The use of DLA
There are no conditions laid down by the DWP as to how DLA should be spent. It is intended that the money be used to enhance the child’s life so that the child derives maximum benefit. An appointee for a fostered child receiving DLA have primary responsibility to use the benefit appropriately to support the practical and emotional needs of the child 6 and to save any surplus for the child to use in the future. Foster carers are accountable for their use of DLA to the DWP and not to the Local Authority. Whilst it is not the responsibility of the Local Authority to monitor the use of DLA by a foster carer, if the Local Authority suspects that DLA is being claimed or used inappropriately and/or fraudulently, the Local Authority will refer the matter to the DWP to investigate as misuse of the benefit is a criminal offence.
Misuse of DLA may also, dependent upon the circumstances, result in a consideration of a carers approval by Fostering Services. Where a foster carer is an appointee receiving DLA on behalf of a child or young person in their care, the Supervising Social Worker will seek to support the carer in the appropriate and effective use of DLA. The use of DLA may be used, but is not to be limited to, the following:
• Activities that are costly e.g. horse riding, after school clubs.
• Provision of an escort to enable social events to be attended.
• Extra helper for an outing or holiday.
• Taxi fares for trips out.
• Special holiday for the child, which could include covering the foster family’s expenses.
• Caravan expenses so that the child can have regular breaks in a familiar place.
• Extra support such as child sitting service
• Individual equipment such as computer or communication aids.
• Laundry service and appliances.
•Replacement clothing where there is excessive wear and tear on clothing.
• Additional heating costs.
• Additional help with personal care.
• Special toys to meet child’s needs – which may be of therapeutic value.
• Domestic help to allow carer to spend more time with the child.
Upon reasonable request and notice, a foster carer may be required to evidence to their Supervising Social Worker how they are using DLA on behalf of a child or young person in their care. A Foster Carer’s use of DLA will inform the overall review of their ability to meet the needs of a child or young person in their care and may be a consideration of their continued approval by the Local Authority. DLA is not intended to reduce or substitute support for carers by the Local Authority.
The Local Authority cannot require that the carers purchase items or commission services from money received by DLA that should be provided by the Local Authority. This policy is clear that DLA and Local Authority support for carers are two distinct financial support arrangements for an eligible child and should be seen as complementary. In practice, this means that the foster carers and the Supervising Social Worker should work closely to agree on the effective use of DLA, purchasing items or services which are not or would not funded by the Local Authority but which would nevertheless enhance the life and outcomes of a child in care. The way in which a foster carer may use the DLA will depend on the individual child’s needs. The DWP is ultimately responsible for monitoring the use of DLA. A carer may wish to contact the DLA general enquiries helpline (0845 712 3456) to clarify situations in which it is appropriate to use the DLA to support a particular activity or purchase.