Children's handbook Scotland
Chapter 7: Children living with kinship carers
This chapter covers:
1. What is kinship care (below)
2. Financial help from the local authority ()
3. Benefits and tax credits if a child is not looked after ()
4. Benefits and tax credits if a child is looked after ()
If a child is being cared for permanently, or for a considerable period, by extended family members or by friends, often called 'kinship care', issues about financial support can arise. Some kinship carers get financial support from the local authority, others do not. Kinship carers may be able to claim benefits and tax credits for the child for whom they care. Benefits and tax credits that a kinship carer claims for her/himself may also be affected by the care arrangements.
In this chapter, 'kinship care' means a full-time care arrangement provided by a child’s extended family or wider network of friends.
The basis for kinship care arrangements varies and depends on the circumstances of the particular situation. In order to work out potential benefit/tax credit entitlement, it is crucial to know the basis of the care arrangements and whether the child counts as ’looked after’ by the local authority. To use this chapter, first work out which of the following apply to you. A child can be living in a kinship care arrangement because:
an informal arrangement has been made by the family, not involving the children's hearing system or the courts. In this situation, the child is not 'looked after' (see );
a residence order or kinship care order under s11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 has been granted in favour of the kinship carer. In this situation, the child is not looked after (see );
the carer has been appointed as the child's guardian under s7 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. In this situation, the child is not looked after (see );
s/he is subject to a compulsory supervision order or interim compulsory order under the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, which requires her/him to live with the kinship carer. In this situation, the child is looked after (see ); there is a permanence order in respect of her/him under Part II of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007. In this situation, the child is looked after (see );
s/he is accommodated with you under s25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. In this situation, the child is looked after (see ).
Many, but not all, kinship carers get regular payments from the local authority. If a kinship carer receives payments from the local authority, these are likely to be made under either s22 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (Section 22 payments), s50 of the Children Act 1975 (Section 50 payments) or regulation 33 of the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 (sometimes referred to as s110 of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007).
There is no national set minimum rate of kinship care payment and there is considerable variation in the level of payments made by local authorities to kinship carers.
Section 22 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 sets out the local authority’s duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under 18 in its area who are 'in need'. Help can be given under this section either in cash or in kind. Section 22 powers are often used to make occasional or short-term payments, but are also used to make regular payments. Section 22 payments can be made to kinship carers of looked-after children and non-looked-after children and can be for a variety of purposes.
Section 50 of the Children Act 1975 allows the local authority to make payments towards the maintenance of a child who is under the age of 18 and living with a person other than her/his parent. Section 50 payments cannot be made to foster carers. Section 50 allows a local authority to make payments to kinship carers, but does not oblige it to do so. Section 50 payments can be made to kinship carers of looked-after children and non-looked-after children, and are for maintenance.
Section 110 of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007, together with regulation 33 of the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009, allow the local authority to pay an allowance to kinship carers of looked-after children (called 'approved kinship carers'). The allowance can be for a variety of purposes.
In 2015, the Scottish government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) announced a new arrangement for payment of some kinship carers by local authorities. The aim is that there should be parity between the amount the local authority pays for kinship care allowances and fostering allowances (not incuding fostering fees).
The arrangement covers:
kinship carers of looked-after children;
kinship carers where the child is subject to a kinship care order under s11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 or the carer is the child's guardian under s7 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995; and
the child was previously looked after by the local authority; or
the child is at risk of becoming looked after.
Scottish government guidance suggests that local authorities deduct any 'child-related benefits' to which the kinship carer is entitled, and that a foster carer would not get, from the amount of the allowance. Specifically, child benefit and child tax credit (CTC) (although not the disability or severe disability element) should be deducted if the kinship carer is eligible for these benefits. Guardian's allowance, if payable, should not be deducted.
Betty cares for her eight year old grandson, Joe, and has been granted a kinship care order. Before she got the kinship care order, Joe was subject to a compulsory supervision order and was therefore 'looked after' by the local authority. Betty claims child benefit and CTC for Joe and this amounts to £84.54 a week. A foster carer would not get these benefits for a child in their care. The local authority's fostering allowance rate is £150 a week. The local authority deducts £84.54 from the fostering allowance rate and pays Betty £65.46 a week kinship care allowance.
Impact on benefits and tax credits
Local authority payments can sometimes affect your benefits or tax credits. This chapter explains the effect of local authority payments on each of the main benefits and tax credits. First check whether or not the child counts as looked after. If the child is not looked after, see below. If the child is looked after, see .
It is important to know which type of payment you are receiving. Ask the social work department to confirm in writing the payment being made, which section of which Act it is using to make the payment, and what the payment is for. This will help you sort out your benefits and tax credits.
This section is for kinship carers of children who are not looked after by the local authority.
When you become a kinship carer, you may have to make new claims for benefits or tax credits, or the amounts you get may change. This section provides information about which benefits and tax credits you may be able to claim, and how your existing entitlement might be affected. For more detailed information about the entitlement rules for benefits and tax credits, see Chapter 1.
Delays in getting a benefit or tax credit claim sorted out can cause difficulties. See Chapter 2 for what you can do if your benefit or tax credit payments are delayed, including information on short-term advances, interim payments, crisis grants and complaints.
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