Tier 1 advice and support
General SGO advice and support
This is in respect of any issues impacting upon the SGO, eg should you be wanting to seek parenting support or advice about accessing early help support. In most cases information and advice can be provided, or the special guardian will be signposted to the appropriate agency/service.
Family time (contact)
You may wish to seek advice and support around barriers or difficulties with family time, eg relationship issues impacting upon the SGO placement. If this is the case advice and support can be offered by the SGO support worker, and in some cases an SGO review will be necessary to inform an update to the SGO support plan.
It may be that you, birth parents or children subject to the order require support in respect of strengthening family relationships, or establishing, re-establishing or maintaining family time arrangements. The SGO support social worker can offer mediation, advice and support. This may include helping the family to draft a family time agreement. Special guardians and birth parents can seek legal advice on family time if necessary, but this would be privately funded.
Advice on available grants can be sought. You can request support to apply for relevant benefits as required. Advice will be provided about an SGO allowance at the enquiry stage / during the SGO assessment process. You can also request a financial assessment if there's a significant change in financial circumstances or the child’s needs or circumstances.
For SGOs granted in another local authority where financial support is already in place you'll be signposted back to the originating local authority as they remain responsible for any financial support granted at the time of the order. Please refer to Shropshire Council’s Financial Support for Children Subject to Special Guardianship Orders Policy April 2021.
Introduced in 2011, the Pupil Premium is a sum of money given to schools each year by the government to improve the attainment of eligible children. This is based on research showing that children from low-income families perform less well at school than their peers.
Often, children who are entitled to Pupil Premium face challenges such as poor language and communication skills, lack of confidence and issues with attendance and punctuality. The Pupil Premium is intended to directly benefit the children who are eligible, helping to narrow the gap between them and their classmates.
Pupils who may be eligible include
- Children in receipt of free school meals, or those who have been eligible for free school meals in the past six years
- Children recorded as being from service families
- Pupils who were 'looked after' and left care under a special guardianship order
Schools don't have to spend Pupil Premium so that it solely benefits eligible pupils. They can use it wherever they identify the greatest need. For example, they might spend it on pupils who don't get free school meals but:
- Have or have had a social worker
- Act as a carer
Using Pupil Premium funding to improve teaching quality is the most effective way to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. By doing so, schools will inevitably benefit non-eligible pupils as well.
Access to training
If you require specific training this can be explored with the SGO support social worker. This may include attending local authority foster carer training (for previous foster carers), or training delivered through our Early Help Team or other professional agencies.
The SGO support worker will arrange coffee mornings/networking opportunities. Some experienced special guardians may agree to offer peer support to new ones. The SGO support social worker can advise on this.
Update on services and support available within Shropshire / Keeping in Touch
SGO newsletters are sent quarterly (or more often if required). This frequency aims to keep you updated on any new local support services or wider support available. It is also a reminder that SGO support is available from the local authority.
Annual contact from an SGO support social worker to offer a review of the SGO support plan
This contact will be made annually, but special guardians can request this at any point they feel necessary.
Find out more about the early help service from our 'Early help' pages.
For children who were looked after immediately prior to the granting of the SGO
Early Years Pupil Premium
The EYPP is additional funding for early years providers to improve outcomes for children by providing them with enhanced learning and development support. This means that for children from low-income families accessing the free early education entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds, providers are entitled to receive an additional 53p for every universal hour claimed. Providers should work in partnership with parents to carefully consider the learning and development needs of the child.
Eligibility is linked to state benefit entitlement. Details can be found on the Shropshire Learning Gateway.
Pupil Premium Plus
This funding should be allocated direct to the child’s school for a child who was looked after in care immediately before the granting of an SGO. You're responsible for making the child’s school aware:
- That the child was classed as 'a looked-after child' immediately before the SGO was granted
- That the school may therefore claim Pupil Premium Plus
Pupil Premium funds are allocated directly to the school and the school directly manages the funds. The virtual school/virtual school head isn't involved. The child’s designated teacher at the school should involve you in deciding how Pupil Premium Plus is used to support the child. That teacher should be the main point of contact for queries about the Pupil Premium Plus funds and how they're used. It's important to note that Pupil Premium Plus isn't a personal budget for individual children, therefore the school may decide to use it in a way that they think benefits all children who have been previously 'looked after' and according to children’s needs. Find out more from the government guidance.
Shropshire Virtual School
The virtual school acts as a local authority champion to promote the progress and educational attainment of looked-after children so they achieve educational outcomes comparable to their peers. Ensuring that they receive a high-quality education is the foundation for improving their lives.
Find out more from our Shropshire Virtual School section.
Shropshire Council is part of a 'regional permanence partnership' – Together4Chidlren - with Telford and Wrekin, Stoke and Staffordshire. Please see the education support section on the Togther4Children website where you'll find resources and a link to the Education Planning tool (EP-PLAC), which can be used as a good practice tool in schools.
For any queries please contact the virtual school for further information and support: Virtualschool@shropshire.gov.uk or phone 01743 250124.
Priority school admissions/support in school
Children who have previously been looked after must be given priority for admission to the school of their carer's choice. Therefore, if changing schools or transitioning to secondary school, special guardians should make it clear on any admission forms that a child was previously looked after and is now subject to an SGO. There should be a designated teacher within the school who should be the initial point of contact to promote the child’s education. They have responsibility for ensuring that school staff understand and are supportive of children who were previously in the care system and subject to an SGO.
The Adoption Support Fund (ASF)
The ASF provides funds to local authorities to pay for essential therapeutic services for eligible children (whilst the title only mentions adoption, it can also be accessed for children who have previously been looked after and are subject to an SGO or child arrangements order). If this is felt to be required, special guardians can request an SGO assessment of need to explore the need and eligibility. More information can be found on the First4Adoption website.
Leaving care entitlement
Depending on the child’s circumstances and the time they spent in care, the law describes four different groups of care leaver:
- Eligible child
- Relevant child
- Former relevant care leaver
- Qualifying care leaver
All children who were looked after prior to the making of a special guardianship order will be classed as a ‘qualifying child’ between the ages of 16-21. This entitles them to support and advice from the Shropshire Leaving Care Team, and may include a pathway plan if required. Key assistance offered includes support around welfare benefits and housing, support in respect of education, training and employment.
If a child reached age 16 prior to the SGO being granted they would be either a ‘qualifying child’, ‘relevant child’ or ‘former relevant care leaver’. This is dependent on their age and circumstances, and details of their support entitlement can be found in our local offer 'Information and advice for Shropshire’s Care Leavers aged 16 to 25' guidance, or by contacting the Leaving Care Team on 01743 254590.