Special guardians financial support and benefits

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

A special guardianship order (SGO) is made by a family court and states where a child will live to give them security and a permeant home until they are 18 years old.

The most common ways to get financial help include:

  • a special guardian allowance from children’s services
  • other support from children’s services
  • government benefits
  • the adoption support fund
  • support from the child’s parents

Special guardian allowance

You may be able to get a SGO 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 financial situation and your local council’s children’s services don’t have to pay you an allowance. A social worker will assess your financial and personal circumstances, decide what support you should get and review that support every year.

If you do get a SGO allowance, children’s services will use the minimum foster allowance rates set by the government as a guide when looking at your financial situation.

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

Find your local council (GOV.UK)

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 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 for children or a 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 will include looking after a child if you are a kinship carer.

Learn more about Pension Credit for kinship carers

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

Support from the child’s parents

If you have an SGO, the child’s parents must 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 to provide financial support.

If the child’s parents are not able or 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.

Adoption support fund

You may be able to get financial help through the adoption support fund as a kinship carer with an SGO. If you are eligible, children’s services can apply to the adoption support fund for you. Any support you get is to help pay for essential therapeutic services, such as creative therapies, life story work, family therapy and therapeutic short breaks.

Learn more about the adoption support fund for kinship carers (Kinship)

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.

On 15 December 2023 the Government published a National Kinship Care Strategy for EnglandRead the summary here.

The 4-year trial of financial allowances will be piloted in 8 local authorities in England. At present, this will be for special guardians where the child was previously looked after, but we hope that this will be extended to other kinship carers in the future.

Unfortunately, we do not know which local authorities this will be implemented in at this present time, and the timing for the implementation is still unknown.

Further information will be published by the Department for Education in Spring 2024. We will update our website with any news on this, as soon as we learn more!