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06.03.13

Bedroom tax could limit fostering

11 children’s charities have warned that the introduction of the spare bedroom tax – which the Government calls the under-occupancy penalty or the ‘spare room subsidy’ – could make it more difficult for people in social housing to become foster carers.

In an open letter to work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan-Smith and chancellor George Osborne, they highlight that foster children will not be counted when assessing the number of occupants in social housing. This means that carers will have their housing benefits reduced.

The Government has given £30m to a discretionary housing payment fund, with £5m earmarked for foster carers. It is facing a legal challenge from 22 claimants and considerable opposition from a number of disability charities and campaigners.

The letter, signed by Barnado’s, Action for Children and the Fostering Network, reads: “There is already a recruitment crisis in foster care with 9,000 new foster carers needed across the UK, and the Government acknowledges and supports the urgent need to find more foster carers. These new rules will make it even more difficult for people in social housing to become foster carers at a time when we urgently need more to come forward.

“The Government proposed these changes to address residential under-occupancy and to provide incentives for employment. Neither of these rationales is relevant to foster carers, who are required to have a spare room in order to provide homes for vulnerable children.”

A DWP spokesman said: “It's fair that we ensure social housing is used appropriately and that the state no longer pays for people to live in homes too big for their needs. However we've provided £30m to councils to ensure that groups like foster carers and disabled people are protected.”

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