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4.3.5 Financial Support in Adoption - Guidance for Social Workers

OTHER RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Financial Guidance for Adoptive Parents

AMENDMENT

This chapter was slightly updated in December 2011. The changes are:

  • Section 5, Level of Financial Support - amends to table of authorisation;
  • Agreement for substantial packages of financial support must be made at Adoption Panel Matching Meeting;
  • Meals paid in line with council’s subsistence rates.

This chapter is currently under review.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Financial Support for Adoptive Placements Guidance on Payments
  3. Eligibility
  4. Assessment for Financial Support
  5. Level of Financial Support
  6. Review of Financial Support
  7. Children in Full Time Education Post Eighteen
  8. Financial Support for New Adoption Placements
  9. Assistance During Introductions
  10. Essential Equipment
  11. Court Fees
  12. Foster Carer Adoptions
  13. Financial Support for Existing Adoption Placements


1. Introduction

Children’s Social Work Service is able, in certain circumstances, to provide financial support to adopters who are adopting children in the care of the Local Authority. Financial support from Local Authorities must compliment and not duplicate financial support available through benefits and tax credits system. Eligibility for financial support is determined as part of the Assessment for Adoption Support Services in line with The Adoption Support Services (Local Authorities) (England) Regulations 2005 (see regulation 8).

A request for an assessment can be made at any time following adoption from any adopter. The Local Authority has a duty to provide an assessment of need however discretion is given to the Local Authority as to the provision of such a service.


2. Financial Support for Adoptive Placements Guidance on Payments

Financial support will only be given in certain circumstances and following an assessment for adoption support, including a financial assessment in line with Departmental procedures.

The Department must be satisfied that the following areas have been covered:

  1. The specific needs and circumstances of the child involved;
  2. The completion of a financial assessment form (which can be found in the Resources and Forms Library) with respect to the adoptive family and an assessment for adoption support needs;
  3. The financial and material implications of placing that child with that family.


3. Eligibility

The following groups of people are entitled on request to an assessment of their needs for adoption support services (see regulation 4):

  1. An adoptive child;
  2. An adoptive parent;
  3. A child of an adoptive parent;
  4. A birth relative (in relation to contact arrangements).

A person entitled to be assessed should then meet the following criteria:-  they should:

  1. live in the Leeds area; or
  2. have at any time in the preceding six months lived in the Leeds area; or
  3. intend to live in the Leeds area.

Where the agency has placed the child with another local authority for adoption it is the responsibility of the Children’s Social Work Service for a period of three years from the date of adoption order to provide or arrange adoption support services. After three years the responsibility lies with the Local Authority of residence except where the department has agreed on-going financial support before the adoption (see reg.7).

Financial support may be provided to adoptive parents where one or more of following circumstances exist:

  1. To ensure that the adoptive parents can look after the child;
  2. Where the child has established a strong and important relationship with the carers before the adoption order is made;
  3. To enable siblings and other children to be placed together;
  4. To meet the special needs of the child;
  5. To facilitate the placement of 'harder to place' children.

See Section 8, Financial Support for New Adoption Placements for further guidance on the financial impact of the child's needs in the adoptive family.


4. Assessment for Financial Support

The term 'financial support' is intended to apply to:

  1. A single lump sum;
  2. A series of lump sum payments to meet a specific need;
  3. A periodic or regular payment payable at intervals to be determined by the Local Authority to meet a specific assessed on-going need (see banding system - Appendix 1).

All payments will be dependent on the outcome of a full assessment for financial support. Exceptions to this rule are:

  • Expenditure for the purposes of introducing a child to their prospective adoptive parents;
  • Settling in grant for new placement;
  • Legal costs, including court fees;
  • Two year period of payments to foster carers who adopt following Adoption Order;
  • For established adoptions where a request is made for financial support, less then £500. For requests between £500 and £1,000, discretion to pay without means test will be made by Head of Service (HoS).

This assessment will consider both the adopters' circumstances and the needs of the child(ren) to be placed or who are already in placement;

All adopters will be asked to complete a Financial Assessment Form. This will take into account both income and expenditure. The form will outline what is taken into account and what is disregarded. If adopters choose not to complete the form, no financial support other than the settling in grant will be paid.

In exceptional circumstances the Local Authority has the discretion to disregard the financial means of adopters in relation to on-going financial support. All these cases must be referred to the HoS for CLA decision. The HoS has the discretion to refer any case to the Review Panel for further consideration for clarification on a decision (see below for role of review panel).


