The contribution of supervision orders and special guardianship to children’s lives and family justice

This is the first largescale study of supervision orders and is the most recent national report on special guardianship. It provides crucial new evidence regarding stability and disruption for children who return to their birth parents on a supervision order or are placed within their extended families on an SGO. Powerful messages come from focus groups with special guardians and family justice professionals. They resonate with the issues raised in the recent Re P-S court of Appeal case. The report calls for better access to justice and a more transparent court process for special guardians. It also calls for a major overhaul of the process of selecting special guardians and significantly more support for this kind of placement. It has been the Cinderella for too long and needs to have parity with other types of care. 

The study found that 20% of all children who return home after care proceedings and are placed on a supervision order are back in court within 5 years because of further significant harm. The risk was far higher than for any other order, especially for children under 5. Over the last 7 years over 19,000 children were placed on supervision orders. Nicknamed the ‘snooping order’ most of the 89 family justice practitioners wanted the supervision order to have ‘more teeth’. The study puts forward a range of practice, policy and legal options to strengthen the supervision order and to do the job the legislators had in mind – promote safe and lasting reunification.      

Judith Harwin Professor in Socio-Legal Studies, School of Law

Co-Director: Centre for Child & Family Justice Research

The summary report presents the key findings and recommendations of the research:

The full report includes the views of special guardians, a small number of birth parents and family justice practitioners:


Professor Judith Harwin, Dr Bachar Alrouh, Ms Lily Golding, Ms Tricia McQuarrie, Professor Karen Broadhurst and Dr Linda Cusworth


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Nuffield Family Justice Observatory
A summary report of the Pre-proceedings stakeholder event is now available on our website alongside other resources from the day: @NuffieldFound @researchIP @ReesCentre 2 days ago
Nuffield Family Justice Observatory
Nuffield FJO Director Lisa Harker was recently interviewed as part of a piece on children being taken into care. You can read the full article here: @NuffieldFound @ReesCentre @researchIP 5 days ago
Nuffield Family Justice Observatory
Presentations and evaluation feedback from the Pre-Proceedings event on May 9th are now available on our website: Thank you to everyone who participated on the day! 2 weeks ago

The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory is being developed by the Nuffield Foundation working in partnership with a development team led by Professor Karen Broadhurst from The Centre for Child and Family Justice Research at Lancaster University