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
Universal credit

Your child continues to be included in your universal credit (UC) claim if the child's stay in hospital is temporary. However, s/he is no longer included in your claim if the hospital stay is expected to last for more than six months, or has lasted for more than six months.Footnote While the child is still included in your UC claim, you continue get the child element and any disabled child element.Footnote Your work allowance (see Cross reference) is calculated taking into account that you have a dependent child.Footnote However, if you receive the carer element, this stops if you no longer have 'regular and substantial' caring responsibilities for your child (see Cross reference).Footnote If you are in rented accommodation, the housing costs element is calculated as if the child is living with you for the first six months your child is in hospital.Footnote If you receive help with childcare costs in your UC, this may change if you are no longer paying for childcare because your child is in hospital.

Note: if the only reason you are exempt from the benefit cap (Cross reference) is because a child for whom you are responsible is entitled to disability living allowance (DLA) (or personal independence allowance – PIP), this exemption will end if the child is no longer part of your UC claim.Footnote


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 Cross reference).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 who are on IS/income-based JSA 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 stay 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 (see Cross reference), 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 (see Cross reference), 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. However, the enhanced disability premium and the disabled child premium will stop after 52 weeks.Footnote


Income-related employment and support allowance

There are no amounts in employment and support allowance (ESA) for dependent children and, therefore, your ESA 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) stops eight weeks after your entitlement to CA stops (see Cross reference).Footnote


Pension credit

If you are entitled to CA and it stops, the carer addition (part of your PC) stops eight weeks after your entitlement to CA stops (see Cross reference).Footnote From 1 February 2019, some PC claimants who are responsible for a child or qualifying young person get an additional amount for her/him in their PC (instead of getting CTC). If you get a PC additional amount for a child and s/he goes into hospital, the additional amount continues during a temporary period in hospital which is unlikely to last for more than 52 weeks, or  unlikely to last for substantially more than 52 weeks.


Housing benefit and council tax reduction
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