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Ministers write to local authorities about housing benefit changes and foster carers

Impact of changes reduced where one spare room is used for foster child

Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform in the Department for Work & Pensions, and Edward Timpson, Children and Families Minister in the Department for Education, have written a joint letter to local authorities about the housing benefit under-occupancy rules and their impact on foster carers. 

Following the changes to housing benefit rules which came into effect on 1st April 2013, a reduction of 14% will apply to the eligible rent if a social housing tenant is under-occupying by one bedroom and 25% if under-occupying by two or more. 

The letter explains:

"For the purposes of housing benefit, foster children are not considered to be part of the carer's household. For this reason no personal allowance is awarded for a foster child if the carer is in receipt of benefits (including housing benefit) and likewise a bedroom was not allocated for use by foster children. The Government had allocated £5m to the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) scheme to provide a level of protection to foster carers affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy. However, in response to concerns that DHPs were subject to discretion and may not be permanent, the Government announced on 12th March that legislation would be amended to put that help beyond doubt by allowing one spare bedroom for foster carers, in both private and social sector housing."

The letter confirms that "size criteria rules will, however, continue to apply across both the private and social rented sectors if foster carers have more than one spare room allocated to foster children."

The letter can be read here.