Unemployed kinship carers are to be given a 12-month exemption from the Universal Credit requirement that they look for work, the government has announced.
Welfare reform minister Lord Freud said the new Universal Credit, which comes into force in 2013, recognises the responsibilities involved for grandparents who have not retired, other relations and family friends who take on the full-time care of a child.
“Kinship carers make major sacrifices for their family and friends and help children in difficult situations to remain in a family environment, instead of in the care system,” he said. “I am determined the benefits system recognises this important contribution.”
“We know that taking on a caring role can be a real challenge and that’s why we will give grandparents and other kinship carers the proper time to adjust,” he said.
Under the current benefits system, kinship carers who claim Jobseeker’s Allowance can only have their job seeking conditions relaxed for a short period when they face an emergency.
Sarah Wellard, policy and research manager at Grandparents Plus, said the government’s announcement is “a common sense measure we have been campaigning for”.
According to the latest figures from the charity, half of kinship carers give up work when children move in.
“These carers are keeping children out of the care system and it is vital that they are supported to do this, rather than being required to look for work at the same time as trying to settle in vulnerable children who may have suffered trauma or abuse.”
Also under the changes, single foster carers will not have to find work until their foster child is 16. Couples will nominate a primary carer and the same rules will apply.
Foster carers who are between placements, and can show they intend to keep fostering, will not be required to look for work for up to eight weeks.
90% of kinship care arrangements are informal