This is the third article in our Foster Carer Finance Guide, which aims to provide foster carers with a better understanding of all things Tax, National Insurance and their Benefit Entitlements.

We’ve previously discussed foster carer tax and self-assessments and whether foster carers have to pay National Insurance, and now we hope to shed some light on what benefits foster carers are entitled to and how fostering may affect your other benefits.

The current benefits system is complicated and is dependent on your personal circumstances, so while this article offers you guidance on benefits and what foster carers can claim, we’d also recommend you seek professional advice for specific queries.

What benefits are available to foster carers?

Depending on your personal circumstance, you as a foster carer may be eligible to a number of different benefits, which are listed below.

Firstly, there are two types of benefits. The first kind are contributory benefits which are for people who have worked and paid National Insurance Contributions and include;

– Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
– Employment Support Allowance (ESA)
– Retirement Pension, Widows Pension, and Maternity Benefits

The other type of benefits are non-contributory benefits, which are dependent on your income (aka means-tested benefits). These include;

– Carers Allowance (fostering income is disregarded)
– Income Support
– Working Tax Credit
– Child Tax Credit
– Jobseeker’s Allowance (income based)
– Housing and Council Tax Benefit

There are also some other non-contributory benefits that are not means tested, which include;

– Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
– Personal Independence Payment
– Attendance Allowance
– Universal Credits and other forthcoming changes to the benefits system

Can foster carers claim benefits?

Payments from fostering are not counted towards income when calculating whether you are eligible for means-tested benefits, such as income support, child tax credit, housing benefit and more.

You will also have access to the contributory benefits should you need them, if you have enough qualifying years of National Insurance contributions.

Can foster carers get income support?

Yes, foster carers looking after a child under the age of 16 may be able to claim income support. While you wouldn’t be expected to look for work, you would need to attend “work focussed” interviews every 6 months to 3 years to review your claim. If a child in your care leaves, you will need to switch to Job Seeker’s Allowance.

If you’re looking to claim Job Seeker’s Allowance, you’ll be expected to look for work for the number of hours that your fostering duties allow, but a minimum of 16 hours will apply. If you’re waiting for a foster placement and have no children of your own, you must be available for 40 hours a week.

Can I still claim housing benefit while fostering?

Housing benefit is means-tested and so if your household income is below the threshold (your fostering income should be disregarded), then you should still be able to claim for housing benefit.

Can foster parents claim child benefit?

Child Benefit is means-tested, so will be dependent on your income and can only be claimed on your own children, not any children you have in placement.