Children's handbook Scotland
Chapter 9: Adoption
This chapter covers:
1. Adoption allowances (below)
2. Benefits and tax credits when a child is placed with you for adoption ()
3. Benefits and tax credits once you have adopted a child ()
Benefit and tax credit issues can arise when a child goes to live with adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents. The effect on benefits and tax credits depends on whether the child has been placed with you before being adopted by you (often referred to as being 'placed for adoption') or whether you have formally adopted the child (an adoption order has been granted in your favour by the court). This chapter explains both situations, and also explains how adoption allowances affect benefits and tax credits.
Agency adoptions are where adoption agencies (local authorities and voluntary agencies) formally place children for adoption under adoption law. Most of the information in this chapter only applies to agency adoptions and adopters.
Any other adoptions are non-agency adoptions. These may be adoptions by relatives, step-parents or other people, including inter-country adopters. Non-agency adoptions also include cases when former foster carers adopt, but have not been formally approved as agency adopters.
An adoption allowance is a payment that may be made by the local authority or adoption agency to adoptive parents or to someone with whom a child has been placed for adoption. Adoption allowances are not paid to every adoptive parent.
An adoption allowance can be paid by the local authority or adoption agency to adoptive parents or to someone with whom a child has been placed for adoption if:
it is needed to ensure that the adopter(s) can look after the child; or
the child needs special care, involving extra expense, because of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties, or the continuing consequences of past abuse or neglect; or
the adoption agency has to make special arrangements to aid the placement or adoption of the child because of her/his age or ethnic origin or the desirability of placing her/him with either a sibling or with a child with whom s/he has previously lived; or
it is needed to meet recurring costs of travel to allow visits between the child and a relative; or
the adoption agency considers it appropriate to make a contribution to meet:
the legal costs in relation to the adoption; or
expenses relating to introducing the child to the adopter; or
expenses needed for the accommodation and maintenance of the child, including the provision of furniture and domestic equipment, alterations and adaptations to the home, transport and clothing, toys and other items necessary to look after the child.
An adoption allowance can be paid from the date of the placement for adoption or from a later date.
In deciding how much, if any, adoption allowance to pay, the local authority or adoption agency must take into account any other grant, benefit, allowance or resource which is available to you as a result of the adoption.
In addition, the local authority or adoption agency must normally take account of:
your financial resources, including any benefits or tax credits that would be available to you if the child lived with you; and
your reasonable outgoings and commitments; and
the financial needs of the child.
However, the local authority or adoption agency must disregard the factors listed in the three bullet points above if the allowance is for legal costs or to cover the costs involved in introducing you to the child. These factors may be disregarded if the allowance is for:
the initial costs of accommodating the child; or
recurring travel costs for the child to visit a relative; or
a child who needs special care because of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties, or the continuing consequences of past abuse or neglect; or
special arrangements that have to be made to aid the placement of a child because of her/his age, ethnic origin, disability or the desirability of placing her/him with either a sibling or a child with whom s/he has previously lived.
An adoption allowance stops if:
the adoptive child no longer lives with you (unless the local authority or adoption agency considers it necessary to continue to pay because of the needs of the child or other exceptional circumstances); or
the child stops full-time education or training and starts work; or
the child qualifies for income support, jobseeker's allowance or universal credit in her/his own right; or
the child reaches 18, unless still in full-time education or training, in which case the allowance may continue to the end of the course/training; or
the period agreed between you and the local authority or adoption agency for payment of the allowance has expired.
This section describes what happens to benefits and tax credits when a child you plan to adopt comes to live with you, but before you have an adoption order in place. See for what happens to benefits and tax credits once you have an adoption order.
Provided you statisfy the normal rules (see ), you are entitled to child benefit as soon as the child comes to live with you, unless the local authority is making payments to you under regulation 33 of the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009. Note: adoption allowances are not paid under this regulation.
Child benefit is not means tested and, therefore, any adoption allowance paid does not affect it.
For information on what happens to benefits and tax credits once you have an adoption order for a child, see .
You may be entitled to statutory adoption pay (SAP) if you are adopting or jointly adopting a child, or statutory paternity pay (SPP) if your partner is adopting a child or if you are jointly adopting a child with your partner. If you have a partner, you and/or your partner may be entitled to statutory shared parental pay (SSPP).
If you are jointly adopting a child with your partner, you can choose whether to request SAP or SPP. SAP is payable for 39 weeks, whereas SPP is only payable for two weeks. In this situation, your partner may be able to claim SAP while you claim SPP, or vice versa. However, you cannot both qualify for SAP for the same adoption and you cannot receive SPP for any week in which you are entitled to SAP. Both men and women can qualify for SAP and SPP (adoption).
SAP and SPP can be paid if a child has been newly placed for adoption by an adoption agency, but not if you adopt a child who is already living with you – eg, if you are a step-parent adopting your stepdaughter or stepson.
If you are adopting more than one child, no additional SAP, SPP or SSPP is payable, unless this happens as part of a different adoption arrangement.
