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Kinship carers exempt from tax credit cap

Kinship carers will not face a two-child cap on tax credits following Lords debate

The House of Lords has accepted a move to exempt kinship carers from the two-child cap on tax credits, a key part of the government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

In a debate this week, The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth said the government should be supportive of kinship carers or fostering or adopting families taking three of more children, often to keep siblings together, “not really because it saves money for the public purse and the Exchequer—though it does—but because it is the right and good thing, to be welcomed by this House, Parliament and the Government”.

Baroness Sherlock highlighted that while the average child tax credit claimed by families with three or more children is £3,670 a year, it costs £40,000 a year to keep one child in foster care.

“A Family Rights Group survey found that almost half of kinship carers had to give up work permanently to take on the children, thus pushing them into reliance on benefits. The state should not be putting financial barriers in the way of families willing to take on often vulnerable children,” she added.

Baroness Butler-Sloss said she found it “quite extraordinary” that the government do not exclude adoption and kinship care from the two-child cap on tax credits.

“They use the Bill as an opportunity to deprive these families of a comparatively small amount of money, put against the cost to the taxpayer of keeping in care children who could otherwise be living in a family of which they are truly members,” she added.

Baroness Drake added: “For adopters and kinship carers, the behavioural disincentive in the two-child limit is directed at their taking on responsibility for that existing vulnerable child. Imposing the two-child limit will deter adopters or kinship carers from coming forward to take on a sibling group, or a child if they have dependent children of their own, undermine the child’s interest and potentially increase the number in care. This is inconsistent with the Government’s commitment to ensuring that families are stable and create the best possible environment for children to flourish.”

The amendment to exempt kinship carers from the cap was passed while adopters of sibling groups will also be protected from the cap. The exemptions will be enforced through regulations that accompany the bill.

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions Lord Freud announced, “that in recognition of the important role which family and close friends can play in caring long term for children who are unable to live with their parents and could otherwise be at risk of entering the care system, we are in favour of an exemption for children in such circumstances”.

He added that the government was in favour of an exemption where there were previously fewer than two children in the household and the adoption of a sibling group causes the number of children to exceed two.

The full debate is available here.

Why Kinship Care should be utilised more frequently by Mark Willis

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