Introduced on 1st April 2013, Bedroom Tax is part of welfare reform that will cut the amount of benefit that people can get if they are deemed to have a spare room. But what does it mean for foster carers?
What is bedroom tax?
Bedroom tax will restrict housing benefit to allow for one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household. Tenants affected will face a 14% cut in housing benefit for the first ‘excess’ bedroom and a 25% cut where two or more bedrooms are under-occupied. The average loss of income is estimated to be around £14 per week.
How will this affect foster carers?
Foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes, therefore technically all foster carers could face cuts. However last minute changes announced on 12th March mean that foster carers are allowed one additional room in their homes as long as they have registered as a foster carer or fostered a child within the past 12 months. This means that around 5,000 foster carers would be exempted from bedroom tax.
Foster carers with more than one child will still face bedroom tax. The reforms still apply to foster carers who have two or three bedrooms for fostered children. Carers in this situation can apply to the discretionary housing fund for support with their housing costs. However carers will have to reapply for this benefit every six weeks, even if they have fostered a child on a long term basis.
How will this affect foster children?
With the rules standing as they are, foster carers will be deterred from providing foster care for more than one child at a time. This means that children in foster care are more likely to be separated from their siblings. With a shortage of foster carers already in the UK, these reforms are likely to mean that the shortage will grow.
The fostering network are looking to hear from any foster carers that are affected by the reforms and are running a survey, which can be accessed here.
If you would like to speak to someone about foster care, get in touch with the NFA.