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4.11.6 Ongoing Payments in Respect of Adoption Support, Special Guardianship Support and Residence Order Allowance Guidance

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This guidance was introduced to the procedures manual in August 2009

This guidance describes the arrangements for ongoing payments in respect of - Adoption Support, Special Guardianship Support & Residence Order Allowance that are paid to the carers of children who were Looked After but who have sought permanence for the child by obtaining Parental Responsibility through a legal order.

The payment level of these three different payments were brought into alignment with the rate the National Minimum Fostering Allowance by the Executive Committee of Bradford Council on 9th September 2008. The alignment of levels of payment and common administrative arrangements ensures that the consideration of legal outcome to permanence planning is focussed of the merits of respective legal orders as opposed to features of differing schemes for ongoing payment.

A distinction is made between ongoing financial support (financial support that is paid on a regular basis), which was agreed before the order was made, and other support services that can include "Exceptional Payments" (time limited or single payments)

Bradford MBC will remain responsible for the payment of ongoing payments irrespective of where the Adopter/Special Guardian/Residence Order Holder lives for as long as the family qualifies for payments

Responsibility for the management of the scheme rests with the Bradford Adoption and Fostering Unit. The operation of the scheme is the responsibility of the Allowances section, Children's Division

This guidance should be read in conjunction with

This chapter was introduced in August 2009 and is subject to review.


Contents

1. Circumstances when Ongoing Payment can be Paid
2. Level of Payment
3. Assessment for Financial Support
4. Notice of Outcome of Assessment and Decision Regarding Ongoing Payments
5. Terms and Conditions
6. Commencement of Payment
7. Review of Ongoing Payments
8. Underpayments, Overpayment and Recovery of an Ongoing Payment
9. Suspension of an Ongoing Payment
10. Ending of an Ongoing Payment
11. Foster Carers
11.1 Moving from the Bradford Fostering Fees and Allowance Scheme to an Ongoing Payment
11.2 Transitional Arrangements
11.3 Assessment for Transitional Stage and Ongoing Payments
11.4 Tax Credits
11.5 Birthdays and Annual Inflation Increase


1. Circumstances when Ongoing Payment can be Paid

Ongoing payments can be paid when:

Adoption - see Section 3, When to and who to Assess for the Need for Adoption Support of Adoption Support Services Procedure

Special Guardianship - See Special Guardian Support Services Section 3, When to and who to Assess for the Need for Special Guardian Support of Special Guardian Support Procedure

Residence Order Allowance - See Section 1, Eligibility of Residence Order Allowance Procedure


2. Level of Payment

The maximum level of payment of ongoing payments respect of - Adoption Support and Special Guardianship Support is linked to the level of National Minimum Fostering Allowance. The level of payment will be determined by a financial assessment (means test).

The level of payment for Residence Orders granted after 31 December 2005 is linked to the level of National Minimum Fostering Allowance. The level of payment will be determined by a financial assessment (means test).

The level of payment for Residence Orders granted before 31 December 2005 is linked to the rate of Fostering Allowance 2005/06 subject to an annual uprating.

It is possible for the holders of Residence Orders that were made before 31st December 2005 to request a financial assessment of their circumstances and to elect to be paid at a level that linked to the level of National Minimum Fostering Allowance in the same way that holders of Residence Orders made after 31st December 2005. This change between levels of payment is one way, it cannot be reversed. Section 2, Arrangements for Residence Order Allowances made for Residence Orders made before 31 December 2005 of Residence Order Allowance Procedure

There is an expectation that Adopters, Special Guardians and residence Order holders will claim universal benefits including Child Benefit and tax credits.


3. Assessment for Financial Support

The assessment process is undertaken by the Allowances Section. Adoptive Parents Special Guardians and Residence Order holders will be required to complete the self assessment form and provide evidence of their income and outgoings.

See procedures for

Adoption - see Section 9, Financial Support of Adoption Support Services Procedure

Special Guardianship - See Section 9, Financial Support of Special Guardian Support Procedure

Residence Order Allowance - See Residence Order Allowances Procedure

Also:

Agency Adopters --see procedure Section 3, Financial Support following Decision to Proceed towards Requesting Panel Approval of Proposed Placement of Placement for Adoption Procedure

Overview

The model of financial assessment is based on the "Standardised Means Test Model For Adoption And Special Guardianship Financial Support" (Des 2005). The model uses details of income and outgoings to calculate the weekly level of allowance that will be paid.

