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9.2 Adoption Order, Special Guardianship Order and Child Arrangements Order Allowances

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Policy in relation to Adoption Order, Special Guardianship Order and Child Arrangements Order Allowances.

AMENDMENT

In November 2014, this chapter was extensively updated and should be read in its entirety.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. General Principles
  3. Financial Support for Special Guardians
  4. Financial Support for Carers with Child Arrangements Orders
  5. Financial Support for Carers with Agency Adoption Orders
  6. Financial Support for Carers with Non-Agency Adoption Orders
  7. Decision Making – All Allowances
  8. When an Allowance is Payable
  9. Review of Child Arrangements/Special Guardianship/Adoption Order Allowances
  10. Changes in the Carer and Child's Circumstances - Notifications


1. Introduction

Kent County Council understands that when adopters or family and friends take on the formal care of another person’s child or children this may create financial difficulties for the carers, especially when the arrangements are not planned. This policy sets outs out the circumstances in which the authority may provide financial assistance to mitigate such difficulties.

Whenever possible, families are expected to be financially independent from Kent County Council support in the long term. Any support may therefore be provided as a temporary measure to ease transition.


2. General Principles

  1. The local authority recognises that a Child Arrangements Order, Special Guardianship Order or an Adoption Order is evidence that a family/friend carer wishes to make a permanent and substantial commitment to the upbringing of the child/young person. This commitment should be taken to include a willingness to meet the costs associated with the role of the child's primary care-giver. The acceptance of responsibility for children always involves change and sometimes this will involve a change in the standard of living;
  2. Any financial support provided by the local authority must complement and not duplicate any other financial support being provided for the child; either through state benefits, tax allowances or any financial contributions made by the birth parents or other family members. The support provided by the Children’s Services of the authority is not meant to be an alternative to making claims for benefits and tax credits available from other sources;
  3. The allocation of resources needs to be done consistently having regard to the demands on the authority’s resources and the needs of other families, therefore:
    1. Decisions are made by managers and panels and not by the allocated social workers;
    2. Means tests are usually applied;
    3. Any regular payments will be subject to periodic review to establish whether the needs of the family require the continued support and if so whether the level should be changed (increased or decreased).


3. Financial Support for Special Guardians 

Financial support is one of the support services which may be available to special guardians.  Kent County Council’s approach is informed by paragraph 37 of the Special Guardianship Guidance which states “financial issues should not be the sole reason for the special guardianship arrangement failing to survive. The central principle is that financial support should be payable in accordance with the Regulations to help secure a suitable guardianship arrangement where such an arrangement cannot be readily made because of the financial obstacle”.

In order to make best use of its resources, Kent County Council gives priority to supporting children and families where the child has been looked after.

It should be made clear to applicants that the provision of financial support is not to maintain their current standard of living. Caring for any child by its very nature will make demands on income and is part of the financial responsibility that an adult with parental responsibility assumes for a child. 

3A Where the child is looked after by the local authority

Kent County Council is under a duty to carry out an assessment of the need for support for children who are looked after immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order. This will include a financial assessment.

3B(1) Where the child is not looked after immediately before the making of the Special Guardianship Order

In such circumstances the local authority has discretion as to whether it will undertake an assessment for special guardianship support, including financial support. In exercising that discretion the local authority will apply the following principles:

3B(2) It will usually (but not invariably) agree to undertake an assessment if:

  1. The child has moved to live with a relative or friend after:
    1. Care/EPO proceedings have begun; or
    2. The local authority had indicated an intention to commence care proceedings by for example seeking a pre-proceedings meeting with the parents.
  2. The child had been looked after immediately before the making of the Order. 

3C The making of an interim Child Arrangements Order shall not be either a requirement or preclude the exercise of the discretion in favour of making an assessment in the above circumstances.

3D Other than in exceptional circumstances the local authority will not usually undertake an assessment if the above criteria are not met. The local authority will consider whether or not to undertake such an assessment if there is a written request.

3E The local authority will give reasons in writing to the carers:

  1. For the decision to undertake or refuse an assessment; and
  2. If an assessment is undertaken the reason for offering or refusing support and if support is offered the type of support offered and reasons for refusing any specifically requested support.

