The Adoption Support Fund and Special Guardians

Children cared for by Special Guardians may well have experienced serious difficulties that led to their placement and they might need additional help and support so that they can thrive.


The Adoption Support Fund pays for a range of therapeutic support for adopted children and their adoptive family and, since April 2016, for children cared for by Special Guardians who are eligible.

The Adoption Support Fund is available to those Special Guardians living in England who obtained a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) for a child aged 21 and younger (or 25 and younger if they have a Statement of Special Educational Needs or an Education, Health and Care Plan) who was looked after immediately before the SGO was granted.

 

Am I eligible?

If you can answer yes to all these questions then you are eligible to be assessed for therapeutic services paid for by the Adoption Support Fund.

  1. The child I have an SGO for was in the care system immediately before I obtained the SGO and
  2. The child I have an SGO for is struggling to cope and needs support and/or my household needs support to help the child I have an SGO for and
  3. The child I care for is 21 or younger or is 25 and has a Statement of Special Educational Needs or an Education, Health and Care Plan.

How can I get it?

You will need to have an assessment of your family’s support needs by the local authority. See our FAQ on how to get an assessment.

Where the assessment identifies that the therapeutic services funded by the Adoption Support Fund would be beneficial to your family, the local authority will apply to the Fund on your behalf, who will then release funding to the local authority which uses the fund to commission and pay the agreed provider of services. For the remainder of this financial year, a fair access limit of £5,000 per child has been introduced. Further information about this can be found here.

The local authority social worker is expected to talk to you about who can provide the types of service that you need and which provider you would prefer.

How does the local authority get the funds?

The social worker’s assessment and recommendations for services must be approved by a designated manager in the local authority. (Designated means the manager who has responsibility in that local authority for accessing the fund).

Once the social worker’s assessment and recommendations have been approved by the designated manager, the social worker applies to the Adoption Support Fund for funding. Applications are normally successful provided that:

  1. the application confirms that you meet the eligibility criteria
  2. the recommended services have been approved by the local authority to meet national quality and safety standards
  3. the application form has been completed correctly.

Applications are usually processed within 10 working days.

All identifying information about you must be excluded from the application form as this information is confidential between you and the local authority.

The Adoption Support Fund notifies the social worker who applied for funding (within 10 working days) and the social worker should then let you know the decision. If the application is successful the Adoption Support Fund sends the money to the local authority who pays the provider for the agreed services.

You can then get the service you and your family need. (However, please note that there may be waiting lists for some local services).

What services are funded by the Adoption Support Fund?

The Fund will provide money for a range of therapeutic type services that are identified to help your child achieve the following positive outcomes:

  • Improved relationships with friends, family members, teachers and school staff
  • Improved engagement with learning
  • Improved emotional and behaviour management
  • Improved confidence and ability to enjoy a positive family life and social relationships

To achieve these outcomes the Fund will pay for therapeutic support and services including but not restricted to those listed below. Some of the services may be provided through the NHS, some by the local authority and others by independent providers. The exact range of services available will vary for each local authority, depending upon which services are available locally that meet relevant quality standards.

  • Parenting training – evidence based parenting courses adapted to meet the needs of Adopters or Special Guardians
  • Further more complex assessment of need (e.g. CAMHS assessment, multidisciplinary assessment including education and health, cognitive and neuropsychological assessment, other mental health needs assessment.)
  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy.
  • Theraplay – a child and family therapy to build attachment and the parent-child relationship based on directed play and activities.
  • Filial therapy – very similar to Theraplay and always involving the parent/carer.
  • Creative therapies e.g. art, music, drama, play. Music therapy and Art therapy can help children from complex and traumatic backgrounds in a range of ways. It can help to increase concentration and attention skills, improve family and social relationships and increase a child’s confidence.
  • Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). A psychological treatment method which stimulates the brain to reduce the intensity of distressing memories.
  • Non-Violent Resistance (NVR). A psychological approach for overcoming destructive, aggressive, controlling and risk-taking behaviour.
  • Sensory integration therapy/sensory attachment therapy aims to help the child re-organise or re-process sensory information in order to regulate emotional responses. Individual sensory integration therapy is provided as direct one-to-one therapy, following a specialist assessment by an Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist or Speech and Language Therapist with postgraduate training in sensory integration.
  • Multi Systemic Therapy (MST) - involves working closely with families, providing intensive therapy that focuses on problem solving. It aims to give parents problem-solving skills to deal with their issues. Families receive 24-hour support from a therapist, and a range of agencies work in partnership to support them over a three to five month period.
  • Psychotherapy – by a qualified and registered psychotherapist
  • Specialist clinical assessments where required to identify therapeutic needs
  • Extensive life story work with a therapeutic intervention (where therapy is used to help the young person understand and cope with the trauma and difficulties that their life story work might revisit)
  • Respite care (where it is part of a therapeutic intervention)

What will the Adoption Support Fund not pay for?

