Special Guardianship Assessment and Support

What is a Special Guardian?

A special guardian is a person who has been granted a formal court order called a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) which gives them parental responsibility for a child up to the age of 18. Unlike an Adoption Order, an SGO does not legally sever the child’s relationship with their birth parents and there is an underlying assumption that contact with parents and other family members will continue where it is in the child’s best interests.

Can anybody become a special guardian?

Special guardians must be 18 or over and have an existing or potential relationship with the child. The parents of a child may not become that child’s special guardian. A court may make a special guardianship order in respect of the child on the application of:

  • any guardian of the child
  • a local authority foster carer with whom the child has lived for one year immediately preceding the application
  • anyone who holds a residence order with respect to the child, or who has the consent of all those in whose favour a Residence Order is in force
  • anyone with whom the child has lived for three out of the last five years
  • where the child is in the care of a local authority, any person who has the consent of the local authority
  • anyone who has the consent of all those with parental responsibility for the child
  • any person, including the child, who has the leave of the court to apply

The court may also make a Special Guardianship Order in any family proceedings concerning the welfare of a child if they consider an order should be made. This applies even where no application has been made and includes adoption proceedings. When considering whether to make a special guardianship order, the welfare of the child is the court’s paramount consideration.

How does it benefit the child?
With a SGO, there is no complete legal separation from the child’s birth parents, so, unlike an Adoption Order, the child remains within their extended family network. At the time of the courts making a SGO, a support plan will be agreed, to identify what ongoing support you will need, including consideration of financial support.
How do I apply for a Special Guardianship Order?

Any person who wishes to apply for a special guardianship order must give three months’ written notice to the local authority of their intention to apply. On receipt of notice of an application, or if the court makes a request, the local authority must investigate and prepare a report to the court about the suitability of the applicants to be special guardians.

Aspire undertakes special guardianship assessments on behalf of BCP Council and Dorset Council. These may be assessments which arise during care proceedings, where a child is already in the care of the local authority, or they may be direct applications to the court.

How can you support me as a Special Guardian?

Aspire provides special guardianship support services on behalf of the local authorities of BCP Council and Dorset Council. These services include

  • Assistance in relation to contact (including mediation)
  • Counselling, advice, and information
  • Access to therapeutic services
  • Support groups
  • Financial support can be offered in certain circumstances

We work closely with Special Guardians, supporting them with the challenges they face in providing care for someone else’s child. We want to ensure the family environment remains positive for both the child and family.

Our Special Guardianship Assessment Team are happy to help

Available during office hours on 0300 123 9868, email us at, or get in touch below.

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