Hundreds of special guardians receive backpay following ombudsman investigation

A council’s special guardian policy left hundreds of families “out of pocket”, according to a new report.

The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LGSC), which publishing the findings, said around 170 families in the north east will receive backdated financial support following its investigation.

The social care watchdog said it found a number of problems with the way one council was paying to support special guardians.

A special guardianship order is a private law order made under the Children Act 1989. It helps children who cannot live with their birth parents benefit from a legally secure placement. It does not, however, end the legal relationship between the child and his/her birth parents.

The ombudsman’s investigation found that North Tyneside Council had not been paying special guardians the level of financial support they were entitled to over a number of years because it had the incorrect policy in place.

This discrepancy was discovered in 2016, but it took another 12 months for the council to implement the correct policy.

In its report, Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Special guardians offer stable and secure home lives to some of the most vulnerable children in society; children who, for whatever reason, cannot live with their birth parents. They are often grandparents, siblings or relatives, doing what the rest of us would do if faced with a similar choice – so they should be given the right support to take on this important role.

“We issued a focus report covering these issues in November 2013, and I would expect all authorities to have understood their obligations at least from that date. That is why I have asked North Tyneside backdate payments from 2013.

“I welcome the council’s commitment to take action in this case: it has said it will identify all families that have been affected by its incorrect policy and ensure they receive the support they should have had.

“I now urge other councils to learn from this investigation and assess their own policies to ensure other special guardians are not left struggling for the support they are entitled.”

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Alison Green
Alison joined Mackrell Turner Garrett in 1989 and qualified as a solicitor in 1991, becoming a partner in the firm in 2010. Her expertise covers matrimonial work, including divorce and the associated financial and children issues; pre and post-nuptial agreements; co-habitation disputes; civil partnership agreements and the breakdown of civil partnerships.