Such requests must be made in writing.

3.1 Eligibility Criteria

The general principle underlying the provision of financial support is embodied in Regulation 6 (1) (a) and (b) of the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 which states that financial support is payable:

  1. To facilitate arrangements for a person to become the special guardian of a child where the local authority considers such arrangements to be beneficial to the child’s welfare; or
  2. To support the continuation of such arrangements after a Special Guardianship Order is made.

Financial support for prospective special guardians may be payable where there has been an assessment that one of the following circumstances exist:

  • Where it is necessary to ensure that the special guardian or prospective special guardian can look after the child;
  • Where the local authority consider the child needs special care which requires greater expenditure of resources by reason of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties, or the continuing consequences of past abuse or neglect;
  • Where the local authority considers it appropriate to contribute  to Court fees or, in exceptional cases legal costs, of a special guardian or prospective special guardian for the making of a Special Guardianship Order or the discharge of such an Order; an application for an Order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989, or  for an Order for financial provision to be made (against a parent) to or for the benefit of the child; or
  • Where the local authority considers it appropriate to contribute toward the expenditure necessary for the purposes of accommodating and maintaining the child, including the provision of furniture and domestic equipment, alterations to and adaptations of the home, provision of means of transport, and provision of items necessary for the purpose of looking after the child.

The words in bold are highlighted to emphasise that while carers may conclude that some particular types and levels of assistance are desirable to meet their estimate of what the child needs, the local authority has to consider the needs of many children and with limited resources and in compliance with the Guidance given by Central Government will be considering the narrower requirements of need and what is required to meet those needs.

If the special guardian or prospective special guardian has adequate financial resources of their own it may be that the local authority will not need to provide financial support.

Payment to special guardians may be made in the following ways:

  • Regular payments - which will be based upon the age of the child and calculated as agreed annually by the Local Authority;
  • Lump sum payments (settling in costs, special needs and adaptations), which will cover items or adaptations that are required as a consequence of assessment of each child's individual needs. Payment may be in instalments and will end at a time specified by the local authority;
  • Payments in special circumstances (for example, a child with additional needs or where foster carers are granted a Special Guardianship Order for a child for whom they are already caring or where special guardians incur legal expenses in contested cases). Payment may be in instalments and may end at a time specified by the local authority.

If Kent County Council is not satisfied that the making of a Special Guardianship Order would be beneficial to the child’s welfare then no assistance will be available with the costs involved in making an application, save in exceptional circumstances. 

3.2 Calculating the Amount of Allowance

The amount of allowance provided should:

  • Be no greater than the equivalent age-related fostering maintenance allowance;
  • Not include any reward element;
  • Take into account the financial resources of the holder of the order - including any benefits arising from the child living with them (e.g. child benefit, tax credits, income support payments) or that has been claimed for the child. This would include financial contributions provided from the birth parents or other family members to meet the child's needs;
  • Take into account the financial needs/resources of the child/young person.

The payment of an allowance may affect the receipt of benefits and tax allowances and advice should be sought from the appropriate benefits agency.

3.3 Responsibilities

The table below sets out which local authority has responsibility for carrying out the assessment and providing special guardianship support  if the child is  no longer living within Kent or who has moved into Kent.

Circumstance Responsibility Eligibility
Child Looked After immediately prior to the making of Special Guardianship Order The local authority where the child was looked after must provide assessment and support services on request for 3 years post order (and retains responsibility for any financial and contact arrangements made prior to the Special Guardianship Order) The child, the special guardians or prospective special guardians, and the birth parents of the child
Child not Looked After by the local authority immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order The local authority in whose area the special guardian lives may offer assessment and support services The child, the special guardian, any children of the special guardian, the birth parents of the child and any other person with a significant on-going relationship with the child


4. Financial Support for Carers with Child Arrangements Orders

Kent County Council has discretion as to whether it provides an allowance where a Child Arrangements Order designates that a child lives with an adult who is not a parent or step-parent. Any allowance will be considered a contribution to maintenance. Parents and step-parents (by marriage/civil partnerships) are excluded from receiving such support by the terms of the Children Act 1989.

