Children's handbook Scotland
Chapter 3: Children in hospital
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Chapter 3: Children in hospital

This chapter covers:

1. Child benefit and guardian's allowance (below)

2. Means-tested benefits (Cross reference)

3. Non-means-tested benefits (Cross reference)

4. Tax credits (Cross reference)

5. Help visiting your child (Cross reference)

Hospital inpatient

Your child counts as a hospital inpatient if s/he is being maintained free of charge while having medical or other treatment as an inpatient in an NHS hospital or similar institution.Footnote If your child is being treated as a private patient, s/he does not count as an inpatient for benefit purposes.

'Medical or other treatment' is treatment by a doctor, dentist or professionally qualified or trained nurse, or by someone under the supervision of such a person.Footnote


1. Child benefit and guardian’s allowance

If your child is in hospital, your child benefit – and guardian’s allowance if you get it – continues unaffected for 12 weeks.Footnote When counting the 12 weeks, two or more periods in hospital (and/or residential accommodation) separated by 28 days or less count as the same period.Footnote After 12 weeks, your child benefit (and guardian’s allowance) continues, provided you spend money on your child’s behalf – eg, on clothing, pocket money, snacks, books and comics.Footnote The amount of money you must spend is not stipulated. If you do not spend any money on your child's behalf, your child benefit stops after 20 weeks in hospital.Footnote


2. Means-tested benefits
Income support and income-based jobseeker’s allowance

During the first 12 weeks' absence, your child is still treated as part of your household for income support (IS) or income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA).Footnote After 12 weeks' absence s/he is still treated as part of your household, provided you are still in regular contact with her/him.Footnote Regular contact is not defined. Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) guidance says that regular contact includes visits, letters and telephone calls that take place regularly or frequently, and that weekly or monthly visits are considered regular contact.Footnote The DWP normally continues to treat the child as part of your household for the first year of absence, provided child benefit remains in payment for her/him.Footnote After 52 weeks in hospital, a child is normally no longer treated as being part of your household, but there are exceptions (see below).Footnote

How your benefit is actually affected depends on whether or not you still get amounts in your IS/income-based JSA for your child (see below).


If you do not get amounts for your child

Most people do not get amounts in IS/income-based JSA for their child(ren), and instead get child tax credit (CTC – see Cross reference). In this situation, the amount of benefit you get should be unaffected by your child's being in hospital, unless you stop being entitled to carer's allowance (CA) for the child or the child no longer counts as part of your household (see above). If you stop being entitled to CA for the child, entitlement to the carer premium stops eight weeks after this date (see Cross reference).Footnote If claiming CA was the only basis for your IS claim, eight weeks after CA stops you can no longer claim IS on this basis.Footnote If the child no longer counts as part of your household, your benefit may be affected as follows.

If you no longer count as responsible for a child aged under five, you cannot claim IS as a lone parent. If you have no other basis for your IS award, you can no longer claim IS.

If you have a partner and either you or your partner are already claiming JSA, this claim may be affected if your child no longer counts as part of your household. This is because if you are not responsible for a child, you must make a joint claim for JSA (see Cross reference). This means you both have to 'sign on' and look for work.


If you still get amounts for your child

You will only be getting amounts for your child in your IS/income-based JSA if you have been claiming for a child since before 6 April 2004 and you have not claimed CTC (see Cross reference). While your child is still considered part of your household, you continue to get a child personal allowance and family premium. If you are getting the disabled child premium and/or the enhanced disability premium, this will also continue.

If you have been getting CA and you stop being entitled, the carer premium stops eight weeks after your CA stops (see Cross reference).Footnote If you are getting IS only because you were getting CA, eight weeks after CA stops, you can no longer claim IS on this basis.


If your child is in hospital for more than 52 weeks

If the hospital stay is expected to last for more than 52 weeks, or if it has lasted for more than 52 weeks, the child is usually no longer treated as part of your household for IS/income-based JSA purposes.Footnote This means that if you have still been getting amounts for your child in your IS/income-based JSA, these will stop. The exception to this rule is if:Footnote

there are exceptional circumstances – eg, s/he is in hospital and you have no control over the length of her/his absence; and

the absence is unlikely to be to be substantially more than 52 weeks.

If this applies to you, the child can still be treated as part of your household for more than 52 weeks.


Income-related employment and support allowance and pension credit

There are no amounts in employment and support allowance (ESA) or in pension credit (PC) for dependent children and, therefore, your ESA or PC is not normally affected if your child goes into hospital. The exception is if you are entitled to CA and this stops. The carer premium (part of your income-related ESA applicable amount) or carer addition (part of PC) stops eight weeks after your entitlement to CA stops (see Cross reference).Footnote


Housing benefit and council tax reduction

If you are on IS, income-based JSA, income-related ESA or the guarantee credit of PC, you get maximum housing benefit/council tax reduction (HB/CTR). This means your HB/CTR does not normally change as a result of your child's being in hospital, provided you remain on one of these benefits.

If you are not on one of these benefits, provided your child’s absence is temporary and expected to last for no more than 52 weeks, s/he continues to be treated as part of your household for HB/CTR for up to 52 weeks (sometimes for longer – see Cross reference).Footnote This means that your applicable amount (see Cross reference) continues to include any relevant amounts and premiums for the child. 

If you have been getting CA and you stop being entitled, the carer premium stops eight weeks after your CA stops (see Cross reference).Footnote


If your child is in hospital for more than 52 weeks

Your child continues to be treated as part of your household for HB (and therefore you continue to get the child personal allowance and family premium) if s/he is in hospital for more than 52 weeks, provided:Footnote

there are exceptional circumstances – eg, s/he is in hospital and you have no control over the length of her/his absence. This is an example given in the law; and

the absence is unlikely to be to be substantially more than 52 weeks.

Your child is treated as part of your household for CTR if her/his absence is temporary.Footnote There is no '52-week' rule for CTR. This gives local authorities more flexibility with CTR than with HB.


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