shortly after its completion.

John Simmonds from CoramBAAF will lead the review of the evidence and has been invited to join the panel established by the Family Justice Council, led by Mr Justice David Williams and HHJ Jane Probyn, to ensure continuity across elements of this work. John sits on the Adoption and Special Guardianship Board and chairs the Kinship Care Alliance.

Other members of the team are: Alexandra Conroy-Harris, a barrister and CoramBAAF’s legal consultant; Professor Judith Harwin and Lily Golding, Research Associate, Law School, Lancaster University. Judith and Lily are based in Lancaster University’s Centre for Child and Family Justice Research and have recently completed a national study of Supervision Orders and Special Guardianship for the Nuffield Foundation due to report shortly. Lancaster University will provide formal ethical review of this project as well as providing rapid access to a wealth of literature.

The Nuffield FJO, currently in its development phase, is delighted to be supporting the Family Justice Council in this work, and equally, very pleased that John has agreed to lead a small team tasked to produce this review. The work provides an excellent opportunity for the FJO to put into practice its aim of responding quickly to pressing practice issues by delivering accessible and robust knowledge on the topic.

The following provisional set of questions underpins the review:

  1. What is the stability of Special Guardianship placements and their disruption rates?
  2. What is the impact on, and experience of, those carers who become Special Guardians?
  3. What is the impact on, and experience of, the children who are subject to Special Guardianship Orders?
  4. What are the current system and practice barriers to the effective implementation of existing guidance and best practice?

The rapid evidence review will include a review of published evidence and also practitioner perspectives on current obstacles to the implementation of existing guidance and protocols.

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