Local authorities’ responsibilities towards kinship carers are complex and dependent on the legal status of the child. Below is a brief overview of the ways kinship carers can be financially supported by their local authorities.
Special guardianship order allowances
Local authorities must have services to support Special Guardians in their area, but this doesn’t mean that every Special Guardian will receive support. Financial support in the form of a Special Guardianship Allowance is discretionary and means-tested, although you will be able to claim Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit if applicable. Support is more likely to be provided if a child was previously ‘looked after’ by the local authority.
Local authorities can provide additional financial support as necessary. Allowances paid to special guardians should be in line with what they pay their foster carers. Allowances are means tested and any benefits received for the child, such as child benefit, would need to be deducted from the total allowance. Allowances will be reviewed annually.
Unfortunately, many local authorities are not following the regulations, and this led to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (2018) to release a report on this issue. There are slight differences for special guardians who were previously mainstream foster carers.
Child arrangement orders and residence orders
Once you’ve got your Child Arrangements Order, there’s no additional entitlement to support, although you will be able to claim Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits if applicable. Local authorities have the power to pay an allowance to a carer with a Child Arrangements Order. This is more likely to be paid if the child was previously looked after by the local authority, but even then there is no automatic entitlement.
Financial responsibility for the children remains with the parents but often they are unable to financially support the children. Therefore, local authorities can pay an allowance to kinship carers caring for children.
Informal arrangements (including private fostering)
There is no support specifically available for informal kinship carers. However, local authorities do have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area who are ‘in need’ by providing a range of family support services under section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This can include financial support, although it’s likely to be restricted to those in particularly difficult circumstances.
Informal kinship carers can generally claim the same benefits and financial help as parents including Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit. In many cases, parents are no longer entitled to claim these benefits if their children are no longer living with them.