Child arrangements order financial support and benefits

Information and advice on the types of financial support available to kinship carers with a child arrangements order.

A child arrangements order (CAO) is made by a family court and states where a child will live, as well as who they can spend time with and for how long.

The most common ways to get financial help include:

  • support from the child’s parents
  • government benefits
  • a child arrangements allowance from children’s services
  • Section 17 support from children’s services

There may also be further financial help if you or the child you care for are disabled or have a long-term illness.

Support from the child’s parents

If you have a CAO, the child’s parents have a responsibility to help pay for the cost of caring for them. However, you need to agree this together and we often find that a child’s parents are not able or don’t want to provide that financial support.

If the child’s parents refuse to help pay for the child’s care, you can contact the Child Maintenance Service (GOV.UK) for advice and support. You will usually have to pay a fee.

Support from children’s services

If you have a child arrangements order, you can ask for support from children’s service in two ways: a child arrangements allowance or under Section 17 of The Children Act 1989 if a child is assessed as ‘in need’.

Child arrangements allowance

You may be able to get a CAO allowance from your local council’s children’s services department to help with the cost of caring for a child.

It’s important to know that the allowance is discretionary and means-tested, which means it will depend on your situation and you may not get one. A social worker will assess your financial situation, decide what support you should get and review that support every year.

If you do get a CAO allowance, the amount you receive should not be less than a fostering allowance paid by your local children’s services.

You are more likely to get an allowance if the child was in care of children’s service before the CAO was made.

You can ask to see your local council’s family and friends care policy, which will include information about CAO allowances.

Find your local council (GOV.UK)

Section 17 support

Under Section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989, every council has to provide a range of family support services, which includes financial support.

That means you may be able to claim one-off payments to help pay for items such as bedroom furniture and nursery costs. If you are a low-income family, you may be able to get regular payments to help pay for the cost of caring for the child.

All support from children’s services will depend on your specific situation. A social worker from children’s services will assess the child and decide if they are a ‘child in need’. They will then make a decision about what support you should get.

Any financial support you receive from children’s services gets reviewed every year.

Find your local council (GOV.UK)

Government benefits

You may be able to claim one of the following government benefits to help you with day-to-day living costs and the cost of caring for a child.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit for people of working age who are on a low-income. You can be working, looking for work, sick or disabled, or caring a child or disabled person.

Learn more about Universal Credit for kinship carers

Child Benefit

Child Benefit is paid to anyone bringing up a child under 16 years of age or a young person under 20 years of age who is in approved education or training. Only one person can get child benefit and there is no limit to how many children you can claim for.

Learn more about Child Benefit for kinship carers

Pension Credit

If you are over State Pension age, you may be able to get Pension Credit, which is separate to your State Pension. It gives you extra money to help pay for day-to-day living costs, which include will include looking after a child if you are a kinship carer.

Learn more about Pension Credit for kinship carers

Guardian’s Allowance

If you are bringing up a child whose parents have died, you could be able to get a Guardian’s Allowance. You may also be eligible if there is one surviving parent. Guardian’s Allowance is tax-free and you can get it on top of any Child Benefit you receive.

Learn more about Guardian’s Allowance (GOV.UK)

Support from Kinship

Here at Kinship, we offer a range of free support for all kinship carers, including workshops, online advice and information, and peer support groups.

Contact our advice service to speak to an adviser or book an appointment.