Child Arrangements Order/Residence Order Allowances
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
The policy discusses Child Arrangements Orders, however this will also recognise Residence Orders that were made prior to April 2014.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was reviewed and refreshed in May 2016 to reflect the predominance of the Child Arrangements Orders as against Residence Orders which it replaced. The update also includes the two Appendices provided. However, existing Residence Allowances are included with respect to the criteria and levels of allowance, etc.
In promoting permanent stable family placements for children, consideration will be given to the payment of a Child Arrangements Order Allowance and support with legal and court costs.
Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council will only pay Child Arrangements Order Allowances in respect of children:
- Who immediately prior to the Order being made, were Looked After; or
- Where a child is subject to a Child Arrangements Order as part of a disposal of Care Proceedings;
- The Council supports the placement of the child with the person(s) taking the Child Arrangements Order
It is not anticipated that Child Arrangements Allowances will be paid to families in private child care proceedings. It may be appropriate to offer other support subject to an assessment of need, using the framework.
The Council seeks to encourage foster carers and extended family members, who care for other peoples children on a permanent basis, to secure the children legally through Child Arrangements Orders (if not Adoption or Special Guardianship). This would also serve to take children out of the care system.
The Council seeks to remove barriers that may preclude or act as a disincentive to proceed with obtaining a Child Arrangement Order where this is in the best interests of the child.
Families applying for a Child Arrangements Order in respect of a child looked after, with the support of Children's Social Care, should be given information about Knowsley's Allowance Scheme.
The child's social worker, in consultation with their Team Manager, must consider whether the criteria for payment of an allowance are met. This will also include a financial assessment of the carers.
As part of the permanence planning for the child (for example this may be the four month Looked After Review), consideration:
- Of a Child Arrangements Order Allowance should be made, taking into account the needs of the child and whether the carers seek an allowance;
- Of additional payments to assist with court and legal costs.
If a Child Arrangements Order Allowance is thought to be appropriate and the criteria are met, the child's social worker should present the case to the Permanence Panel for a recommendation regarding the payment of a Child Arrangements Order Allowance.
The Permanence Panel will decide whether or not an allowance should be payable, based on the recommendation of the social worker. Prior to this no guarantee of an allowance may be given to the applicant.
The decision of the Permanence Panel will be recorded in writing.
3. Assessing the Level of Allowance
Child Arrangements Orders do not always meet a criteria for allowances to be paid. The following limits are set for guidance only and the financial tests will not be based upon the equivalent of fostering payments. Not all Child Arrangements Orders will be required within the support plan to have financial assistance.
The limits imposed on the level of the allowance that may be payable are as follows:
- The equivalent of basic fostering allowances may be paid (maximum if existing foster carers);
- The equivalent of 'skills payment' may be payable to existing foster carers who are already in receipt of this allowance;
- One off payment for equipment, furnishings etc. i.e. set up costs will be paid through section 17 monies, if required with the approval of the child's team manager.
The amount of the Child Arrangements Allowance will not exceed the amount of the fostering allowance payable which may include any skills element already in payment to foster carers.
Carers who have a Child Arrangements Order are able to claim Child Benefit and tax credit. The amount of allowance should be reduced pound for pound by the amount of child benefit and tax credit.
Carers in receipt of Benefits do need to be advised that their benefit may be reduced if they are in receipt of a Child Arrangements order Allowance.
Tax-paying carers need to be advised that the Child Arrangements Order Allowance may be taxable.
It is not possible to provide standard advice because of families' individual circumstances. Social workers should therefore not give specific advice to families, but may direct them to seek advice from Welfare Rights for assistance in this matter or contact the benefits agency or Tax office directly.
For those families granted a Child Arrangements Order in respect of a child who meets the criteria a financial assessment will be undertaken and the full households' income and expenditure will be taken into consideration. Financial consideration will be given in relation to a support plan at Permanence Panel. Recommendations from the panel will then be given to the Agency Decision Maker.
Allowances are not always made in relation to fostering allowances.
5. Additional Allowances
At present many foster carers receive a skills payment. This is payable in addition to the normal boarding out rate.
It is unlikely that carers would progress the placement to secure the child legally unless this level of financial support is continued. As such the Child Arrangements Allowance should consider the rate of fostering allowance with the current skill level also being paid.
The skills payment will not be guaranteed, (although the basic fostering allowance would be) but would be reviewed as it would be if the carer were still receiving fostering allowance.
Child Arrangements Allowances paid at the basic fostering rate will not be reviewed to include an additional payment at a future stage.
6. Management of Allowances
6.1 Child Arrangements Order Allowance Agreement
After the decision has been made to pay a Child Arrangements Allowance the family with the Child Arrangements Order must be provided with the following information in writing:
- The amount of the allowance;
- The date of the first payment;
- The method of payment and frequency (BACS is the preferred option);
- The arrangements for review, variation and termination of the allowance;
- The responsibilities of the family to notify Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council of changes in their circumstances or those of the child:
- If the child dies;
- If the child no longer has a home with them (either of them);
- If the Child Arrangements Order (or Residence Order where appropriate) is revoked;
- If they change address;
(The allowance will stop in the case of the first three points).
This information is included in agreement form and should be sent to the family granted the Child Arrangement Order following the agreement of the level of the allowance.
The family granted the Child Arrangements Order must sign and return one copy of the agreement to confirm their acceptance.
Child Arrangements Order payments will be subject to annual reviews.
6.2 Commencement of Payment
The payment of a Child Arrangements Order Allowance begins from the date of the Court Order.
When a foster carer is granted a Child Arrangements Order, fostering allowances payments will immediately cease. Payment of Child Arrangements Order Allowances will commence from the date of the Order.
(Foster Carer's insurance as arranged by KMBC will cease with the change of status).
6.3 Review, Variation and Termination of Allowance
The Child Arrangement Orders Allowance will be reviewed annually by the Fostering Service.
The Directorate for Children, Families and Schools will contact the family in receipt of the Child Arrangements Order Allowance in writing within 7 days of the review to confirm that the arrangement is still in existence or to notify them of any variations.
Allowances subject to variation, that is enhanced allowances (previously paid as a skills payment), will also be assessed by members of the Fostering Service. Carers will be notified in the agreement when the first review is due; reviews thereafter to be conducted on an annual basis.
All families in receipt of allowances payable at the basic rate of fostering allowances will be reviewed by a children's social worker when the young person reaches 14 years if the child has a disability and otherwise when the child reaches 16 years. The Fostering Service will inform the relevant team when they are undertaking reviews on young people in these circumstances.
If an overpayment has been made for example because it is found that the child is no longer resident, or for any other reason, the local authority will recover the overpayment.
The review form sent to families should state their liability to repay monies if they give false information or fail to notify the local authority of a significant change in circumstance.
he Child Arrangements Order Allowance will be varied as the child moves into the next age band, from the date of the child's birthday as with fostering allowances.
Payment of the Child Arrangements Allowance will automatically end when:
- The child ceases to live with the family with the Child Arrangements Order;
- The Child Arrangements Order ceases.
Child Arrangements Order Allowances will not be reduced for working children (up to 18 yrs old).