Child Arrangement Order Allowance Scheme - Proposed Changes

Closed 17 Oct 2018

Opened 10 Sep 2018

Overview

The following information explains why changes are being proposed, what the proposed changes are and how you can have your say about these changes.

What are child arrangement orders and residence orders?

A child arrangement order is a court order made pursuant to s8 Children Act 1989 that outlines the details and arrangements for children, including arrangements as to with whom the child shall live and with whom the child shall have contact.  A child arrangement order may be made in favour of a parent or a friend or relative of the child.

A residence order is an old order conferring parental responsibility for a child on a person.  It might also, but does not always, confer residence.  These orders are no longer made but there remain some historic ones in force.

Parents have a duty to maintain their own child regardless of whether there is a child arrangement order in place.  For most other people that duty only arises when they have a residence order or a child arrangement order setting out that the child is to live with them or which confers parental responsibility on them. 

What is the Child Arrangement Order Allowance Scheme?

Where child arrangement carers (including those with residence orders) have stepped in because the child’s parents are unable to care, a child arrangement order allowance may be paid by the Council. This is usually where Children’s Services have been involved to protect and safeguard children /young people or to prevent a child who is unable to live with their birth parent/s from becoming looked after by the local authority throughout their childhood, or from being adopted.

What is currently happening in Warwickshire?

Currently, child arrangement carers who have been assessed as being eligible for an allowance are paid an allowance pursuant to the 2009 Residence and SGO Allowances scheme.

What does this mean?

  1. Child arrangement carer payments are based on 75% of the fostering rates. Warwickshire County Council’s fostering rates are on those recommended by the Fostering Network
  2. The exact amount paid is based on a financial means assessment which is currently a self-reported declaration of income and outgoings. The financial means assessment pays allowances when the families monies fall below income support plus 50% of income support (or equivalent benefit).
  3. In addition, under the current scheme, there are non-means tested additional needs allowances which can be paid where the social worker has assessed these as being necessary. For example, this may cover the cost of additional support needs such as counselling for a child with emotional, behavioural, or psychological needs.
  4. Child arrangement carers have the opportunity to make representations if they believe that the financial assessment is unfair, wrong or inaccurate.

Why We Are Consulting

Why change?

In 2015 the Council introduced a new, more generous, Special Guardian Allowance scheme. This means that there is currently a financial incentive for non-parental carers to seek a special guardianship order rather than a child arrangement order.  This incentive is arbitrary and there is concern that people are making decisions about the legal basis upon which they are willing to care for a child that is founded upon their finances rather than the needs of the child.

The Council proposes bringing the allowances paid to eligible child arrangement carers in line with those already paid to eligible special guardians.

The aim of this consultation is to inform you about the proposals and to provide you with the opportunity to comment on them.

Our Proposals 

Element 1 (Applicability of the scheme)

We propose to introduce a new assessment process to determine whether to award a child arrangement carers allowance. We feel this is a more equitable and transparent approach to offering child arrangement carers allowances.  This new assessment process will consist of:                          

1a. Applicability and Eligibility under this scheme: 

Consideration will first be given to the carer’s eligibility for consideration under the scheme.  The payment of child arrangement carers allowances is discretionary. Allowances are designed to support carers who look after children as an alternative to the child becoming or remaining looked after by the local authority.  They will not be paid to a child’s parent, step-parent, or other person who had parental responsibility for the child before steps were taken to protect the child.  They are also unlikely to be paid to an adult who has lived in the same household as the child for more than a year and was contributing to the maintenance of that child.

A Pre- Order discussion will be held with the proposed carer at an early stage to clarify whether financial support is necessary to ensure that the prospective carer can look after the child. The prospective carer will need to explain why their circumstances are such that they will require financial support in order to care for the child.

1b. Financial Assessment calculation will be undertaken by the Warwickshire County Council Benefits, Assessment and Income Control Team (BAIC) who are also welfare rights experts.  The assessment will be based on the Department of Education guidance.

Element 2 (Amount Awarded)

We propose to apply the 2015 Special Guardianship Allowance Scheme to child arrangement carers.  This means that we shall:-

  1. increase the amount of child arrangement carers allowance payable by 10 percentage points
  2. remove the non-means-tested additional needs based allowance with this award being phased out over a 2 year period for existing carers.
  3. replace the additional needs based allowance with a discretionary  ‘exceptional circumstances’ payment that carers may request.

Element 3 (Financial Eligibility Threshold)

In line with the Special Guardianship Allowance scheme of 2015 the financial eligibility threshold will mean the carer’s first 20% of income is discounted and that the income support level + 25% rate is applied.  This is in line with the recommendations of the Department of Education.

How to have your say on the proposals

Your views are important to us to help us improve the scheme and we would like to hear from you.

This is a four week public consultation starting 10 September 2018 and ending on 08 October 2018. You can put forward your views in the following ways:-

  • Complete the online questionnaire below.
  • Request a paper copy of the questionnaire using the contact details provided here.
  • EMail your views to michellewarren@warwickshire.gov.uk

What will happen after all the information has been gathered?

This consultation will end on 8th October 2018. We will collate and consider all consultation responses and use the information provided to inform the future of child arrangement carer allowances in Warwickshire. It is anticipated that decisions about these changes will be made and implemented at the end of 2018. This web page will be updated with a copy of the consultation report and any decision.

What Happens Next

Thank you to everyone who took the time to tell us their views. All feedback will be considered before the final decisions are made at the end of 2018.

Areas

  • All Areas

Audiences

  • Service users (current or previous)
  • Carers
  • Parents
  • Young people

Interests

  • Social care
  • Children and families
  • Young people
  • Social care and support