The model takes into account:

Income - The Adoptive Parents, Special Guardians or Residence Order holders financial resources (including significant income from any investments, but not their home). These include any tax credit or benefit which would be available if the child lived with them. This is consistent with the fact that financial support for Adoption/Special Guardianship/Residence Order is disregarded for the purpose of calculating income related benefits and tax credits

Outgoings - The amount required by the Adoptive Parents Special Guardians and Residence Order holders in respect of their reasonable outgoings and commitments e.g. housing and transport costs and daily living expenses (but excluding outgoings in respect of the child)

The child - the financial needs that arise (e.g. because of special diet or need for replacement bedding) and resources (e.g. a trust fund) of the child.

  • If an Adoptive Parent, Special Guardian or Residence Order holder is in receipt of Income Support they will be paid the maximum applicable payment. The figure paid to the family will not include any deductions for Child Benefit
  • The financial assessment is worked out to calculate the weekly payment of Ongoing Allowance (if any) that will be paid.

The Calculation of eligibility to weekly payments

The calculation is undertaken by the Allowances section

The following details assessable income and outgoings that must be considered in the assessment:

Assessable Income

Type of Income- Pay (for parents and carers) Evidence
Salary/Wages

Average net weekly income before deductions for savings schemes, social clubs.

The income figure will exclude payments into pension funds

  • 2 wage slips if paid monthly
  • 6 wage slips if paid weekly
  • Bank statement
Self Employment

Where one or both applicants are self employed the only income that can be considered is "drawings" as this is equivalent of pay from an employer. Any profit from the business that has not been reinvested should be considered as capital - see other sources of income.

  • Tax return prepared for Inland Revenue
Overtime/Bonus

This can include overtime, fees, commission, gratuities

  • Wage slips
  • Tax return prepared for Inland Revenue
Benefits & Pensions (for parents and carers) Evidence

The following benefits and pensions are assessable income:

  • Employer's sick pay
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Statutory maternity, paternity and/or adoption pay and/or maternity allowance
  • Bereavement Benefit
  • Wage slip
  • Notification from DWP
  • Correspondence from DWP/employer
  • Notification from DWP
State, Occupational and/or private pensions
  • Statement from pension provider
  • Bank statement
Working Tax Credit
  • Award notice from DWP
Benefits (payable to the family and other children) Evidence
Child Tax Credit- where a childcare element is paid this is disregarded
  • Award notice from DWP
Child Benefit
  • Correspondence from DWP
  • Bank statement
Housing Benefit - disregarded
  • Award notice from Local Authority
Wages, Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance- where this is in respect of a family member young person under 18 years of age this should be disregarded on the basis that parents usually subsidise young people even if they have an income of their own(*)
  • Correspondence with DWP
Other Sources of Income Evidence
Capital - This includes savings, investments, financial plans that provide income. The assessment procedure provides a formula to calculate the weekly income derived from capital.
  • Bank statements
  • Statements of holdings of shares
  • Savings accounts

Income from Boarders & Lodgers - for formula used to calculate eligible income

Disregard family members less than 18 years of age. See * above

  • Rent Book
Income from unfurnished rented property. Deductions can be made for:
  • Interest payments on mortgage (not capital payments)
  • Repairs
  • Council tax (if paid by family being assessed)
  • Agents fees
  • Insurance (Buildings)
  • Tax return prepared for Inland Revenue
  • Bank statements
Income from furnished rented property. As above but an extra 10% deduction can be made from rent as "wear & tear" allowance.
  • Tax return prepared for Inland Revenue
  • Bank statements
Maintenance payments for child in household
  • Correspondence
  • Bank account
Adoption & Special Guardianship allowance for a child placed with the family by another local authority
  • Correspondence
  • Bank account
Income Related to the Adopted or Special Guardianship Child Evidence
Regular interest or income to which the child has a legal interest and entitlement e.g. savings account, trust fund, property legacy
  • Bank statements
  • Statements of holdings of shares
  • Savings accounts
Payments from Criminal injuries Compensation Awards - exempt  

