Children's handbook Scotland
Chapter 6: Children who are 'looked after and accommodated'
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Chapter 6: Children who are 'looked after and accommodated'

This chapter covers:

1. Benefits and tax credits for children who are 'looked after and accommodated' (below)

2. When your child comes home (Cross reference)

Your benefit and tax credit entitlement changes if your child is no longer living with you because s/he is 'looked after and accommodated' under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 or the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 – eg, s/he goes to stay in a residential unit or secure accommodation, or s/he has been placed with foster carers. You may have agreed to this or it may be because of a legal order. In this chapter we use the term 'looked after and accommodated' to describe this situation. Sometimes this may be referred to as 'looked after away from home'.

The information in this chapter applies unless the residential accommodation has been provided solely:

because of the child’s disability; or

because the child’s health would be significantly impaired if the accommodation were not provided.

If this is the case, see Chapter 4  instead.


1. Benefits and tax credits for children who are 'looked after and accommodated'
Child benefit

Your entitlement to child benefit stops if your child has been looked after and accommodated for at least one day a week for eight consecutive weeks.Footnote A 'day' for this purpose means midnight to midnightFootnote and a 'week' means a period of seven days starting on a Monday.Footnote

You have a duty to notify the Child Benefit Office of any changes in your circumstances, including if your child has been looked after and accommodated for eight weeks. Contact the Child Benefit Office (see Appendix 1) as soon as you know your child is likely to be looked after and accommodated for eight weeks or more. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) provides a form (CH193) for local authorities to use to notify the Child Benefit Office if a child has started to be looked after by them. This can be completed online at www.gov.uk/government/publications/child-benefit-local-authority-or-care-trust-notification-ch193. However, you should not rely on the local authority advising the Child Benefit Office and, to avoid overpayment, make sure you also tell the Child Benefit Office about any change.

Do not assume that by telling one section of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or HMRC that all the other sections will get the same information. You need to tell the Child Benefit Office even if you have already told the Tax Credit Office, DWP or local authority.


Means-tested benefits
Universal credit

If your child is looked after and accommodated, s/he is no longer included in your universal credit (UC) claim.Footnote This means that any child element you receive stops.Footnote If you are in rented accommodation, the housing costs element is calculated as if the child is still living with you for the first six months of absence from home.Footnote If your child is looked after and accommodated, s/he does not count as a dependent child for the purpose of calculating your work allowance (see Cross reference). If you have been getting help with childcare costs for the child, this stops.


Income support and jobseeker’s allowance

If you do not get amounts for your child


If your income support (IS)/income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA) does not include amounts for your child, the amount of these benefits is not normally affected when your child becomes looked after and accommodated (but see below for other implications).

If, as a result of your child being looked after and accommodated, you are no longer caring for a child aged under five, you are not able to claim IS as a lone parent. This is because the child no longer counts as a member of your household.Footnote This takes effect as soon as your child is looked after and accommodated.

If you have a partner and one of you is already claiming JSA, this claim may be affected when your child is looked after and accommodated. This is because, if you are not responsible for any children/qualifying young people, you have to make a joint claim for JSA (see Cross reference). This means you both have to 'sign on' and look for work.

If you are getting carer’s allowance (CA) for your disabled child and the child is looked after and accommodated, any carer premium in your IS/income-based JSA may be affected (see Cross reference).

Tell the DWP immediately if your child is looked after and accommodated.


If you still get amounts for your child


Your IS or income-based JSA might still include amounts for your child (personal allowances and premiums). This is only be the case if you have been getting IS/income-based JSA including amounts for a child since before 6 April 2004 and have not claimed child tax credit (CTC). Your entitlement to the personal allowance for that child and any disability or enhanced disability premium relating to that child stops as soon as your child is looked after and accommodated.Footnote If you then have no children included in your IS/income-based JSA claim, the family premium also stops. The child benefit for that child, which you continue to get for eight weeks, does not count as income during that period.Footnote

If you are getting CA for your disabled child and the child is looked after and accommodated, any carer premium in your IS/income-based JSA may be affected (see Cross reference).

Tell the DWP immediately if your child is looked after and accommodated.


Income-related employment and support allowance and pension credit

Income-related ESA and pension credit (PC) do not include any amounts for children and are not normally affected when your child is looked after and accommodated. If, however, you are getting CA for a disabled child and the child is looked after and accommodated, any carer premium in your income-related ESA or carer addition in your PC may be affected (see Cross reference).


Housing benefit and council tax reduction

If your child becomes looked after and accommodated, your applicable amount (the figure used to calculate how much housing benefit (HB)/council tax reduction (CTR) you get) no longer includes amounts (personal allowance and premiums) for the child.Footnote See Chapter 1 for more about how HB/CTR is calculated. Your entitlement to the allowance and premiums stops as soon as your child is looked after and accommodated.

If you are on IS, income-based JSA, income-related ESA or the guarantee credit of PC, changes to the personal allowance and premiums in your applicable amount do not affect the amount of HB/CTR you get, as you are 'passported' to maximum HB/CTR. However, your HB may still be reduced because of the number of bedrooms you are deemed to require (the 'size criteria'). This means that if your HB is calculated using the local housing allowance rules (see Cross reference), it may be affected if the child no longer counts as occupying the home and as a result you need fewer bedrooms.Footnote If you are under PC age and living in the social rented sector and  your child no longer counts as occupying the home, you may be deemed to need fewer bedrooms and be subject to the 'under-occupation penalty' (bedroom tax).Footnote  It may be possible to argue that, even though the child is not part of your 'household' for HB/CTR, s/he should still count as an 'occupier' and still be included in the size criteria – eg, if s/he is not likely to be away indefinitely.Footnote Seek further advice if you are in this situation.

Your income may reduce (eg, because CTC has stopped) and this also affects the amount of HB/CTR to which you are entitled, unless you are already getting the maximum amount of HB/CTR.

If you are struggling to pay your rent because of changes to your HB entitlement, apply for a discretionary housing payment (see Cross reference).

Tell the HB/CTR office immediately if your child is looked after and accommodated. Also inform the local authority when your CTC stops. This is because CTC counts as income for HB/CTR, so if you are no longer getting it, you may be entitled to more HB/CTR.


Non-means-tested benefits
Disability living allowance and personal independence payment

If your child is entitled to disability living allowance (DLA) or personal independence payment (PIP), it may be affected if s/he is looked after and accommodated. The rules are different depending on whether s/he is staying with foster carers or in residential accommodation – eg, a residential unit. If your child’s DLA care component/PIP daily living component stops, and/or you are no longer caring for your child, any CA you get may be affected (see Cross reference).


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