Children's handbook Scotland
Chapter 8: Children living with foster carers
Back Forward Synchronise with contents list Bookmark this section Print this section Log out

Chapter 8: Children living with foster carers

This chapter covers:

1. What is foster care (below)

2. Benefits and tax credits for foster carers (Cross reference)

When a child goes to live with foster carers, there can be benefit and tax credit issues for both the foster carer(s) and the child’s birth parent(s). This chapter explains what happens to foster carers’ benefits and tax credits. For information about what happens to the birth parents’ benefits and tax credits if their child goes to live with foster carers, see Chapter 6.


1. What is foster care

'Fostering' is where a child or young person is being cared for in a family home with carers who do not have parental responsibility for her/him. There are two different types of fostering:

public fostering; and

private fostering.

The difference depends on who makes the arrangement for the child to live with foster carers.


Public fostering

Public fostering is where the local authority arranges for the child to live with a foster carer(s). This may be done through the local authority’s own fostering service or through an arrangement with a voluntary organisation – eg, Barnardo’s or Action for Children. This type of fostering is governed by the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009. All public foster carers must be approved by the local authority.Footnote

A child who is in public foster care is 'looked after' by the local authority. The information in this chapter is aimed at public fostering arrangements and the term 'foster carers' is used to mean public foster carers.

Foster carers are usually paid a fostering allowance and also a 'fee'. There are no set rates for fostering allowances or fees and the amount paid may vary depending on the local authority or fostering agency.Footnote


Private fostering

Private fostering is where a parent (or person with parental responsibility) arranges for the child to live with another person for 28 days or more, and the other person is not a relative. 'Relative' means mother, father, grandparent, brother, sister (or half-brother or half-sister), aunt or uncle (including by marriage). If the child’s parents have never married, it also includes any person who would be defined as a relative had the parents been married.Footnote This type of fostering is governed by the Foster Children (Scotland) Act 1984 and the Foster Children (Private Fostering) (Scotland) Regulations 1985.

The information in this chapter does not apply to private fostering arrangements. If you are a foster carer in a private fostering arrangement, or if your child lives with a private foster carer, there are no special benefit or tax credit rules. This means that if you satisfy the conditions of entitlement for a benefit or tax credit (see Chapter 1), you are able to claim. See Cross reference and Cross reference for more information on the priority between potential claimants.


2. Benefits and tax credits for foster carers
Child benefit

If a child has been placed in foster care with you and the local authority or fostering agency is paying towards the child’s maintenance and/or accommodation (eg, a fostering allowance), you cannot get child benefit for the child.Footnote


Means-tested benefits
Universal credit

If you are on universal credit (UC), it does not include any child element for a child you are fostering.Footnote You do not get any help with childcare costs in your UC for a child you are fostering. Any income from fostering that you receive does not count as income for UC.Footnote

If you are the 'responsible foster parent' (see below) and you are caring for a child aged under one, you are not subject to any work-related requirements (see Cross reference).Footnote If you are the 'responsible foster parent' and you are caring for a child aged between one and 16, you are subject to the work-focused interview only requirement (see Cross reference). This can extend beyond the child's 16th birthday if s/he has care needs which would make it unreasonable for you to meet the work search or work availability requirements, even if these were limited.Footnote

If you are claiming UC as a couple and your partner is the 'responsible foster carer', you can be subject to the work-focused interview only requirement if you and your partner are caring for a child or qualifying young person (see Cross reference) who has care needs which would make it unreasonable for either of you you to meet the work search or work availability requirements, even if these were limited.Footnote

If you have a gap between placements where you do not have a child living with you, you can continue to be subject to the work-focused interview only requirement for up to eight weeks, providing this requirement applied to you before the break started.Footnote

Responsible foster parent

'Responsible foster parent' means that either you are the child's only foster carer or, if you are member of a couple who are foster carers, you and your partner have nominated you as the 'responsible foster parent'. Only one of you can be nominated. The nomination applies to all your children and can only be changed once in the 12 months after the nomination or if there has been a relevant change of circumstances.Footnote


Income support

If you are on income support (IS) when you become a foster carer, your IS is not normally affected (but see Cross reference for information about claiming working tax credit (WTC) instead).

You cannot normally get IS if you are in 'remunerative work' of 16 hours or more a week. However, provided you are receiving a fostering allowance, fostering does not count as remunerative work for IS purposes.Footnote

If you are a single person fostering a child under 16, you can claim IS on this basis.Footnote You must actually have a child placed with you to be able to claim IS under this rule – ie, not be between placements. If you have been getting jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and you start fostering a child under 16, you may want to claim IS instead, as you do not have to 'sign on' and look for work.

Any payment you receive for fostering is disregarded as income for IS.Footnote However, if you are paid any type of payment (such as a retainer) while you do not have a child accommodated with you, this is treated as income.Footnote


Income-related employment and support allowance

If you are getting income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) when you become a foster carer, your income-related ESA is not normally affected (but see Cross reference for information about claiming WTC instead). You cannot get ESA if you are working. However, provided you are receiving a fostering allowance, fostering does not count as work for ESA purposes.Footnote Any payment you receive for fostering is disregarded as income for income-related ESA.Footnote However, if you are paid any type of payment (such as a retainer) while you do not have a child accommodated with you, this is treated as income.Footnote


Jobseeker’s allowance

If you are on JSA when you become a foster carer, your JSA is not normally affected (but see Cross reference for the effect of claiming WTC).

You cannot get JSA if you are in 'remunerative work'. However, provided you are receiving a fostering allowance, fostering does not count as remunerative work for JSA purposes.Footnote Any payment you receive for fostering is disregarded as income for income-based JSA.Footnote However, if you are paid any type of payment (such as a retainer) while you do not have a child accommodated with you, this is treated as income and may reduce the amount of your income-based JSA.Footnote

Contribution-based JSA is not means tested and is not affected by any income you have from fostering.

If you are single and you start fostering a child under 16, you may want to claim IS instead of JSA so you do not have to 'sign on' and look for work.

Some couples have to make a joint claim for JSA, which means you both need to claim, 'sign on' and look for work. This does not apply if you and your partner are foster carers with a child placed with you.Footnote Becoming a foster carer means, therefore, that you do not have to make a joint claim for JSA. If you have been claiming jointly, tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about the change. Only one of you then needs to 'sign on' and look for work.


top
Back to top
. . . more
View more content