Financial help information

SlimRIck
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:05 pm

Financial help information

Postby SlimRIck » Tue Mar 11, 2014 9:44 am

Hi,
Apologies for the copy and paste of an email I sent you last week, I thought this might be a better place to ask for advice:

I was in a relationship with someone for 9 years, she had a son from a previous marriage (T***). T***’s biological father has had no contact with him since he was 3.

In June 2012 we separated, partially due to a drink and drugs problem she had been battling with for some years. I moved away to a different part of the country.

On December 10th 2012 I received a phone call from Child Protection Services asking if I would look after T*** as his mum was no longer in a fit state to care for him through drink and drugs. I agreed, and that afternoon Social Services did a background check on me and called me to arrange to meet and hand T*** over. By 9pm that evening, T*** was in my care and we were on our way home.

I have been asking social services for financial help ever since then and have received very little – in total, less that £500 to cover school uniform, petrol to go and collect him from the social worker, and the cost of applying for a Residence Order.
I have not applied for the Residence Order yet as I believe their obligation to offer support will end once this is granted.

T*** has received 4 visits from social services since he moved in with me, and each time I ask about financial assistance I am promised that it will be looked into. The current social worker has said that once a Residence Order is granted I will be entitled to about £60 per week, but from my research it seems as if I should have been paid at least the minimum fostering allowance since T*** came to live with me.

Of course, my decision to look after T*** was not financially motivated, but we do struggle financially every month and I was hoping you could advise whether we are eligible for help.

SlimRIck
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:05 pm

Re: Financial help information

Postby SlimRIck » Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:07 am

To add, I've just received a call from the social worker answering a couple of questions:

T*** is not a Looked After Child as there is no care order in place. T***'s mum could come and try to take him tomorrow if she wanted and they would then obtain an order.
I have no status on their system
She did confirm that it wasn't a voluntary arrangement as they did place T**** with me.

Not sure if any of the above helps or just confuses the matter more.

SlimRIck
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:05 pm

Re: Financial help information

Postby SlimRIck » Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:25 am

Final addendum...for now :) I found a photograph of the letter that T***'s mum signed when he was taken - here is the text:

I *Mother's full name* give my signed permission for T*** to reside with his step father, *My full name* whilst social care assessments are being undertaken. Should T*** need medical attention whilst in his care, I give my full permission for medical attention to be sought and for T*** to be treated.

Both *Mother's name* and *My name* are to contact the Local Authority should there be a change in these arrangements.

Signed by T***'s mother

Witnessed by *Social Worker's signature
Police officer's signature

I don't know if it makes a difference, but I was never married to T***'s mother, even though I am referred to in the letter as "Step Father".

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David Roth
Posts: 2022
Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2006 10:14 am

Re: Financial help information

Postby David Roth » Wed Mar 12, 2014 12:20 pm

Hi SlimRIck, and welcome to the family and friends carers' discussion forum.

You have raised a number of questions in your posts, and I will try to deal with the points you have brought up.

The most important point is whether or not the child/young person you are now raising is looked after or not.

The statement you say the social worker made, that he cannot be looked after because there is no care order, is untrue. Children can be looked after voluntarily, at the request of their parents, under section 20 of the 1989 Children Act. The important question is whether this child is looked after or not.

There are case law precedents to suggest that he ought to be. If the local authority plays a major role in placing the child with a relative or friend, then unless the carer gives informed consent at the time to a different legal arrangement, then the child should be considered to be looked after under section 20. The carers should be given temporary fostering approval, paid the full fostering allowance, and go through a full fostering assessment.

The full legal references for the cases which are most relevant to your situation are: R (SA) v Kent County Council [2011] EWCA Civ 1303; and London Borough of Southwark v D [2007] EWCA Civ 182. The second of these cases is particularly relevant to your circumstances, as it involved Southwark placing a child with an ex-partner of the child's father. The court, and then the appeal court, decided the the child should have been looked after.

The Local Government Ombudsman also recently published an adjudication on a case which has some similarities with yours. It involves an ex-partner who had a child placed with him by the local authority after the mother's death. The Ombudsman found that the child should have been looked after, and the carer should have been receiving a fostering allowance. You can download the report from this webpage - the case I am referring to is on page 7 of the report: http://www.lgo.org.uk/news/2013/nov/fam ... ombudsman/

It appears that the local authority are trying to use the mother's signature to say that this is a private arrangement between you and her. I believe that it is worth contesting this. The Ombudsman's report contains this statement: "Our investigation found that it could not have been an informal arrangement as the arrangement was not made directly between John and Zoe’s mother."

If this is what they are saying you could contest it by making a formal complaint. If you do this, I would suggest providing the legal references I have provided, and asking that they be checked with the local authority's legal department. In addition, if you provide a reference to the Ombudsman's decision, it could show that there would be a good chance of the Ombudsman finding in your favour, if the local authority's own complaints procedure doesn't find for you.
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser

SlimRIck
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:05 pm

Re: Financial help information

Postby SlimRIck » Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:33 pm

Many thanks David,

I have drafted a letter of complaint, based upon a template found on this site, and also the information you very kindly provided above.

SlimRIck
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:05 pm

Re: Financial help information

Postby SlimRIck » Mon Mar 24, 2014 2:09 pm

I had a phone call from the team manager on Friday, 12 days since my complaint was presented, followed up by an email received today:

"It has been agreed that we will pay the fostering allowance to yourself. This will be back dated and any money paid out will be deducted including child benefit. You are also advised that you cannot claim child benefit whilst receiving fostering allowance.

***** Local Authority would want you to obtain a Residence Order at which time you would receive Residence Order payments which are means tested. "

It's a huge relief - the foster allowance will be backdated to the end of 2012 when **** came to live with me.

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David Roth
Posts: 2022
Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2006 10:14 am

Re: Financial help information

Postby David Roth » Thu Mar 27, 2014 9:15 am

Excellent news! You must have presented them with a case that they knew they could not win against.

You have mentioned a couple of times that they are suggesting you apply for a residence order. If you do decide to apply for an order, then you may want to give some time to considering whether Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order would be better for you.

There are some similarities between the two orders, in that both would give you parental responsibility without taking it away from the parents. However SGO is in some ways a stronger order. Under SGO, the law states that you have the exclusive right to exercise parental responsibility, in other words you are the sole decision-maker. You are also entitled to get an assessment of your need for financial support and support services under an SGO — with RO, the law just gives the local authority the discretionary power to pay a RO allowance.

There is quite a bit more detail than I can spell out here. If you want to make more of a comparison between the two orders, you can read our detailed advice sheets 18 and 19, which not only describe what the orders are but also take you through how to apply for them without legal representation if you so choose: http://www.frg.org.uk/need-help-or-advice/advice-sheets
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser


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