Kent County Council does not routinely make such payments and will always apply a means test.

The applicant must live in the United Kingdom.

4.1 Eligibility Criteria

Kent County Council will usually (but not invariably) undertake an assessment in relation to the payment of a Child Arrangements Order allowance in respect of children where they would have been assessed for special guardianship support because the circumstances are the same as those set out in paragraph 3A or 3B (1) above but a Special Guardianship Order has not been made or applied for. Child Arrangements Order allowances will not exceed the maximum rate and the precise amount paid will be subject to the needs assessment and the results of the means test, see Section 4.2 Calculating the Amount of Allowance.

Other Support

Consideration of the use of short term or lump sum discretionary payments in respect of children subject to a Child Arrangements Order can be given to assist, if the children are appear to the local authority to be children in need and this support is considered necessary to enable the child to remain living with their care-givers and prevent the child/young person from needing to be accommodated by the local authority.

Payment to carers with a Child Arrangements Order, may be made in the following ways:

Regular payments - It is possible, in exceptional circumstances for the Local Authority to make regular payments to assist family members or friends care for a child in circumstances where it is felt necessary to prevent a child becoming looked after. Such payments should not be a substitute for claiming other benefits such as Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits. These will be paid for short periods (not exceeding 3 months) and reviewable at the end of that period and may be renewed if necessary.

Lump sum payments (settling in costs, special needs and adaptations), which will cover items or adaptations that are required as a consequence of assessment of each child's individual needs.

Payment may be in instalments and may end at a time specified by the local authority.

4.2 Calculating the Amount of Allowance

The amount of allowance provided should:

  • Be no greater than the equivalent age-related fostering maintenance allowance;
  • Not include any reward element;
  • Take into account the financial resources of the holder of the Order - including any benefits arising from the child living with them (e.g. child benefit, tax credits, income support payments) or that has been claimed for the child. This would include financial contributions provided from the birth parents or other family members to meet the child's needs;
  • Take into account the financial resources of the child/young person.

The payment of an allowance may affect the receipt of benefits and tax allowances and advice should be sought from the appropriate benefits agency.


5. Financial Support for Carers with Agency Adoption Orders

See also Adoption Support Procedure.

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 and the Adoption Support Services Regulations 2005 outline the arrangements for local authorities providing support (including financial support) to adoptive children. The local authority has a duty to carry out an assessment for such support if requested. Adopters must be given advice of entitlements to employee's rights to leave and pay benefits, tax credits and allowances.

This policy applies to cases where Kent County Council has placed the child for adoption with adopters either within or outside the authority’s area.

5.1 Eligibility Criteria

The circumstances in which provision of financial support may be paid are as follows (taken from Adoption Support Services Regulations 2005 – Reg 8):

  1. Where it is necessary to ensure that adoptive parents can look after a child;
  2. Where the child needs special care which requires a greater expenditure of resources by reason of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties or the continuing consequences of neglect - and the child's condition is serious and long-term;
  3. Where it is necessary for the local authority to make any special arrangements to facilitate the placement or the adoption by reason of the age or ethnic origin of the child or the desirability of the child being placed with siblings or a child with whom he/she has previously shared a home;
  4. Where such support is to meet the recurring costs of travel for visits for the child to members of the birth family/significant others;
  5. Where the local authority considers it appropriate to contribute towards expenditure on legal costs, including Court fees (in cases where the adoption is supported by the local authority), or expenses associated with the child's introduction to adoptive parents or expenditure on accommodating the child (e.g. adaptations to the home, furniture, clothing or transport).

The words in bold are highlighted to emphasise that while adopters may conclude that some particular types and levels of assistance are desirable to meet their estimate of what the child needs, the local authority has to consider the needs of many children and with limited resources and in compliance with the Guidance given by Central Government will be considering the narrower requirements of need and what is required to meet those needs.