Assessable Outgoings

Home Expenditure Evidence
Mortgage payments- capital & interest. This may include endowment payments linked to the mortgage
  • Correspondence/statements from mortgage provider.
  • Correspondence/statements from endowment provider
Rent
  • Rent book
  • Bank statement
Council Tax - amount payable after deduction of Council Tax benefit
  • Council Tax statement
  • Bank statement
Other Outgoings Evidence
Repayments of loans taken out as part of meeting the need incurred as a result of the adoption or Special Guardianship Order (e.g. buying a larger car/extension). Note- this will usually apply to loans taken out at the start of the placement. The decision to include a loan as an outgoing expense will be made by the Service Manager, Adoption & Fostering Unit in proposal letter before the placement is made.
  • Bank statements
  • Correspondence
Maintenance Payments
  • Court Orders
  • Correspondence with Child support Agency
  • Bank statements
Private pension contributions and National Insurance if self employed or not working
  • Correspondence
  • Bank statements
Work related travel expenses- these are for purpose of travel between home and work. They can include:
  • public transport costs- actual cost
  • Mileage when own vehicle is used- based on Inland Revue- Mileage Allowance Payment rate for use of own vehicle at work. (2006-7 40p per mile for first 10,000 miles thereafter 25 pence per mile)
  • Photocopy of season ticket, Metro pass
  • Mileage- details journey, car log book
Childcare costs - not exempt  
School fees and further education costs of dependent children - not exempt  

The guidance detailed above does not deal with all possible situations.

Where a situation arises where there is a need to make a judgement as to whether income or outgoings are deemed as assessable the matter will be referred to the appropriate manager (Manager - Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager - Residence Order Allowance). All decisions will be recorded in a Precedence Log.


4. Notice of Outcome of Assessment and Decision Regarding Ongoing Payments

The prospective Adopter, Special Guardian or Residence Allowance holder will be notified in writing of the outcome of the financial assessment by the appropriate manager appropriate manager (Manager - Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager - Residence Order Allowance).

The written notification will detail:

  • The basis upon which the financial assessment was made and it's outcome.
  • Whether the agency proposes to make an ongoing payment and details of the arrangements for payment. Specifically-
    • The amount of financial support
    • The frequency with which the payment will be made
    • The period for which the payment will be made
    • When the first payment of financial support is to be made
  • The arrangements and procedure for review, variation and termination of financial support


5. Terms and Conditions

Prospective adopters and Adopter, Special Guardian or Residence Allowance holders are given 10 working days to consider the outcome of the financial assessment and any proposals made by the local authority. Any representations will by considered by the appropriate manager (Manager- Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager- Residence Order Allowance)

Adopters, Special Guardians or Residence Allowance holders must agree to the local authorities' proposal before ongoing financial payments can begin. These are that they agree to inform the local authority :

  1. Of changes to their home address
  2. If the child (for any reason) no longer lives with them
  3. If there are any changes to their financial situation/the resources of the child

Where agreement to the proposals and terms and conditions of the Ongoing Payments Scheme is given orally, Adopters, Special Guardians or Residence Allowance holders must confirm this in writing within 7 days.


6. Commencement of Payment

The Allowances Section will commence payment on receipt of instruction from the Adoption & Fostering Unit.

Payments are made fortnightly in arrears by the BACs system. A remittance advice slip is sent shortly before the payment date.


7. Review of Ongoing Payments

The local authority is required to review ongoing financial payments when:

  • there is a change in the circumstances of the recipient
  • At least on an annual basis

Reviews are undertaken by the Allowances Section. The review process is the same as the assessment and notification process. Recipients will be required to complete the Financial Assessment Documentation and supply copies of required documentation. In those cases where the recipient is giving notice of a change of circumstances that is not significant there is discretion for the Allowances Section to accept documentary evidence without a self assessment form being completed.

