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Foster carers and benefits

Read our guide to Foster carers and benefits

1. What is a foster carer?

The guide covers people who are approved foster carers for either a local authority or a registered charity. For some benefits, you can be treated as a foster carer while you are between placements. 

If you are looking after a relative's child, you might be treated as a kinship carer or a family and friends carer.

The rules for these carers are complicated and you should get advice.

If you live in Scotland, contact Kinship Care Scotland

If you live in Northern Ireland, contact Kinship Care Northern Ireland  

If you live in England and Wales, contact the Family Rights Group 

 

2. Can I claim Universal Credit?

As long as you satisfy the other eligibility rules, you can claim Universal Credit if you are a foster carer.

All of the money you get as fostering allowance should be ignored when working out how much Universal Credit you can get.

If you are getting help with your housing costs through Universal Credit, you can get payment for one extra bedroom if you are a foster carer. You can get this money even if you do not have a foster child living with you at the moment. You will only get payment for one extra bedroom, even if you have more than one foster child living with you. If you are in private rented accommodation, you are limited to the rate for four bedrooms, even if the size of your household means you need more than four bedrooms.

You can’t get any extra money in your Universal Credit for the child you are fostering.

Everyone who gets Universal Credit has to agree to a claimant commitment

  • If you are a foster carer for a child aged under 1, you won’t have to do any work-related activity.

  • If you are a foster carer for a child aged 1-16, you will only have to take part in work-focused interviews.

  • If you are a foster carer for a child aged over 16 who is a qualifying young person, you might have to take part only in work-focused interviews if your foster child has care needs and your work coach agrees that it would be unreasonable for you to have to look for work.

  • If you are between placements, had a placement in the past 8 weeks and are expecting to have another placement, you will only have to do work-focused interviews.

3. Can I claim Contributory/New Style Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseeker's Allowance?

Usually, you cannot claim contributory/New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) if you are working. If you are working as a foster carer, this will not be treated as work, so you should be able to claim contributory/New Style JSA or ESA if you are a foster carer, as long as you satisfy the other conditions for entitlement.

4. Can I claim Pension Credit?

If you are over Pension Credit age and are a foster carer, you may be able to claim Pension Credit. All of the money you get as fostering allowance should be ignored when working out how much Pension Credit you can get.

You won’t be able to get any extra money in your Pension Credit for the child you are fostering.
 

5. Can I get legacy benefits?

It is no longer possible to make new claims for legacy benefits but if you are already getting them you can carry on getting them as a foster carer.

Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you are already getting Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you can carry on getting it as a foster carer. Your work as a foster carer will not be treated as employment and the money you get from the fostering allowance will be ignored as income.

Housing Benefit

If you are already getting Housing Benefit (Housing Benefit England, Scotland and Wales / Housing Benefit Northern Ireland) you can carry on getting it as a foster carer.

If you are getting Housing Benefit in a private rented property, you can get one extra bedroom in your local housing allowance rate if you are a foster carer, even between placements. Housing Benefit in private rented accommodation is limited to the rate for four bedrooms, even if the size of your household might mean you need more than four bedrooms.

If you are getting Housing Benefit in a council or housing association property, you can have one extra bedroom if you are a foster carer, even between placements.

The money you get as your fostering allowance will be ignored when working out your Housing Benefit.

Income Support

It is no longer possible to make new claims for Income Support. If you are already getting Income Support you can carry on getting this as a foster carer, even if the reason you are currently getting it ends.

For example, Luisa is getting Income Support as a single parent for a 4 year old and has just started fostering another child. When her child turns 5, she won’t be able to get income support as the parent of a child under 5, but she can carry on getting Income Support as a foster carer.

The money you get as your fostering allowance will be ignored when working out how much income support you can get.

Tax credits

It is no longer possible to make new claims for tax credits but if you are already getting them you might be able to carry on getting them as a foster carer.

The hours you spend working as a foster carer will be taken into account when deciding if you are working enough hours for Working Tax Credit

You can’t get Child Tax Credit for the child you are fostering.

A lot of the money you get as your fostering allowance will be ignored when working out how much tax credit you can get.

If you are fostering a child under 11, the first £10,000 of the fostering allowance will be ignored and so will £200 per week per foster child.

If you are fostering a child over 11, the first £10,000 of the fostering allowance will be ignored and so will £250 per week per foster child.

For example, Pavel fostered two children aged 9 and 13 for 20 weeks. When working out how much tax credit he can get, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will ignore £10,000 + (20 x 200) + (20 x 250) so in total £19,000 will be ignored.

6. Can I get any other benefits?

If you get disability benefits like Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Attendance Allowance, your disability benefit will not be affected by fostering a child.

If you are a carer and you are fostering a child, your fostering allowance will be ignored when working out if you can get Carer’s Allowance.

You cannot get Child Benefit for a child you are fostering.