In some circumstances, financial support may be available if you obtain a legal order formalising the arrangements for the care and upbringing of the child. Local authorities have powers to pay allowances to people with Child Arrangements Orders (formerly Residence Orders) and Special Guardianship Orders.
These payments are discretionary and likely to be means-tested. This means that the local authority will look at your needs and your financial situation, and at their own policy. They will then make a decision on whether or not to make any payments to you. Any decision they make should be reasonable, take account of relevant case law and respect certain fundamental human rights. Otherwise, it may be challenged in court.
If a child is placed with you by the local authority then unless you agree with them when they place the child that it is to be a private arrangement, you may be entitled to be assessed as a foster carer and receive a fostering allowance. This is a complicated area of law – and you should always seek legal advice.
Each local authority is under a general duty to provide support to ‘children in need’ and their families under section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This can include financial support, both as a one-off and on an ongoing basis.
A child is in need if s/he is under 18 and either:
- s/he needs extra help from children’s services to be safe and healthy or to develop properly; or
- s/he is disabled.
Government guidance to local authorities says that they should have in place clear eligibility criteria in relation to the provision of support services under section 17 to children living with family and friends carers.
The government guidance also requires every local authority to have a policy setting out the range of support services for children in family and friends care. You can contact your local authority to ask about their policy and practice on family and friends care.
If you do not think that you are receiving the support that you need, you can contact our advice team.