Local authorities should already be providing the following services for Special Guardians. They are also required to plan the provision of special guardianship support services taking into account the similar services already provided for adopters. See: The Special Guardianship (Amendment) Regulations 2016

  • financial support
  • services to enable groups of children who are the subject of a special guardianship order or for whom it is being formally considered, special guardians or prospective special guardians, and parents of the child to discuss matters relating to special guardianship
  • assistance, including mediation services, in relation to contact between the child and their parents or relatives or any other person with whom the child has a relationship that the local authority considers to be beneficial to the welfare of the child
  • therapeutic services for the child
  • assistance for the purpose of ensuring the continuance of the relationship between the child and his special guardian or prospective special guardian, including training for the special guardian or prospective special guardian to meet any special needs of the child; respite care; and mediation in relation to matters relating to special guardianship orders and
  • general counselling, advice and information

The ASF will also not pay for:

  • Support for physical medical conditions
  • Speech and language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other universal health services.
  • Education support
  • Membership of clubs and organisations
  • Legal support
  • Support provided by private sector and third sector organisations that are not Ofsted regulated unless commissioned through Local Authorities
  • Training of staff
  • Support not delivered in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Animal, pet or equine therapy

FAQs for Special Guardians on accessing the Adoption Support Fund


I don’t know who to contact in my local authority to get an assessment

Unfortunately your local authority’s website may not have clear information about this. As a first step, try asking the social worker who has worked with you to get the SGO.

In some local authorities the Adoption and Permanence Team in children’s services lead on getting the Adoption Support Fund for Special Guardians. In other local authorities it is the Family and Friends Care designated officer. And other local authorities may have their own arrangements.

Where we have the information on who to contact, we have provided links on our website here.

Where we don’t have the information, we have provided a template letter for you to send to the Director of Children’s Services of your local authority to request an assessment. They should pass your letter on to the person with responsibility for these assessments in your local authority, and they should reply to you to tell you who they have asked to deal with your request.

I am sure I am eligible but my local authority says I am not - so they won’t do an assessment

The eligibility criteria are quite complicated. The Adoption Support Fund is not available to Special Guardians whose child was not in the care system (looked after). It is also not available to Special Guardians whose child was in the care system but then was subject to a Child Arrangement Order before a Special Guardianship Order was issued.

There is more detailed information about the eligibility criteria in the Adoption Support Fund website.

If you have checked the eligibility criteria and believe you are eligible then you could complain to your local authority.

Why won’t the adoption support fund pay for the basics?

The Adoption Support Fund is for therapeutic type support. But you should have also been assessed for the Special Guardianship Allowance. If you are having problems with getting that allowance, or are having deductions made from it that should not be made (e.g. child benefit) you should complain to the local authority using a template letter that we have designed for this purpose.

There are also a range of services, not funded by the Adoption Support Fund, that the local authority must ensure are available to Special Guardians. If these are not available in your local authority you could complain using our template letter here.

You can also look at our Family and Friends Discussion Board to see how others in similar situations are coping, and register to start a thread yourself.

I haven’t got the SGO yet but it is on its way. Can I have the fund now?

The local authority can apply before the SGO is made, provided that all the eligibility criteria are met. However funds will only be released to pay for agreed services when the SGO is in place.

I’ve had an assessment. Social worker says we don’t need funded local services

The current range of services that might be available to you in your local authority area may be limited. The local authority must provide a range of services to meet the needs of Special Guardians. We have provided a template letter to help you to complain and to challenge the services available. You could also ask them to see if relevant services are available in neighbouring local authorities, and to consider funding travel costs that entail you having to go out of area. Make sure you put all your questions in writing and keep copies of your questions and any responses you get.

You can also look at our Family and Friends Discussion Board to see how others in similar situations are coping, or register to start a thread yourself.

I’ve had an assessment. Social worker says funded local services not suitable for my family

The current range of services that might be available to you in your local authority area may be limited. If the assessment identified that you/your child has needs, and the problem is that the social worker cannot identify appropriate local services then you could could ask them to see if relevant services are available in neighbouring local authorities, and to consider funding travel costs that entail you having to go out of area. We have provided a template letter to help you to challenge the services available locally. Make sure you put all your questions in writing and keep copies of your questions and any responses you get. If this does not work, you could consider making a complaint to the local authority.

You can also look at our Family and Friends Discussion Board to see how others in similar situations are coping, and register to start a thread yourself.

The child I care for under an SGO was not born in England. Can I still get the ASF?

Yes, as long as you meet the eligibility criteria and you are living in England.


Template letter (1) to get an assessment

Template letter (2) to challenge the range of services that are available to Special Guardians NOT funded by the Adoption Support Fund

Template letter (3) to challenge the range of services that are available to Special Guardians funded by the Adoption Support Fund

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