There are several different arrangements by which family and friends may provide care for children. Sometimes children are cared for by family members or friends simply by agreement between the parents and the carer/s. Sometimes there is an Order which legally enforces the arrangement, such as a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order. Sometimes family or friends act as Local Authority Foster Parents. The financial help available depends on the arrangement and the Order in place (if there is one), and may be means-tested.
When a local authority seeks to remove a child from their parent/s and there is no-one else able to care for the child with parental responsibility, it must then consider whether it is possible for the child to live with a ‘relative, friend or other person connected with [the child] and who is also a Local Authority Foster Parent’. For someone to be classed as a Local Authority Foster Parent, they must be approved by the local authority as such, following an assessment.
If approved as a Local Authority Foster Parent, the carer is entitled to an allowance. These allowances can vary by location and according to the age and needs of the child. However, the current national minimum fostering weekly allowances for England are:
Sometimes, carers act as a Local Authority Foster Parent during court proceedings but are granted a Special Guardianship Order at the conclusion of the proceedings. Financial support is payable here to help secure the special guardianship arrangement, where this might otherwise not be possible without it. The financial support can be one-off expenditure or regular payments and in practice depends on the child’s needs and, usually, the Special Guardian’s means. Further, in determining the amount of any ongoing financial support, the local authority should have regard to the amount of fostering allowance which would have been payable if the child were fostered (see the above table).
If you are caring for a child under a Child Arrangements Order, there is no entitlement to financial support from the local authority, although you will be able to claim child benefit and child tax credits if applicable (as you can as a Special Guardian). Local authorities have the power to pay an allowance to a carer with a Child Arrangements Order but this is more likely to be paid if the child was previously ‘looked after’ by the local authority. Even then there is no automatic entitlement.
Other than in limited cases, local authorities are not obliged to provide financial support where care arrangements have been made without their involvement.
You can find out more information about financial support, both from local authorities and via social security benefits, here: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn02967/
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