Thousands of foster carers could be forced to give up fostering if government plans to shake up the benefits system go ahead, the Fostering Network has warned.
Under changes to benefits outlined in the Welfare Reform Bill foster carers living in social housing could see their housing benefit cut by up to £700 a year because bedrooms kept free for fostered children will no longer be included in benefit calculations.
As many as 6,000 foster carers in the UK claim state benefits, according to research by the Fostering Network. The government’s changes could significantly disadvantage those who rely on housing benefits, and who are already losing out because of anomolies in the current system, the charity said.
Currently, foster carers may be expected to seek alternative work in order to continue to receive benefits and tax credits because their full-time work status is not recognised. This is impractical for many foster carers, the charity said, particularly those caring for children full-time.
The charity is now urging the government to exempt foster carers from the proposed cuts to housing benefit and to use the Welfare Reform Bill – which is currently going through parliament – as an opportunity to protect those who already losing out.
Vicki Swain, campaigns manager at the Fostering Network, said many foster carers rely on tax credits and benefits because fostering is not a properly paid profession, even though for many it is a full-time job.
“We are concerned that the government’s proposals would leave foster carers unfairly out of pocket and considering giving up fostering, which could have a devastating impact.
“The system is already under immense pressure with more children coming into care and a chronic shortage of foster carers, so unless the Government reconsiders its proposals and ensures foster carers get the financial support they need this will only get worse,” Swain said.
She said the Bill presents opportunities to address problems in the current system and to prevent new problems from arising.
Community Care understands the government will be making decisions imminently and will soon publish a briefing paper on its intentions for foster carers.
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Community Care is running a conference on Tuesday, 11th October: An evidence approach to supporting foster carers: Promoting the skills for successful placements and positive outcomes. For more details or to book a place contact Zoe Duckett