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Supervision orders and Special Guardianship

Researchers: Professor Judith Harwin | Professor Karen Broadhurst ...

Project overview

This project aims to produce the first comprehensive national picture of the contribution of supervision orders to family justice, children’s services, and child and parental outcomes. The study also includes analysis of special guardianship orders used alone and in combination with a supervision order.

A supervision order gives a local authority the legal power to monitor the child’s needs and progress while the child lives at home or somewhere else. They have potential advantages, such as helping rebuild family and preserve relationships. However some research has questioned their effectiveness and there is currently a lack of robust, systematic research in this area at a time when there is evidence that their use is increasing.

There is also a strong rationale to establish the latest national prevalence trends of special guardianship orders, geographical distribution and to examine children’s outcomes over time.

This study seeks to address the research gaps by:

  • Taking the Cafcass national dataset on public law children proceedings, and based on a 9 year observational window (2007-2016), generating a national picture of how supervision orders and special guardianship orders are used over time, and capturing the movement of children within the system.
  • In-depth tracking of supervision orders that result in a child returning to parental care, based on a representative sample of cases from Cafcass electronic case records, in combination with children’s files held by 4 or 5 local authorities.
  • Interviewing up to 60 parents and 50 children aged 7 or older.
  • Conducting focus groups with social workers, senior managers, Cafcass, lawyers, and members of the judiciary. 

Latest on this project


  • Professor Judith Harwin
    Lancaster University
  • Professor Karen Broadhurst
    Lancaster University
  • Dr Bachar Alrouh
    Lancaster University

  • Ash Patel
    Programme Head, Justice
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Justice
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.