Dorian Day, Stephen Bishop, Jenny Morrison - Pay Day for the Silent SGO Army: B v Lewisham Borough Council

28 AUG 2008

Dorian Day, Barrister, Goldsmith Chambers, Stephen Bishop and Jenny Morrison, Solicitors, Morrison Spowart.

Special guardianship orders (SGOs) came into force in December 2005 and were intended to fill the gap between residence, long-term fostering and, at the other end of the spectrum, adoption by providing a long-term care option similar to adoption, but without the absolute legal break with the birth family that is associated with the legal finality of adoption. Financial support will ordinarily be part of an order and the level of this support will be critical to many prospective special guardians, especially those who may have been fostering the children previously and even more so where blood relatives. The London Borough of Lewisham had implemented a financial support package based on adoption allowances which were, and are, lower than fostering allowances. This was challenged by the special guardian Mrs B (supported by the child) by way of judicial review B v Lewisham London Borough Council [2008] EWHC 738(Admin), [2008] FLR (forthcoming). Black J ruled that Lewisham's scheme was unlawful as there was no close association between fostering and special guardianship allowances and in obiter comments she suggested that the adoption allowances may similarly be unlawfully low.

This judgment has significant implications, being the first ruling on the legal framework for the financial allowances, as Lewisham is unlikely to be the only authority to have incorrectly pegged special guardianship allowances to adoption schemes. Similarly, many kinship carers may have been persuaded by local authorities to take lower levels of financial support than intended by the legislation and guidance.

For the full article, see August [2008] Family Law journal.

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