  • Change in circumstances - A review will take place when the recipients circumstances change and recipients are expected to immediately inform Allowances of any changes. The local authority may conduct a review if it considers that there has been a change in the recipient's circumstances.
  • Annually - All those in receipt of an ongoing payment are required to undergo an annual review. Allowances Section will write each year to asking whether the child remains with them and whether the payment is still needed by the applicant. This is usually undertaken towards the end of the financial year. Any recipient who has had an assessment or review of ongoing payments from January onwards prior to the review will not need a review until the following year.

Continuation of the allowance is dependent on a satisfactory response from the recipient that will include documentary evidence that the child continues to reside with them in the form of Child Benefit notification. In the case of young people aged over 16 who are in full-time education or training the recipient is required to provide documentary evidence in order for the allowance to be paid. (In the case of Residence Order Allowances made after 31.12.08 additional documentation is required - see Residence Order Allowances Procedure

The Allowances Section will on completion of the assessment deal directly with the recipient. Where the recipient has a query this should in the first instance be raised with the Allowances Section. If a query cannot be resolved the recipient should contact the Manager (Manager- Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager- Residence Order Allowance)

The Manager (Manager- Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager- Residence Order Allowance) will be contacted by Allowances Section when the assessment process indicates that:

  • There has been an overpayment of £250;
  • The recipient has failed to notify the agency of any of the changes of circumstances specified in Section 5, Terms and Conditions above;
  • The recipient has not responded to a request for information required as part of the review.

The Manager (Manager - Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager - Residence Order Allowance) will determine what action should taken.

It is possible that Allowances Section become aware of changes to the circumstances of the Special Guardian and the child that may be indicative of family difficulties such as family breakdown or ill health. The Manager (Manager - Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager- Residence Order Allowance) should be notified of any such changes and will determine how the agency should respond.


8. Underpayments, Overpayment and Recovery of an Ongoing Payment

In the normal course of events it is likely that underpayments and overpayment will be made as a result of the time delay between a change in the circumstances of an Adoptive parent or Special Guardian and a review being completed. Where these amount to less than £250 the Allowances Section has the discretion to make a reimbursement or to negotiate a repayment arrangement (usually by way of a deduction from the weekly payment)

The Manager (Manager - Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager - Residence Order Allowance) should be contacted the underpayment or overpayment exceeds £250. Negotiations will take place with the Adoptive Parent, Special Guardian or Residence Order holder to agree a means that allows for the recovery of the overpayment that does not cause hardship to the family. Where it is not possible to reach such an agreement a senior manager will be consulted as to whether formal debt recovery procedures should be initiated.


9. Suspension of an Ongoing Payment

Payments may be suspended when:

The Manger - (Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager- Residence Order Allowance) will determine what action should be taken. There may be circumstances where it appears that fraud has taken place and consultations should take place with a senior manager as to whether the Police should be involved.

  • The recipient has not responded to a request for information required as part of the review.

Any correspondence from the Allowances Section requesting information for a review will include a notice that the payment will be suspended 28 days from the date of posting unless the recipient makes contact. The Manger - (Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager- Residence Order Allowance) will be informed of the suspension.

The recipient will be informed in writing when the ongoing payment is suspended. They may make representations to the Manger - (Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager - Residence Order Allowance) The recipients have 15 days from the date of the letter informing them of the suspension to make representations. The response to their representations will be the final decision.

Where a decision is made to reinstate an ongoing payment the recipient will be notified in writing by to the Manger - (Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager - Residence Order Allowance) ". Back payments" to cover the period of suspension will not be made unless it can be shown that the local authority acted in error in making the suspension.


10. Ending of an Ongoing Payment

On going payments will cease to be made when:

  • The child ceases to live with their Adoptive Parent, Special Guardian or Residence Order holder and this is regarded as a permanent departure. Temporary absences do not apply, e.g. boarding school, hospital, and respite care.
  • The child ceases full-time education or training and commences employment
  • The child qualifies for Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance in their own right
  • Where the Residence Order ceases
  • The child attains the age of 18 unless he continues in full-time education or training, when it may continue until the end of the course or training he is then undertaking

    or

    in the case of a Residence Order the allowance will cease on their 16th birthday. It may continue provided the child is in full time education or training and will end on their 18th birthday
  • The child dies

The local authority will provide information to Adoptive Parents, Special Guardians and Residence Order Allowance holders prior to the young persons 16th birthday detailing the circumstances above. Families may request further information and guidance about future support at this point.


