Housing benefit barrier to shared parenting
Friday, December 15, 2017 at 2:32PM
FNF Scotland in housing, housing benefit, non-resident parents

Research from the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning documents many of the issues faced by separated parents whose children live with them for less than half the time.  Parents who rely on housing benefit may only be able to take shared accommodation without bedroom space for their children to stay with them.

At present, people out of work or in low-waged jobs can claim housing benefit for up to 100 per cent of their rent. Most single people under 35 in the private rented sector are restricted to the shared accommodation rate (SAR); their housing benefit is set at a level to cover the rent on a room in a shared house. Before 2012, the SAR only applied to those aged 25 or younger. By increasing the SAR to age 35, the government increased the likelihood that non-resident parents would be included.

Key issues raised in the study included:
- Difficult behaviour of other housemates
- Children disturbing housemates
- A lack of space for children to sleep (often sharing the parent’s room)
- Substandard properties
- Landlord rules banning children from visiting properties or staying overnight

These problems have an impact upon children in these families. They are unable to have friends over when staying with their other parent. They may lack lack privacy with other unconnected adults in the accommodation. They may find their relationship with their non-resident parent damaged. The child’s resident parent is also likely to object even though the by doing so they will themselves be affected, with most or all of the overnight care falling to them.

The study suggest various changes in housing provision and benefits that would make things easier for so-called "non-resident parents" who have overnight childcare.

Although the Scottish Government moved to mitigate some of the effects of the bedroom tax many of the problems outlined in this study apply here. It is estimated that 5% of men aged 16-64 are fathers to non-resident children.

FNFS will suggest to the Scottish Government that more could be done to make shared parenting easier for people in rented accommodation or depending on housing benefit.

Article originally appeared on Families Need Fathers Scotland (http://www.fnfscotland.org.uk/).
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