Special Guardianship allowance ~ Ombudsman report

A recent report by the Public Services Ombudsman Wales (PSOW)[1] arose out of a complaint that a local authority had failed to implement the recommendations of a Stage 2 Independent Investigation in relation to the payment of a Special Guardianship Allowance.

The report outlines the failings of an authority in assessing and responding to the financial needs of a family: a family that the authority had supported in its application to the Court for a Special Guardianship Order.  The report refers to revised regulations issued by the Welsh Government[2] and to its Code of Practice[3] aimed at supporting children and their families.

This case highlights the importance of sound assessment including financial assessment when a local authority supports the application for a Special Guardianship Order for children who have not become ‘Looked After Children’ (LAC) but who are known to the Social Services Department: Children who would have become ‘Looked After’ had the Special Guardianship application not been made. In this case it was the children’s grandparents who made the application and although the council knew they were under some financial stress it failed to provide them with adequate information concerning their right to seek financial support when they took responsibility for their grandchildren.  The Independent Stage 2 Investigation had recommended that the council pay them an allowance equivalent to the Special Guardianship Allowance.

This case highlights the key role of kinship carers in providing permanence for children in need of care and support. Support for Special Guardians, including financial support in respect of Looked After Children, is supported in the Code of Practice.  The needs of children who fall outside this legal category, but who are at risk of losing their permanent home because of lack of support and financial hardship faced by Special Guardians, requires a consistent approach to support across Wales. The importance of support including financial support is recognised by Welsh Government who consequently commissioned  Adoption and Fostering Wales (AFA Cymru) to provide a guide for the offer of Special Guardian support in Wales.[4] The challenge is for the guide to inform practice with Special Guardians.

[1] A report by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Case 202106412: Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, 9 November 2023.
[2] See The Special Guardianship (Wales) Regulations 2005 and The Special Guardianship (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2018.
[3] Welsh Government Code of Practice on the exercise of social services functions in relation to special guardianship orders July 2018 and see generally the Association of Fostering, Kinship and Adoption (AFKA) Guides at
[4] AFA Cymru Llywodraeth Cymru Welsh Government (2020) A Guide for the offer of Special Guardianship support in Wales (2020).
Photograph of Traeth Dinas Dinlle by Richard Jones -@lluniaurich

Posted 1 December 2023