Housing

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Self333
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:06 pm

Housing

Post by Self333 » Thu Nov 14, 2019 12:51 pm

We have been fostering our 3 old year niece for a year now, however 7 months after her coming to live with us, we were told we have to move as she needs her own bedroom (currently shares with our 9 year old daughter) the problem is we rent privately where we are now so can’t alter the property and in order to remain in the same area we are having to buy a property. This is costing us in excess of £40,000 with deposit. Stamp duty and legal fees (thats without the increase of monthly payments) however our LA are refusing to help with any of these costs (we don’t expect them to pay it all but an offer to pay legal fees or stamp duty would be nice). Can anyone help with whether they should help or am I being naive. They were willing to place her with us originally without any question on sleeping arrangements so how can they change their minds 7 months in and give us no other option but to move without support ( we will do anything to keep her with us rather than go up for adoption and I’m sure they know this). 😡

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: Housing

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:55 pm

Dear Self333

Welcome to the Family and Friends Carers’ discussion board and thank you for your post. My name is Suzie, FRG’s online adviser.

I am sorry to hear about the difficulties that you are experiencing and also that we have not been able to respond to your query sooner.

You are currently a family and friends’ foster carer for your niece. You don’t state what her legal status is. Do you know if she was placed with you under a voluntary arrangement with her parents (known as a section 20 arrangement )? Or if there are current care proceedings in which case she may be subject to a temporary care order or if the care proceedings have been completed there may be a full care order in place.

Usually, children’s services would encourage family and friends’ foster carers to obtain a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) for a child to allow them to remain legally within the family but for the child’s carer to have parental responsibility for her. This would be an alternative to adoption outside the family too.

As part of any fostering arrangement, children’s services have to hold regular Looked After Child review meetings which should be where all aspects of your niece’s care are considered. This is a forum where you can also make sure the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) is aware of any support that is needed to help the stability of the child’s placement. If you are liaising with your niece’s social worker about your accommodation needs you should make sure that your niece’s IRO is also kept informed.

Do you have a copy of your local authority’s family and friends care policy? You can find a link to English local authority policies here . You can check what your local authority says about help with housing costs.

It seems quite unreasonable that you should be asked to move without any support and it may be that children’s services can offer you some support. However, they don’t have a specific duty to offer any particular support.

In order to help you make an argument for support it may be helpful for you to know what the relevant guidance and standards say about housing, as this is understandably an issue for many family and friends’ carers.

This is what the Department for Education’s statutory guidance on family and friends care (2011) says should be considered, often to prevent a child going into care.

Accommodation

4.24 Family and friends carers may need support with accommodation, as their homes may not be of sufficient capacity to suddenly take on the care of a child or possibly a sibling group of children. They may have long since downsized their accommodation, and suddenly find themselves under pressure for living and sleeping space. Living in cramped conditions may well add to the pressures of caring for a child. Housing authorities and registered social landlords should be engaged to ensure that their policies recognise the importance of the role performed by family and friends carers, and that whenever possible family and friends carers living in social housing are given appropriate priority to move to more suitable accommodation if this will prevent the need for a child to become looked after.
4.25 Local policies should help to ensure that housing and social care services work in partnership to support the housing needs which may face family and friends carers across the range of legal circumstances outlined in chapter 3.
4.26 Local authorities have the power under section 17 of the 1989 Act to give financial support towards accommodation costs where they assess this as the most appropriate way to safeguard and promote a child’s welfare.

The local authority’s Family and Friends’ Care policy should include things like:

Housing: there should be a protocol between children’s services and the housing department /social landlords to prioritise needs to family and friends carers for suitable accommodation to prevent a child going into care. So if you would need larger accommodation to take on the care of the child and you rent a house from the council or a housing association you can ask for a transfer to larger premises.

This is what it says about bedrooms for children in kinship foster care:

5.30 Sometimes family and friends carers will find that taking a child or children into their home places undue pressure on their accommodation which would make it unsuitable in the case of another foster carer. Children living with family and friends foster carers have the same rights to privacy and suitable sleeping accommodation as other looked after children, but these should be seen as part of the total assessment of suitability, to be balanced against other factors. A child who would be unhappy to share a bedroom with a child unknown to them may not mind sharing with another child who is a relative and who they know well. They may already be living in the carer’s home and happy with the overall situation. In approving the foster carer the fostering service will need to be satisfied that there is adequate space to a suitable standard, as set out in Standard 10.6 of the NMS, or if this is not the case set out proposals as to how it will be met in the future. The wishes and feelings of the child will be an important factor in helping the social worker to assess the suitability of the accommodation.

National Minimum Fostering Standards do specify that: In the foster home, each child over the age of three should have their own bedroom.

But, they go on to say that:

If this is not possible, the sharing of a bedroom is agreed by each child’s responsible authority and each child has their own area within the bedroom.

9 and 3 year old cousins, both girls, sharing a bedroom does not seem unreasonable.

In your case, have you and the local authority fostering team reached an agreement that the best way forward to provide the extra space for your niece is for you to buy a larger property? Was this agreed in writing with a plan of support?

There is certainly a strong argument to be made that children’s services could assist you with your housing needs to ensure that you can continue caring for your niece and for her to live in a home that is suitable for her as she grows up. You are right to spell out what help you think that you need and why and to make sure that this is fully explored by children’s services and that they respond to your request for this help in writing with reasons if they won’t help. However, while they should help try to help you to mitigate any limitations to your (the carer’s) capacity to care for a foster child (Fostering Services National Minimum Standards 30.4) that is not to say that they have a duty to provide any particular help. So whilst it is worth trying you don't have a right to a specific type of support.

The best thing to do is probably to argue (in writing, with reference to the above) for what help you feel you and your family need in order to continue to offer a safe and stable home for your niece and to try to negotiate for the best package of support you can get. You could ask if the local authority would be willing to pay for you to get some legal advice – they should be able to provide you with a copy of their policy on when they help family and friends carers to access legal advice.

If you are unable to get support you can can make a complaint and you can find out more about how to do this here.

The Local Government Ombudsman can investigate in situations where a family member has exhausted children’s services complaints process.

I hope this helps and that you are able to get some support.

With best wishes

Suzie

Self333
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:06 pm

Re: Housing

Post by Self333 » Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:12 pm

Hi Suzie

Thank you for your reply.

My niece is living with us after a full care order was granted in January of this year.

We have 6 monthly lac reviews the next being in 2 weeks so I will bring the finance situation up then, as I have emailed social services regarding help with the following:

£30,000 deposit
£9749 stamp duty
£1700 legal/mortgage fees
£200 per month increase in monthly payments (rent v mortgage)
Plus the fact we have to carpet the whole house plus flooring to the kitchen and wet areas.

We did not ask that all costs be reimbursed just that maybe the legal fees or some towards stamp duty or regular monthly payments to cover the increase in mortgage payments, but unfortunately I just got a very short response saying that are not willing to assist with costs.

I feel this is very unfair as my niece also has a half brother and his foster family have been advised that social services will either pay for a loft conversion (I must add they live in a rented housing association property) if they are allowed or will fund there move and increased rental payments if any, this to me seems like we are being penalised as we will own our own home.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 597
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: Housing

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Wed Jan 08, 2020 2:32 pm

Dear Self333

Thank you for your response.

I think that I can only advise you to complain (if you have not done so already) to the local authority asking them to show you a copy of their policies that say that they cannot (or must not) help foster carers with any costs relating to housing.

Perhaps it would also be useful to ask them what support is available to families in your situation as they may be able to offer you an alternative to home ownership, if there is such a thing in your area.

Best wishes

Suzie

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