5. Level of Financial Support

The amount of financial support provided in individual cases is a matter for the Local Authority to determine through the assessment process.

The proposed sum of money will then be subject to management approval. Payment (in any one financial year) will be authorised as follows:

Payment amount Authorised by
£500 or less Adoption Team Manager
£1,000 or less Children Services Manager for Adoption
£1,000 or more Adoption Support Services Adviser or delegated person (HoS for CLA)

Adopters will be notified in writing of the outcome of the financial assessment.

Any appeal against a decision made regarding financial support must be lodged within 28 days of receipt of written confirmation of that decision (see Regulation 17). The appeal will be considered by the line manager of the person who made the initial decision. If the matter is then not resolved the matter will go to the Adoption Support Review Panel. Final appeals will be heard by the Adoption Support Services Advisor (ASSA)


6. Review of Financial Support

This will in usual circumstances take place annually.

In most circumstances this will involve written confirmation from the adopter of their current financial circumstances, indicating any changes and of any change in the child's circumstances necessitating a reassessment of the financial support.

Adoptive parents must notify the Finance Section if their financial circumstances change within these reviewing periods.

A review panel will be set up to deal with those cases that require special consideration due to exceptional circumstances arising from the child's needs or the household income of the potential adopters. The panel will consist of HoS, Team Manager Fostering and Adoption, Children's Service Manager and Financial Officer where required.

The Panel may discuss:

  • Cases where the needs of the child are such that without an allowance there would be little possibility of being able to place and where having identified prospective adopters their financial circumstances (when means tested) would preclude financial support;
  • Complaints from adoptive parents where an allowance has been reduced because of the financial circumstances of the adopter or because the assessed needs of the child suggest an allowance is no longer needed;
  • Applications from adopters whose child's needs have increased while in placement (see Reg 8(2) a, b &c 2005 Regs) and where the means-test may preclude financial support;
  • Where an on-going element of remuneration is being considered for foster carers adopting.


7. Children in full time Education Post Eighteen

Financial support will be considered for an adopted person who has reached 18 and is still in full time education or training. This will be on the basis that immediately before he attained the age of eighteen:

  1. He was an adoptive child; and
  2. On-going financial support was payable in relation to him.

It is the responsibility of the adoptive parent to inform the Department prior to the child's eighteenth birthday, if the child / young person is to remain in full time education. It is also a requirement that the adoptive parent notify the Department, once full time education has ceased, in order to avoid any overpayment.


8. Financial Support for New Adoption Placements

Financial support from Local Authorities must not duplicate financial support via the benefits and tax credit system.

Adoptive parents are eligible to apply for statutory adoption pay and leave and statutory paternity pay and leave. There may be other benefits available (e.g. Child Tax Credit).

The needs of the child for financial support will be considered at an early stage. It is only once it has been established that the child has needs requiring additional financial support that the adopter's financial circumstances will come into consideration.

Consideration must be given to current and any potential future needs of the child.

Information can be gathered from a variety of services:

  1. Professional assessments;
  2. Social worker files;
  3. Medical reports and from all health professionals involved;
  4. Family Placement if they are or have been involved;
  5. Previous and current carers including birth family where appropriate;
  6. Educational reports where applicable including nursery and playgroup.

If there is dispute or lack of clarity over a certain issue further appropriate specialist advice should be sought.

The Adoption Placement should then include specific details of the current needs of the child and those for the future.

At the matching stage, consideration must be given to the financial impact of placing that child with that family, giving thought to:

  1. Impact on earning potential if adopter / s unable to continue / re-start work due to care of child;
  2. Any adaptations to the family home;
  3. Any specific or specialised equipment that is required;
  4. Cost of attending appointments in terms of transport and loss of earnings;
  5. Cost of therapies, where required but not available free of charge;
  6. Additional help required in the home;
  7. Cost of respite if not available from Local Authority;
  8. Any other element of the child's special needs both now and in the future that will have a financial impact on the adoptive family.

The full Adoption Support Plan will be contained within the Adoption Placement Report, to be made available to Panel at the matching stage. The plan must be discussed and agreed with adoptive family prior to the Adoption Panel.

Note: Where consideration is being given to the need to offer substantial packages of financial support e.g. Supplementing a person’s wages for a period of time, obtaining a large vehicle or payment for child care costs, then a report must be completed for the finance review panel. Agreement must be sought before the adoption panel matching meeting.

At the Placement Planning Meeting the support needs are addressed within the Adoption Placement Plan.

