Welfare reform could cost foster carers £700 per year

Plans to shake up housing benefits will see foster carers taking a hit of almost £700 a year, according to campaigners, who have warned the move will damage plans to increase the number of foster carers.

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Plans to shake up housing benefits will see foster carers taking a hit of almost £700 a year, according to campaigners, who have warned the move will damage plans to increase the number of foster carers.

The measure, part of the Department for Work and Pension’s plans to reduce housing benefit by up to 23% for tenants living in homes considered too large for their needs, would see housing benefit cut to claimants with spare rooms. However, foster carers are required to have spare rooms for fostered children.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said fostered children need to have their own bedrooms “in almost all circumstances”.

The plans would put foster carers living in social housing under financial pressure, he said. “The government needs to reconsider these proposals as foster carers should not have to subsidise the housing costs for fostered children out of their own pockets. These plans will also make it more difficult for families in social housing to become foster carers at a time when we urgently need more people to come forward.”

Benefit claimants are expected to lose an average of £676 a year if the measure, set out in the Welfare Reform Bill, is introduced in 2013. The move, which is expected to hit 670,000 social housing tenants across the country, was revealed in a parliamentary answer last week.

Steve Webb, minister of state for pensions, said foster children are not treated as members of the foster carer’s household when calculating the appropriate maximum housing benefit. “This is consistent with the current treatment of foster children in housing benefit assessments for those living in the private rented sector,” he said.

“However, the government disregards the whole of the foster carer allowance that is given to the foster parents when assessing eligibility for all income-related benefits; this balance leaves the majority of households who foster substantially better off,” he added.

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