Adopters out of pocket in income support muddle

    Families in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, have lost out on up to £37,000 each because their adoption allowances were erroneously taken into account when calculating income support.

    Jean Letton, manager of the Vale of Glamorgan’s adoption service, said that, in her annual review of adoption allowances within the council, she had found two families who had been penalised in this way. One family was reimbursed £18,000 and the other £37,000.

    “These people were given backpay for the full period they had been penalised,” she said. “Normally, when income support make a mistake, they only go back six months, but an exception was made here.

    “My concern is that, if I found two in Glamorgan, how many others are out there?

    “Local authorities need to be aware and need to be checking whether the adoption allowances they’re paying are being means-tested.”

    Lyn Burns, director of the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies, did not believe this was a widespread problem.

    “Where adopters are assessed by a local authority in respect of eligibility for financial support, the local authority will take into account any benefits they are receiving or will receive,” she said. “The adoption allowance is an additional allowance to enable the adopters to meet the specific needs of the child.

    “In my experience where there are queries in respect of benefits, social workers for the child or adopters will make contact with the benefits office to seek to resolve these, as was the case in Glamorgan.”

    John Simmonds, director of policy, research and development at the British Association for Adoption & Fostering, agreed, saying he did not know of many similar cases.

    “There are a lot of systems out there that need more organisation, but this is one that, to the best of my knowledge, has always been well regulated,” he said. “The lesson is that local authorities need to keep in close contact with the local Department for Work and Pensions and make it clear what these adoption allowances are for.”

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