5.3.6 On-going Payments in Respect of Adoption Support and Special Guardianship Support
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This guidance was introduced to the procedures manual in August 2009
This guidance describes the arrangements for on-going 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 on-going payment.
A distinction is made between on-going 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 on-going 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
- Special Guardianship Policy;
- Adoption Support Services Procedure;
- Special Guardianship Allowances Procedure - to follow;
- Special Guardianship Order Support Procedure;
- Child Arrangements Order Allowances Procedure;
- Assessment of Foster Carers Wishing to Acquire Parental Responsibility for a Looked After Child Procedure.
This chapter was introduced in August 2009 and is subject to review.
On-going payments can be paid when:
Residence Order Allowance - See Child Arrangements Order Allowances Procedure.
The maximum level of payment of on-going 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. Child Arrangements Order Allowance Procedure, Arrangements for Residence Order Allowances made for Residence Orders made before 31 December 2005.
There is an expectation that Adopters, Special Guardians and residence Order holders will claim universal benefits including Child Benefit and tax credits.
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 Adoption Support Services Procedure, Financial Support.
Special Guardianship - See Special Guardianship Order Support Procedure, Financial Support.
Residence Order Allowance - See Child Arrangements Order Allowances Procedure.
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 on-going 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:
|Type of Income- Pay (for parents and carers)||Evidence|
Average net weekly income before deductions for savings schemes, social clubs.
The income figure will exclude payments into pension funds
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.
This can include overtime, fees, commission, gratuities
|Benefits & Pensions (for parents and carers)||Evidence|
The following benefits and pensions are assessable income:
|State, Occupational and/or private pensions||
|Working Tax Credit||
|Benefits (payable to the family and other children)||Evidence|
|Child Tax Credit- where a childcare element is paid this is disregarded||
|Housing Benefit - disregarded||
|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(*)||
|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.||
Income from Boarders & Lodgers - for formula used to calculate eligible income
Disregard family members less than 18 years of age. See * above
|Income from unfurnished rented property. Deductions can be made for:
|Income from furnished rented property. As above but an extra 10% deduction can be made from rent as "wear & tear" allowance.||
|Maintenance payments for child in household||
|Adoption & Special Guardianship allowance for a child placed with the family by another local authority||
|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||
|Payments from Criminal injuries Compensation Awards - exempt|
|Mortgage payments- capital & interest. This may include endowment payments linked to the mortgage||
|Council Tax - amount payable after deduction of Council Tax benefit||
|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.||
|Private pension contributions and National Insurance if self employed or not working||
|Work related travel expenses- these are for purpose of travel between home and work. They can include:
|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.
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 on-going 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.
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 on-going financial payments can begin. These are that they agree to inform the local authority :
- Of changes to their home address;
- If the child (for any reason) no longer lives with them;
- 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 on-going Payments Scheme is given orally, Adopters, Special Guardians or Residence Allowance holders must confirm this in writing within 7 days.
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.
The local authority is required to review on-going 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 on-going 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 on-going 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 Child Arrangements 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.
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.
Payments may be suspended when:
- The recipient has failed to notify the agency of any of the changes of circumstances specified in Section 5, Terms and Conditions above.
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 on-going 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 on-going 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.
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
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.
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.
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 on-going payments:
- Adoption Support - Where a foster carer adopts a child who is eligible for an on-going 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.
Approved foster carers who become Adopters, Special Guardians or Residence Order Allowance and who receive payments through the On-going 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.
In order to reduce the impact of moving from the Bradford Fees and Allowances scheme to the reduced level of an on-going 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%|
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 on-going 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 on-going payment from 24 months|
The Assessment for Transitional Stage and on-going 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 on-going 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.
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.
Payments made during the Transitional Stage will not be increased for birthdays or inflation.