Q&A - My sister is mentally ill due to COVID – can I get help to look after her kids while she recovers?

Q: My sister has suffered mental health problems since the COVID pandemic began. As a single mum she is finding it very hard to cope with her children aged seven and four. The children have not seen their father since he walked out three years ago. My sister needs help to get better but is terrified the children will be taken away if she asks for it. I could take care of them until she gets better, but I would need some financial help. Could I apply for temporary custody and get financial help to look after them?

A: Extended family members can apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order (formerly called a Residence Order) or a Special Guardianship Order. This would formalise any arrangement of you having the children to live with you, albeit on a temporary basis, although Special Guardianship Orders are usually used for long-term arrangements. Such Orders would also give you Parental Responsibility for the children, so as well as providing a home for them and protecting and maintaining them you would be expected to make decisions about their social upbringing, education and medical treatment.

As far as a Special Guardian is concerned, you can request an assessment for support to be put in place which can include financial assistance depending on your circumstances. Special Guardianship Allowance in 2023 is currently £18.55 per week*. You would also receive the Child Benefit normally paid to your sister. Both amounts would be tax free.

To apply for a Special Guardianship Order, you need to inform Children’s Services in writing of your intention to apply three months before submitting an application to the court. This is so that they can investigate and prepare a report for the court to determine whether they consider you to be suitable for the role. A family solicitor will be able to advise you in depth and take you through the options and necessary steps.

Article 08/03/2021 (*Updated 24/02/2023)

This question has been answered by Alison Peters, a Partner with GHP Legal.

If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter, book an appointment by visiting GHP Legal or contacting one of our offices:

Wrexham01978 291456

Llangollen01978 860313

Oswestry01691 659194

Alison Peters

Alison Peters


A Partner in our Family and Matrimonial department in Oswestry

Nathan Wright, Partner at GHP Legal

Nathan Wright


A Partner specialising in Family and Matrimonial Law