11. Foster Carers

These arrangements have been designed specifically to support foster carers who have been approved by Bradford MBC. There may be situations where a foster carer approved by another fostering agency acquires Parental Responsibility for a child who was Looked After by Bradford. A senior manager will exercise discretion as to how these arrangements may be applied in this circumstance.

11.1 Moving from the Bradford Fostering Fees and Allowance Scheme to an ongoing payment

Foster carers receive weekly Fees (if a fee paid carer) and a weekly Allowance the Bradford Fostering Fees and Allowance Scheme. Foster carers cease to receive payments under this scheme if they become Adopters, Special Guardians or Residence Order holders for a child they have been caring for. Instead they become eligible for ongoing payments:

  • Adoption Support - Where a foster carer adopts a child who is eligible for an ongoing payment
  • Special Guardianship support - Where a foster carers becomes a Special Guardian to a child who was "looked after"
  • Residence Order Allowance - Where a foster carer acquires a Residence Order for a child who was looked after.

See Assessment of Foster Carers or others who wish to Acquire Parental Responsibility Procedure

Approved foster carers who become Adopters, Special Guardians or Residence Order Allowance and who receive payments through the Ongoing Payment Scheme are likely to experience a reduction in income because:

  • The Fostering Fee ceases to be paid
  • The level of allowances paid under the National Minimum Fostering Allowance is lower than that paid under the Bradford Fostering Allowance scheme.

11.2 Transitional Arrangements

In order to reduce the impact of moving from the Bradford Fees and Allowances scheme to the reduced level of an ongoing payment there are Transitional Arrangements that allow for a gradual reduction in income over a two year period. The table below details how the Fostering Allowance (and Fee if applicable) is reduced over the transition period:

Stage Time from making of SGO/RO or placement becoming an Adoptive Placement) % of original allowance & any fee if applicable
1 0- 12 months 100%
2 12 - 18 months 75%
3 18 - 24 months 50%

11.3 Assessment for Transitional Stage and Ongoing Payments

Foster carers who are contemplating acquiring Parental Responsibility for a child they are caring for need to know what the financial implications are. A projected assessment of income at all points within the Transitional Stage and of income when receive an ongoing payment can be provided on request. The calculation of projected payments will be entered into a "Projection Matrix". This can be used as the basis for both proposal letters and review records- see below

Date of start/assessment/review Proposal Assessment End of Stage 1 Review End of Stage 3 Review
Current Carers Allowance        
Transition Stage % of original allowance (minus Child Benefit) & any fee if applicable      
1. 1st 12 months 100%      
2. 12-18 months 75%      
3. 18-24 months 50%       
Rate of ongoing payment from 24 months        

The Assessment for Transitional Stage and Ongoing Payments Scheme follows the same process as Section 3, Assessment for Financial Support.

Allowances Section return the completed Projection Matrix to the Manger - (Adoption Support, Manager Special Guardianship Support, Manager - Residence Order Allowance)

The Transitional Arrangement starts when:

Adoption - 28 days following the approval by the Agency Decision Maker of the match between the child and the carers

Special Guardianship and Residence Order - from the point that the legal order is made

Financial Reviews during the Transitional Stage

Financial reviews are initiated by Allowances Section

The first financial review will be undertaken prior to the end of stage 1 (12 months). The second financial review will take place prior to the end of stage 3 (24 months). This is used to produce revised projections of the amount of allowance paid under as ongoing payment at the end of the Transitional Stage.

The Review of Financial Assessments is undertaken on an annual basis, usually in the February before the end of the financial year. If the Stage 3 assessment has taken place prior to the 1st of January then no further review will be undertaken until February of the following year.

11.4 Tax Credits

During the Transitional Stage these are disregarded for the first 12 months. During the second year the amount of Tax Credit will be deducted from payment.

Applicants are required to provide evidence of the level of Child Tax Credit paid to the financial reviews. This must include evidence of both payment and nil assessment. Failure to provide such documentation is likely to lead to a suspension of payment.

11.5 Birthdays and Annual Inflation Increase

Payments made during the Transitional Stage will not be increased for birthdays or inflation.

End