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What Benefits Can I Claim If I’m A Foster Carer?

If you’re caring, determined and looking to make a real difference, fostering could be perfect for you. The emotional rewards of supporting children when they need you the most is often the main driver for foster carers.

It’s important not to forget the financial side of things though. If you’re the special kind of person who can become a great foster carer, it can be a rewarding career on all fronts. Both in terms of making a positive impact and thanks to strong financial incentives.

In this article we’ll explore the allowances and support on offer and how they can work alongside existing benefits as well.

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How Does Fostering Affect My Current Benefits?

Whether you’re a single carer or bringing foster children into your own family, you need to consider the benefits you’re entitled to. Becoming a foster carer could alter any benefits you’re currently receiving as well.

Let’s explore the most common benefit entitlements currently available and the impact foster care can have on them.

Child Benefit

A regular question we come across is “can I claim child benefit when fostering?”

Put simply, you can continue to claim child benefit for your own children and other children that live with you, however you can’t claim for children that you’re fostering. That’s because you get a maintenance allowance and reward payment for each foster child in your care.

Age and gender is also important in terms of how often you’ll have a child placed with you. For example, if you’re happy to take teenagers as well and younger children, you’ll find your fostering services in very high demand. This will have a direct impact on the consistency of your payments.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Carers Allowance

If you start fostering a child under 16 who is currently claiming, or should be claiming, DLA, you’re entitled to this benefit. You’ll need to get in touch with the Disability Benefit Unit to make sure everything is in order.

In addition, if a child in your care is entitled to the middle rate care component of DLA you’ll be able to claim carers allowance too. This works for each child in care, meaning a separate allowance is paid per person.

Means Tested Benefits

The status of being an “approved foster carer” has a slightly different impact on means tested benefits, in comparison to being employed. It’s worth noting when you become a foster carer you might still be able to claim means tested benefits.

The most common means tested benefits we get asked about include:

Income Support and Working Tax Credits

If you work less than 16 hours a week, income support is a benefit you might be entitled to as a foster carer.

Alternatively, you might deem foster caring as work or have an additional income stream. That can entitle you to claim working tax credit.

Both can be extremely helpful and are well worth exploring in more detail. Many foster carers will benefit from one or the other.

Job Seekers Allowance

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) doesn’t officially treat fostering in the same way as work. That means if you’re actively seeking employment you might be able to claim, or continue claiming, job seekers allowance.

You need to make sure you’re available to work 40 hours per week whilst waiting for a placement. This reduces to 16 hours per week if you’re looking after a foster child. Suffice to say you need to have at least reasonable prospects of securing work and be actively seeking employment to claim this particular benefit.

Employment And Support Allowance (ESA)

If you’re ill or disabled but still able to become an “approved foster carer” you may also be able to claim ESA. This benefit is designed to provide financial support if you can’t work. It will also deliver assistance to get you back to work, if possible.

Council Tax Reduction And Housing Benefit

Generally speaking, if you’re on housing benefits or get reduced council tax these aren’t normally affected when you become a foster carer.

If you’re a tenant in the private rented sector your housing benefit will be based on where you live and how many rooms you require. Similarly if you’re under the pension credit age and living in the social rented sector, rooms will play a part in your entitlement.

It’s worth noting that for both you’ll get an extra room entitlement when you have a foster child under your roof. This is also the case while you’re waiting for a placement in the first 12 months after becoming an “approved foster carer”.

Need More Information?

If you need any further advice about means tested benefits and whether you’ll be allowed to maintain or add entitlements when you become a foster carer, you should visit gov.uk for more information.

Do I Receive Any Other Benefits As A Foster Carer?

Not all fostering agencies are the same and it’s important to pick wisely to maximise your income. Choosing to become a foster carer through Perpetual Fostering means you’ll gain many additional benefits.

You’ll be self-employed through ourselves and need to complete your own tax returns and national insurance contributions, giving you added flexibility and freedom for other business interests and work. That said, you’ll still benefit from a two-week, paid, break, along with other arranged down-time too.

We also endeavour to help our foster carers become the very best they can be. It’s important that you never feel like you’re on your own. That’s why we allocate each fostering household an experienced social worker to support you 24/7. By undertaking regular home visits and daily calls, we’ll make sure you’re fully supported at all times.

A final thing to take into account, in addition to all the other benefits you could be entitled to, is the fact that you will be paid per child. For example, if you’re looking after two children you’ll be entitled to two lots of maintenance allowance and reward payments.

Foster family reading a book together

In Summary

We hope you’ve found this article helpful and are now even more excited by the prospect of becoming a foster carer. It’s important to understand that fostering might not have the negative impact on your benefits that you perhaps thought it would.

Helping young people integrate into a loving environment is a top priority for local authorities and national government. With money being invested and pay provided for each placed child, there’s never been a better time to apply to become a registered foster carer.

In addition to being a fantastically rewarding career, it’s evident that fostering can also make excellent financial sense.

For more information take a look at our in-depth guide by clicking here.  

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