SAP can be paid by an employer when an employee is adopting a child. If you qualify, SAP is the minimum to which you are entitled. You may be entitled to a higher amount under your contract and/or conditions of employment.
To get SAP you must:be adopting a child under UK law. See CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook if you are adopting a child from abroad; and have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks ending with the week in which you are told you have been matched with a child for adoption; and have average gross earnings of at least £116 (in tax year 2018/19) a week; and not be carrying out any work for the employer who is paying you SAP. It does not mean you have given up your job. You are allowed to work for up to 10 ’keeping-in-touch’ days within your SAP period (see below) without affecting your entitlement; and give your employer the correct notice. This means notice, usually at least 28 days in advance (in writing if required), of: when you want the SAP to start; and the date you expect the child to be placed with you.
In addition, you must provide: a written declaration that you want to claim SAP rather than SPP; and documents from the adoption agency giving details of the adoption (matching documents). The earliest date SAP can start to be paid is normally 14 days before the day you expect the child to be placed with you. The latest is normally the day the placement starts. Payment can then continue for a maximum of 39 weeks, unless the child: returns to the adoption agency after being placed with you; or dies after being placed with you for adoption; or is not actually placed with you, even though your adoption pay period has already started.
If one of the above situations occurs, the adoption pay period ends eight weeks after the end of the week the child returns or dies, or you are notified that the placement is not going to take place, if this is earlier than SAP would otherwise have ended.
For the first six weeks, SAP is paid at a weekly rate of 90 per cent of your average earnings and after that at either £145.18 or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower amount.
SPP can be paid by an employer when an employee and/or her/his partner is adopting a child. To get SPP you must:
be adopting a child jointly with your partner (or your partner is adopting a child) under UK law. See CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook if you are adopting a child from abroad; and
have, or expect to have (along with the adopter or joint adopter), the main responsibility for the upbringing of the child; and
intend to care for the child or support the person adopting the child while receiving SPP; and
not have elected to receive SAP; and
have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks ending with the week in which you are told you have been matched with a child for adoption; and
have average gross earnings of at least £116 (in tax year 2018/19) a week; and
not be carrying out any work for the employer who is paying you SPP. It does not mean you have given up your job; and
give your employer the correct notice (see below).
Within seven days of being notified of the adoption match or, if that is not practicable, as soon as is reasonably practicable after that date, you must tell your employer:
when you would like your SPP to start; and
whether you want to get SPP for one week or two; and
the date you expect the child to be placed for adoption (or the date s/he was placed, if the placement has already happened); and
the date on which the adopter was notified that the child had been matched with her/him for adoption.
You must also give your employer a declaration, stating that:
you and your spouse, civil partner or partner are jointly adopting a child, or your spouse, civil partner or partner is adopting a child; and
you have, or expect to have, the main responsibility for the upbringing of the child (apart from the responsibility of the adopter or co-adopter); and
while getting SPP, you intend to care for the child or support the child’s adopter; and
you elect to be paid SPP rather than SAP.
You can use Form SC4 for SPP to provide the above information to your employer. The form is available at www.gov.uk.
If you give your employer less notice than this, or you do not provide the above information within the time limit, your SPP can begin later, once the necessary time limit for providing the notice or information has passed, provided payment would still fall within the eight-week period in which SPP can be paid.
SPP can normally be paid for a maximum of two consecutive weeks. However, you can choose to receive it for just one week. It is paid at either £145.18 or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower amount. The earliest date it can be paid is the date of the child’s placement for adoption. The latest is eight weeks after that date.
If your partner chooses to end her/his SAP early, you may be able to get SSPP for the weeks your partner has 'given up' her/his SAP. For example, if your partner opts to get 19 weeks of SAP, you could potentially get 20 weeks of SSPP. You can also 'share' SSPP with your partner. So, if your partner opts to get 19 weeks SAP, you could share the remaining 20 weeks and both, for example, have 10 weeks SSPP each. SSPP can only be paid within one year of the child being placed for adoption.
You are eligible for SSPP if if you are eligible for SAP (see ), or you are eligible for SPP (adoption) (see ) and your partner is eligible for SAP. Your partner must have opted to stop receiving SAP. SSPP is paid at either £145.18 or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower amount.
See CPAG's Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for more information.
If the child placed with you for adoption is 'looked after' by the local authority, your universal credit (UC) does not include any child element for the child. You do not get any help with childcare costs in UC if the child is still 'looked after' by the local authority. The housing costs element for rent is limited depending on how many bedrooms you are deemed to need (called the ‘size criteria’). The size criteria will not include a child placed for adoption. You are allowed one extra room in the size criteria. Any adoption allowance you receive does not count as income for UC. If you are a single person, for the first 12 months after the child has been placed with you, you are not subject to any work-related requirements. If you are a couple, the person who is the main carer for the child is not subject to any work-related requirements. For what happens to UC once you have an adoption order, see .
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