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An investigation brought about after a complaint made by a woman who was caring for her nephew has revealed that hundreds of carers on Merseyside have been missing out on benefits they were entitled to.
The woman, who was caring for her nephew after a domestic violence incident, complained that Liverpool City Council did not consider her nephew a ‘looked after child’. This decision by the council meant that she was not receiving the support and financial payments that she would have been eligible to claim if the council had accepted that she was a family and friends foster carer, and the care she provided was not a 'private arrangement' between her and the child's parents.
When, months later, the woman obtained a special guardianship order for her nephew and started receiving special guardianship allowance, the council began deducting child benefit from the allowance payments. This deduction was contrary to guidance from the government that recommended that councils should not make deductions from this allowance in cases where the recipient was also receiving income support.
After beginning an investigation into the woman’s complaint, the Local Government Ombudsman discovered that underpayment of carers in Liverpool was a widespread problem, with over 300 people affected. The Ombudsman’s investigation found that the council had been underpaying both foster carers and also people receiving the special guardianship allowance.
As a result of the investigation, the Ombudsman recommended that Liverpool City Council pay backdated allowances totalling nearly £11,000 to the woman who had first made a complaint. The council also agreed not to deduct child benefit from any allowances this woman receives while she is in receipt of income support. Additionally, the council is also making backdated special guardianship allowance payments to 146 people and backdated fostering allowances to a further 194 carers.
At Canter Levin & Berg our Family Law team can provide legal support and assistance to people who are faced with a number of problems relating to domestic violence and the care and protection of children and vulnerable adults. After hearing about the underpayment of foster carers and those caring for a child under a special guardianship order, Hazel Roberts, Head of Family Law at Canter Levin & Berg said:
‘Unfortunately, we now live in a society where many children are not cared for by their biological parents. Fortunately, a lot of those children are cared for by extended family members. However, children are our most vulnerable members of society, and deserve the financial support that enables them to have an upbringing that does not place them at a disadvantage simply because their parents cannot care for them.’
If you have a family law issue that you would like help with, such as making an application to court for a special guardianship order, then talk to our solicitors. Call now on 0151 239 1181 or submit an enquiry through our website and a member of the Family Law department will call you back to discuss your situation.