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Looked After Children

This information applies to children who are ‘looked after’ by the Local Authority. It does not apply to families whose children are living away from home under any private arrangements.

There are different rules depending on which benefit it is, how long the child is away from home, where they stay and whether they come home during the week.

If the child is going to be ‘looked after’, the parents should inform the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), the Inland Revenue and the local housing and council tax benefit offices.

Child Benefit

  • Child Benefit usually stops after the child has been ‘looked after’ and accommodated by a Local Authority for eight weeks. It can carry on if the child returns home for at least two consecutive nights a week. The parents can also get Child Benefit after eight weeks absence if the child comes to stay with them for a week or more
  • If a child is ‘looked after’ solely because of their disability, Child Benefit will continue for 12 weeks. It is paid indefinitely if the money is given to the child or regularly spent on their behalf. If the parents are getting an addition for the child with a non means-tested benefit, this will continue as long as they still get Child Benefit.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

  • If the child is being ‘looked after’ by the Local Authority, the mobility part will continue to be paid, as any short or long stays in care do not affect it
  • The care part of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is affected by stays in a Local Authority care home and will usually stop after four weeks. A ‘linking rule’ means that any stays, which are separated by less than four weeks, are added together when working out when the care part of DLA stops. You can still get it for any days that are spent at home
  • If the child goes into foster care, he/she will still be able to get DLA. The Local Authority and the DLA Unit will decide who gets the payment on the child’s behalf. The payment could remain with the parent or may be changed to the foster carer or other appointed person
  • If the child was not intended to be in care for more than 12 weeks, the original appointeeship will not be ended until eight weeks have passed.

Carer's Allowance

Carer's Allowance will stop if the child’s DLA care stops because of the linking rule (see above).  

If the child comes home, Carer's Allowance can be paid again for any week where you care for them for 35 hours or more. A week runs from midnight on Saturday to midnight the following Saturday. You can include any time spent preparing for or cleaning up after the child’s visit towards the 35 hours.

Example:

Becky’s mother Jill usually gets Carer's Allowance for her but this has stopped because Becky is in residential care. Becky comes home on Thursday for a long weekend and returns to hospital the following Tuesday. Jill will be able to get Carer's Allowance for the week ending on Saturday because she has spent 35 hours caring for Becky. She will also get Carer's Allowance for the following week because she spent Sunday and Monday caring for Becky.

Income Support and Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • If the child is ‘looked after’ by the Local Authority, and if the dependent allowance and any disabled child premium or enhanced disability premium for that child are still included in the parents’ benefits, these allowances would stop as soon as the child leaves the household
  • The carer premium will continue to be included in the benefit for 12 weeks
  • If the child being ‘looked after’ was the only child being claimed for, the claimant will lose the family premium. This may mean that they will have to sign-on to get benefit
  • When the child returns home, the parent can claim Child Tax Credits from the Inland Revenue for financial support for the child.

Local Housing Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit

  • The Local Authority pays Local Housing Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. If the claimant has a ‘looked after’ child, their Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit may need to be re-calculated
  • The claimant will need to inform the Local Authority when their child is being ‘looked after’ and to inform them when the child is back home
  • If the claimant continues to receive Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance while the child is away from home, their Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit will not change. However, if they do not continue to receive Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, their Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit may be reduced, which means they will have to pay more rent and council tax. The change will happen from the week after the child leaves their home
  • If the child comes home for a week or part of a week, the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit section should be informed so that benefit can be increased for the whole of that week.

Tax Credits

  • If the child is being ‘looked after’ by the local authority and the child’s maintenance or accommodation is being paid out of public funds, the claimant cannot claim Child Tax Credit for that child unless he/she has been placed in the accommodation because of a disability.

If your child is going to be ‘looked after’, you should inform the DWP, the Inland Revenue and the local authority.

Contact us by phone on 01634 306000 or email to welfare.benefits@medway.gov.uk