Victory for foster carers after government u-turn on spare bedroom tax

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith announced exemptions to proposals will include foster carers in social and privately-rented housing

Foster carers will be exempt from the government’s so-called spare bedroom tax after ministers reconsidered the controversial proposal.

Under the initial proposals, foster carers claiming housing benefit would have seen their allowance reduced from April. This is because fostered children would not have been counted when occupancy in a social housing property was assessed. 

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A discretionary £5m housing fund had been allocated to remedy the problem for foster carers specifically, but campaigners pointed out the money was not ring-fenced and claimed not all local housing departments were aware of it.

Now the government has reconsidered the proposal, foster carers will be allowed an extra room, whether or not a child has been placed with them, so long as they have fostered a child or become an approved foster carer in the last 12 months.

The changes will apply to foster carers in both social and privately-rented housing.

Campaigners are celebrating the partial u-turn, which follows an open letter to ministers from 11 charities raising awareness of the “devastating” impact on foster carers.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said the announcement was “fantastic news”.

“This change of policy means that foster carers can sleep easy knowing that they will not be punished for providing homes for some of the UKs most vulnerable children.

“We are particularly pleased it will also impact on those in privately rented accommodation as they have already been hit with penalties for ‘under occupancy’ for 18 months.”

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