Siblings could be split up as spare bedroom tax hits foster carers

Campaigners warn the "ridiculous" plans could deter people from fostering groups of brothers and sisters

Siblings in foster care could be split up as a result of the government’s controversial spare bedroom tax, which will apply to foster carers looking after more than one child.

Campaigners have raised concerns that this will deter foster carers from taking sibling groups, forcing brothers and sisters to live in different foster homes if they each need their own bedroom.

Last week, it appeared the government had decided to exempt foster carers from the proposed tax, which will see housing benefit cut for anyone considered to have a spare room in their property.

Related conference

Community Care is holding a conference on an evidence based approach to supporting foster carers in London on 23 April 2013

It was later revealed, however, that the exemption only applies to a foster carer’s first ‘spare’ bedroom.

Consequently, foster carers with more than one spare room will not be exempt under the proposals because only one foster child would be counted when occupancy is assessed for housing benefit purposes. 

Although a £5m discretionary housing fund had been allocated to remedy the problem for foster carers, the money has not been ring-fenced and charities understand many carers are struggling to gain access to the fund.

‘Ridiculous and unfair’

Some foster carers have even been told they will have no access to the fund at all, according to campaigners.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, called the proposals “ridiculous” and “unfair”, warning they could have a devastating impact on foster carers.

“Where is the incentive to foster a second child if you are going to be considered to be under-occupying your home and not receive full housing benefit? There is already a shortage of foster families for sibling groups, this anomaly is just going to make matters worse,” he said.

He added: “Forcing foster carers to rely on the Discretionary Housing Fund was always an inherently flawed idea. It is ridiculous to consider these rooms as unoccupied. They are the bedrooms of fostered children, who are being cared for as part of the family.

“We urge the government to reconsider and exempt all fostered children’s bedrooms from an unnecessary and unfair financial penalty.”

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