Payment to adoptive parents may be made in the following ways:

  • Regular payments - which will be based upon the age of the child and calculated annually by the local authority;
  • Lump sum payments (settling in costs, special needs and adaptations), which will cover items or adaptations that are required as a consequence of assessment of each child's individual needs. Payment may be in instalments and will end at a time specified by the local authority;
  • Payments in special circumstances (for example, a child with additional needs or where adopters incur legal expenses in contested cases). Payment may be in instalments and may end at a time specified by the local authority.

5.2 Calculating the Amount of Allowance

The amount of allowance provided should:

  • Be no greater than the equivalent age-related fostering maintenance;
  • Not include any reward element;
  • Take into account the financial resources of the holder of the order - including any benefits arising from the child living with them (e.g. child benefit, tax credits, income support payments) or that has been claimed for the child. This would include financial contributions provided from the birth parents or other family members to meet the child's needs;
  • Take into account the financial resources of the child/young person - excluding mobility and attendance allowance.


6. Financial Support for Carers with Non-Agency Adoption Orders

Kent County Council has no duty to make financial support available for non-agency adoptions and does not routinely make such payments.

Should an adopter make such request, they will be asked to explain why they believe that they may need support and qualify under the Adoption Support Regulation 8 (see agency adoption eligibility criteria). Consideration will be given by the relevant Senior Manager as to the potential impact on the welfare of the child if support is not given and a decision made thereafter at Access to Resources Panel if necessary.


7. Decision Making – All Allowances

Access to Resources Panel (ARP) / Child in Care Panel (CiC)

Whether the circumstances of the case warrants a financial assessment will be considered by the Access to Resources panel / Child in Care panel against the criteria stated within this policy. See Kent Access to Resources Panels guidance.

Following the ARP meeting, the carer will be notified of the outcome and will have 28 days to seek a review of any decision in relation to financial support. Any ongoing payments will be subject to an annual review.

The ARP may delegate some decisions on emergency or short term funding to managers.


8. When an Allowance is Payable

The decision to provide an allowance should be made in writing to the person(s) holding the Child Arrangements Order / Special Guardianship Order / Adoption Order and should include the following:

  • The reasons for the decision;
  • The amount of allowance to be provided;
  • The purpose of the allowance;
  • The point from which the allowance commences and date of the first payment;
  • The method and frequency of payment;
  • The arrangements for review, variation and termination of the allowance;
  • The responsibility of the recipient of the allowance to notify the local authority of any changes in circumstances (including financial) or those of the child;
  • Agreement to repay overpayments arising from in correct information being provided by the carer or a failure to notify a relevant change of circumstances promptly.


9. Review of Child Arrangements Order/Special Guardianship/Adoption Order Allowances

The provision of an allowance must be reviewed annually (sooner if a change in the carers'/child's circumstances are known to have occurred).

In order for the allowance to continue/remain unchanged the local authority must be satisfied that:

  • The child/young person continues to reside with the person(s) holding the Adoption Order / Child Arrangements Order / Special Guardianship Order;
  • The financial circumstances of the child/young person's carers or the child/young person themselves have not changed;
  • The child/young person is not in full-time employment or receiving benefits.

The local authority will recover any overpayments that have been made because it is found that the child/young person is no longer living with the person(s) holding the Child Arrangements Order / Special Guardianship Order / Adoption Order or for any other reason that would make them not eligible to receive an allowance.

Unless an earlier end date for the allowance has been subscribed, the payment of an allowance will end automatically on the child's 18th birthday (unless in full time education or training when the allowance should continue to be offered until the end of the course they are completing).

Should carers fail to supply an annual statement, the local authority must send a written reminder and give them 28 days to comply. If they fail to comply, the local authority may suspend payment of the financial support provided.


10. Changes in the Carer and Child's Circumstances - Notifications

The recipient of an allowance must notify the local authority of any significant changes in the family and child/young person's circumstances. This would include:

  • The child ceases to live with them;
  • The child/young person begins full-time employment;
  • The child/young person begins to qualify for Income Support or Jobseekers allowance in his/her own right;
  • A change of home address;
  • The child dies;
  • Any change in financial circumstances of the person(s) holding the order;
  • Any change in the financial resources of the child/young person.

End