The Adoption Panel will give their views on financial support from the reports presented to panel:

  1. Regarding the child, at the point when the child is considered suitable for adoption (Child's permanence report & medical reports);
  2. Regarding the adopters, when brought to Panel to be accepted as potential adopters (Adopters preparation report and assessment for adoption support needs );
  3. When the financial assessment is complete and the child is to be matched with adopters (Adoption Placement Report).


9. Assistance During Introductions

Mileage costs are payable during the introductory period before a child is placed. The Fostering and Adoption Officer will provide the adopter with the appropriate form, which must be completed in full.

Adopting school-aged children may mean that introductions occur over a longer period and extra expenses may be incurred in respect of meals. Payments will be made in line with the council’s subsistence rates for meals and receipts must be submitted with the claim.

For adopters needing to be accommodated during the introductory period, reasonable accommodation costs will be reimbursed. Any arrangements must first be discussed with the social worker and agreed by a Fostering and Adoption Manager before booking accommodation. It would be usual for the Department to make the booking arrangements with the hotel. Please contact the Team Manager, Fostering and Adoption, if you are unsure what to do.


10. Essential Equipment

All adopters (other than foster carers who adopt - see below) will receive a 'settling in' grant. This is a one off payment of £500 paid at the time the child is placed & will be paid for all children placed for adoption.


11. Court Fees

The court fees will be paid for all supported agency adopters applying to adopt a child. The Fostering and Adoption Officer must submit an SS470 to Finance asking for reimbursement of the fees.


12. Foster Carer Adoptions

  1. It is essential that foster carers understand that when they are approved to adopt a foster child, their status changes and the child is now placed under The Adoption Agencies Regulations from the date of the adoption panel which approves the match. This also means that financial arrangements must change;
  2. The Adoption Support Services (Local Authorities) (England) Regulations 2005, enables specific financial support to foster carers who adopt as opposed to all other adopters;
  3. Foster carers will not be eligible for the "settling in" grant.

Financial support will be offered to foster carers who adopt in the following way:

All foster carers who adopt will receive financial support for a period of two years following the making of the Adoption Order except in the case where the child is under two years with no identified special needs and is not hard to place.

  1. Where a child is under two years payment will continue only until the point that the Adoption Order is made. Continuation of this payment is to ease the transition to receiving no further payments. The amount of financial support for all foster carers will equal the amount already being paid to foster that child, minus child benefit and child tax credit;
  2. For all other foster carer adoptions at the end of two years the financial support will either:
    1. Cease (e.g. where a child has no identified on-going needs and does not meet the
      eligibility criteria )

      OR

    2. Continue if on-going needs had been identified when the child was originally matched with the adopters. Approval to continue payments must be agreed by the Head of Services (HoS) prior to adoption panel;
    3. On occasions a review of the child's needs will be undertaken at the end of the two year period. e.g. Where the allowance was due to cease but the adoption panel highlighted that a review of the child's needs should be undertaken at the two year stage. This would then determine if on-going financial support should be provided;
    4. If the child meets the eligibility criteria an element of remuneration for foster carers may continue to be paid beyond the two year period providing this is agreed at the time of the match. Approval for on-going remuneration should be sought from the Adoption Support Review Panel via the HoS prior to adoption panel;
    5. The Local Authority has the discretion to disregard the financial means of adopters in relation to on-going financial support. All these cases must be referred to the HoS for a decision. HoS has the discretion to refer any case to the Review panel for further consideration for clarification on a decision;
    6. Where further assistance over and above on-going allowances are required approval must be sought from the Adoption Support Review Panel via the HoS.

Once the Adoption Panel has given a recommendation for the adoption, Finance Section must be informed and the payment code will change.


13. Financial Support for Existing Adoption Placements

If the eligibility criteria is met then an initial assessment for adoption support will be completed in consultation with the Adoption Support Team.

For existing adoption placements a financial means test must be undertaken. See Section 4, Assessment for Financial Support for exceptions to this rule.

If the assessment determines that financial support is required as part of an Adoption Support Plan, the assessment recommendation will be forwarded to the HoS for consideration.

Examples of where payments may be made include specialist therapeutic services, specialist babysitting / respite services, and any additional costs in relation to health needs (see regulation 3).

Payments in these circumstances are likely to be a "one off" lump sum or time-limited payments. On-going payments will be paid only in exceptional circumstances (see regulations 2 (b & c)).

It should be noted that whilst the Department has a duty to assess need it has the discretion to pay any such payment. Where payments are not agreed there is a right of appeal.

End