Information on private foster care, including how you become a foster carer, what that means and what support is available.
Private foster carers financial support and benefits
Information on financial support and benefits available for private foster carers to help pay for the cost of caring for a child.
Private foster care is an arrangement that’s agreed between a child’s parents and an individual who is not a close relative (like a great aunt or uncle, cousin or friend). You are a private foster carer if you’re looking after a child who’s under 16 years old (or under 18 years old if the child has a disability) for 28 days.
As a private foster carer, you do not have parental responsibility for the child. In most cases, the child’s parents must provide financial support, though we often find that they are unable or do not want to.
Allowances and support from children’s services
There is no specific allowance that you can apply for as a private foster carer, but you may be able to claim government benefits, depending on your financial situation.
You may also be able to get one-off or regular payment from your local council’s children’s services department if you are a low-income family, or the child is considered ‘in need’.
There may be further financial help if you are disabled or have a long-term illness.
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 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.
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.
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 will include looking after a child if you are a kinship carer.
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.
Support from children’s services
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 service is discretionary and means-tested, which means it will depend on your specific situation. A social worker from children’s services will assess the child’s needs 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.