Why Lancashire's special guardians should get the same support as adopters
Lancashire County Council is to push for better employer support for people who become “special guardians” to look after children who might otherwise have ended up in care.
The authority will also consider what it can do to help its own employees considering such a move.
It follows a meeting of the full council, where members backed a call from Mid Rossendale county councillor David Foxcroft for County Hall to make the case at a national level for parity between special guardians and people who decide to adopt.
Currently, one of the partners in an adoptive couple is entitled to the equivalent of maternity leave, but that right does not extend to special guardians.
Special guardianship orders often involve family - or those with close links to a child - taking on responsibility for them when their parents are unable to care for them. However, the option is increasingly being used in situations where a child goes to live with another family, but continues to maintain some level of contact with either or both of their birth parents.
County Cllr Foxcroft said that special guardians should be given the same chance as adopters to “build relationships” with the new additions to their families “should they choose to open their home and provide the care and love for children who have not had that in the first years of their life”.
“Special guardianship is the last remaining area that needs to be made equal to foster care and adoption to ensure that all children, no matter what their permanence arrangements, are able to get the one that is right for them - and that [special guardians] do not have a barrier where they are forced to have to take time off work, unpaid,” said County Cllr Foxcroft, who revealed he is stepping down from the authority in May in order to adopt a child with his partner.
Special guardianship orders are in place for half of the children in Lancashire who are either in foster care or living with so-called “connected carers” in the form of family or close friends.
Nationally, they have also marginally overtaken adoption as a permanent solution for young people who can no longer remain with their birth parents - accounting for 13 percent of children leaving care.
Cabinet member for children and young people Phillippa Williamson told the meeting that the authority would explore the “full support arrangements” that it could offer employees considering becoming - or who already are - special guardians.
“It’s essential that all those generous-hearted people who put themselves forward to care for a child have the resources and the support that they need,” she said.
Executive director for children’s services and education Edwina Grant will also be tasked with advocating for “better national standards” in parental leave for special guardians.
One of the two partners in an adoptive couple is entitled to up to 52 weeks' leave, receiving 90 percent of their average weekly pay for the first six weeks and either that amount or £151.20 - whichever is lower - for a further 33 weeks.