Last week, we posted an update about the U-turn on bedroom tax for foster carers.
However, the government have since announced that the exemption will only apply to a foster carer’s first “spare” bedroom, meaning that those who have two or more bedrooms for fostering will still be affected.
This could deter foster carers from offering homes to sibling groups, leading to brothers and sisters being split up between different foster families.
A £5m discretionary housing fund has been allocated to help remedy the problem but some foster carers are already reporting problems accessing this support.
The effect of the bedroom tax on the stability of sibling placements could be devastating. That’s why we’ll continue to campaign for all foster carers to be exempt from these unfair housing benefit cuts.
Please join our campaign by sharing your views with us, and we will share them with the Minister.
At the beginning of April 2013, new rules will affect the calculation of Housing Benefit for social housing tenants in England, Wales and Scotland (similar rules in Northern Ireland depend on legislation currently under consideration).
Payments will be reduced by 14 per cent where a house is deemed to be “under-occupied” by one room and 24 per cent if under-occupied by two or more rooms. This may affect foster carers particularly, as fostered children are not counted when considering whether a home is fully occupied or not.
Example: A foster carer living in a three-bedroomed house, with no birth children living at home, will see their Housing Benefit cut by 25 per cent, regardless of how many foster children they have.
Local authorities are allocated a budget for Discretionary Housing Payments which they can use to support households which are in difficulties in meeting their rent, but although these budgets have been significantly increased, demand is expected to be extremely high so foster carers need to apply for DHP as soon as their housing benefit is affected.
Pensioners housing benefit claims will not be affected by the new rules.
Children’s Minister Edward Timpson stated in a Parliamentary answer that:
“The discretionary housing payment (DHP) fund, administered by local authorities, will be increased by £5 million a year from April 2013. This will enable authorities to compensate foster carers whose housing benefit is subject to a restriction as a result of the size criteria measure being introduced for working age claimants living in the social rented sector.
The Department for Work and Pension's DHP guidance manual for local authorities is being revised. It will make clear the expectation that this additional funding will be prioritised for foster carers whose housing benefit is reduced as a result of this change because of a bedroom being used by, or kept free for, foster children.
I am meeting the Minister for Welfare Reform early in the new year to discuss what more needs to be done to ensure that local authority chief executives, directors of children's services and local housing authorities are aware that funds are available to assist foster carers, and to encourage them to use this support as effectively as possible to help meet their responsibility as corporate parents to see that vulnerable looked after children have access to loving, stable homes.”
FosterTalk members can seek advice and guidance on this matter by contacting FosterTalk’s member helpline: 0844 800 3880 – option 0
What do you think? Have YOUR say on FosterTalk's Public Forum
The Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson, has written to foster carers about the valuable role they play in supporting the children they care for, and sets out what the Government will be doing to support them over the coming year. You can read the letter here: (pdf).
Fostering Information Exchange Launched
November saw the launch of the Fostering Information Exchange (FIE) as a group on the LGA Knowledge Hub. It has been developed following demand for there to be a place where everyone involved in foster care can share practice; explore ideas; discuss issues or new developments and access resources. Find out more about the FIE here (Pdf) or via the following link: Https://knowledgehub.local.gov.uk/group/fosteringinformationexchange
On 1 December 2012 the new Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), a merger between the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) was launched.
The merger brings together the skills, knowledge and experience of both organisations in helping employers to make safer recruitment decisions and in preventing unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups including children.
Customers and stakeholders will still use the same contact details as they have always done - whether it’s applying for criminal record checks or referring people for safeguarding decisions. Importantly the staff who process the applications and make the safeguarding and barring decisions also remain the same; so there will be no disruption to the high quality service previously delivered by the CRB and ISA.
Importantly there are some very exciting changes ahead. In Spring 2013, the DBS will be launching the Update Service - more details will be released in the New Year. Also in 2013, the DBS will start issuing the disclosure certificate only to the applicant. This will give the applicant a much fairer process in challenging or clarifying any information on the disclosure, before it is shared with the employer.
SCIE's new website, Info 4 Care Kids , provides information on how to survive and thrive in care by offering practical tips from life choices, independent living, staying in touch with family and friends, keeping healthy - through to bullying support, job searching, and coping mechanisms.
SCIE’s Chief Executive, Andrea Sutcliffe, who launched the new website at an event in North Tyneside with young people in care said,“We’ve had the fantastic input of people who have been in the care system, so there are plenty of tips on how to get to know what you are entitled to".
SCIE is keen to get this information out directly to children in care, so click here if you work with looked after children.
Grandparents Plus estimates that there are 200,000 kinship carers in the UK. The charity's new report 'Giving up the day job?' reveals results of its recent survey of 1,800 kinship carers, which explored their current and previous employment status. The survey found that 36% of kinship carers were currently working, down from 73% who had been working before taking on the children.
The Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) in Northern Ireland has developed a new set of minimum kinship care standards which recognise the unique role of friends and family carers in the lives of children separated from their parents. These standards follow on from the 2009 Care Matters Strategy, and incorporate the core principles of paramountcy and regional consistency.
The Department for Work and Pensions have announced that under the new Universal Credit which comes into force in 2013, unemployed kinship carers will be given a 12 month exemption from the requirement to look for work. Single foster carers will also be exempt until their foster child is 16.
The National Care Advisory Service (NCAS) published a report last month on the 16-19 bursary for care leavers, based on its survey of 117 professionals and 20 young people across 66 local authorities in England. It makes a number of recommendations including effective information and data sharing, named lead contacts in LAC/ leaving care teams and education providers, joint working between agencies and greater transparency.
The Scottish Government has published findings of a small project undertaken between October 2011 and February 2012 on behalf of its Improving Outcomes for Looked After Children Team, which looks at how peer mentoring could be used to improve outcomes for Looked After Children and Care Leavers in Scotland.
The Who Cares? Trust, in partnership with the Department for Education, has produced an interactive online guide for young people on what it is like to be in care, what to expect and what their rights are.
The Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre, commissioned by the Department for Education, has produced a 56 page report on the demographic characteristics of foster carers in the UK including a literature review, an examination of motivations and barriers to fostering and the implications for strategies to recruit and retain foster carers.
Foster Carer’s Tax and Benefits
The Customs & Revenue has produced an online step-by-step guide to help foster carers register and manage their tax arrangements. It can be found on the following link:
Remember that FosterTalk Members receive free tax and
benefits advice from the FosterTalk Tax Team, and also
receive a preferential rate for completion of their tax returns
To access this Service call 01527 573 761 option 0
The Department for Education has compiled two quick guides summarising the entitlements for care leavers (covering education, accommodation, staying in touch, personal advisors and the care leavers grant) and for children in care (covering care planning, the Independent Review Officer, case reviews and case records, education, advocates and making a complaint). These one-page guides can be downloaded here:
FosterTalk is pleased to announce a partnership with BAAF, the UK’s largest adoption and fostering charity. This will enable greater access to working groups and consultations for FosterTalk Members and access to a wide range of books, resources and training materials to help you in your role as a foster carer. Check out the BAAF website by clicking here : www.baaf.org.uk or check the Have YOUR Say area of the website for links to latest consultations in your country.
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