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The ‘lack of LAC’ Campaign/Petition 

We have called this campaign/petition ‘lack of LAC’ because without a child being previously a ‘looked after child’ or ‘LAC’, these children, and their special guardians, lose entitlement to specialist help and support that is needed to help them recover from early life adversity.

Special Guardians provide children who cannot live with their birth parents with a permanent loving family. According to the latest figures from the DfE (source SSDA 903), 12% of all children leaving care left care under a Special Guardian Order (SGO), compared with 14% leaving care for adoption – but this figure does dot include children under an SGO who did not go into care because they were cared for by relatives. Many special guardians are relatives of the child, which helps the child keep links with their birth parents and siblings (if they are not adopted), but some are foster carers and not related. Like adoption, a special guardian has ‘parental responsibility’ for the child – until the Special Guardian Order ends, when a child reaches 18. 

At the moment, if a special guardianship child did not have to go into care and become ‘looked after’, they cannot access the same support as other special guardianship children. These are the same children with the same needs – they were removed because there was ‘significant harm’ done, or there was a risk of this. We would like to see all special guardianship children given the same support – access to the Adoption Support Fund; to Pupil Premium Plus and to the Virtual Head and a designated teacher. 

No parent or carer imagines that in striving to prevent a child entering care they will ruin the child’s chances to get specialist therapeutic support later on down the line when it is desperately needed, or lose the chance to access the specialist knowledge of the Virtual Head Teacher for Looked After Children. Yet this is the scenario that special guardians can find themselves in when the Adoption Support Fund and Pupil Premium Plus are not available to the children and young people they care for – if they were not ‘previously looked after’.

Two special guardian SG&AT members have decided that this not OK and they are leading a campaign to stop this injustice – they need your help. These are the same children, with the same needs, and it is plainly wrong that as a result of trying to do the right thing for a child, much-needed support subsequently becomes inaccessible.

Caring for a child who has suffered early life abuse and neglect can be incredibly challenging and carers need good support. Specialist knowledge and understanding are absolutely vital for special guardianship and adopted children in schools, social care, and the education sectors. The child’s need for safety, stability, and security within their family after the losses of their early life are of paramount importance. Many of our children have undiagnosed neurodiversity issues such as FASD or autism. When the impact of a child’s difficulties is hidden – because the problems are not physical, or conditions remain unrecognised or undiagnosed, the child and family can struggle to get the help and understanding that is needed – especially when services are under pressure – and there are long waiting lists for referrals. It is children and families who bear the brunt of services that are under pressure.

A Virtual Head Teacher, with their oversight role, can make such a positive difference to a child and family who are struggling because of the legacy of a difficult past. Last year, following a major project funded by the DfE and DfH, the SCIE recommended that there be a virtual mental health lead for every Looked After or Previously Looked After Child (see recommendation 5). Although this important recommendation has not yet been acted on by government and become a reality, it seems that were this to happen, many special guardianship children would still be left without the help that is needed – by the very fact of their special guardians striving to prevent the children being taken into care.

Many special guardians (and adopters) must give up work/reduce work hours to care for children, and cannot afford to pay for specialist therapy privately. Being able to access the right support, when it is needed, is of utmost importance for families where children are on the edge of care. It is a false economy not to provide the support that is needed in special guardianship (and adoption) – when the cost of just one child entering care, quite apart from the emotional cost of being away from family and loved ones, can easily add up to £hundreds of thousands – especially when residential care is required and there are costly court proceedings.

 Anna’s Story

Anna and her husband Tom were called one morning in July 2015. Anna’s step-daughter was asking them to look after her eldest child Chloe who was six, as Social Services were on their way after a failed welfare check. Of course, they agreed, they didn’t want Chloe to go into care. Once they had Chloe safe social services contacted them. All was agreed for Anna and Tom to look after Chloe, and agreements were made to look after her for 2 weeks, then 2 weeks more and so on. Six months later social services asked them to apply for a Special Guardianship Order as Chloe, and her younger half brother Zack (cared for now under an SGO by another Zack’s paternal grandparents), would not be returning to their mother. The SGO for Chloe was granted just over a year after the initial call from social services/Chloe’s mother.

Now, when the Chloe needs therapeutic help to deal with the traumas she has suffered, which make caring for her a challenge and have a huge impact on her school and education, Anna and Tom are constantly told that there is no help – Chloe can’t access the Adoption Support Fund, the school cannot get the Pupil Premium Plus funding and support from the Virtual Head – as she was not previously looked after. Chloe’s needs are such that Anna had to give up her public sector teaching job to look after her the day she came to live with them and Tom, who works for the local authority, has had to reduce his work hours. Anna has begun to suffer from alopecia with all the stress – when they are unable to access the help they need as special guardians. They cannot afford to fund private therapy and the waiting list for local services is too long when help is needed now. Yet if these grandparents had let social services take Chloe and Zack, who also needs help, into care on that day, if they had put the children through needless upset, even for just 24 hours, they would qualify and would have help with the challenges they face. Because they did what was right, what any person would do, they inadvertently and unwittingly stopped the children being able to access the support they now need.

Thank you for reading this petition. It is still the case that many people do not even know what a special guardian is – and they do not understand the struggle these carers can sometimes have to get support, when their lives were turned upside down – because they wanted to help a child, to give them a loving family, and provide a safe home to grow up in. We hope in doing this petition we will raise aware

Please CLICK HERE to sign our petition, and send a petition letter to Nadhim Zahawi the Minister for Children and Families asking him to rectify this situation, and give all special guardianship children the same support.

You can also follow the campaign on Twitter: @lack_of_LAC and @SGandAT

We would be very grateful if you could draw your MP’s attention to this matter and we have written a template letter for you (to use if you wish, or modify). Just cut and paste the text and add what you would like to say. Don’t forget to put your name and address on the letter!

You can download the letter here. lack of LAC MP letter template

You can find your MP and contact details for them by clicking HERE

SG&AT (Special Guardians and Adopters Together), are a peer supported campaigning group who provide an authentic collective voice for special guardians and adopters and a supportive forum for these two communities to come together and think about what needs to change for us. We started a year ago, in August 2017, co-founded by two adopters, who are also members of the POTATO group (Parents Of Traumatised Adopted Teenagers Organisation). In November we decided we wanted to include special guardians in our group realising they faced many similar issues, and we changed the name of the group in February 2018 after a decisive vote. Together, we try and raise awareness of special guardianship and adoption issues. If you are an Adopter, or Special Guardian, and would like to join our campaigning group, please click HERE to complete a membership form. 

If you are a special guardian who has found you are unable to access support because your special guardianship child is lack of LAC please get in touch with the two special guardian lead campaigners at lackoflac@gmail.com. They would love to hear from you. Or you can use the contact form below to get in touch with us.