Ealing Council's 'foster to avoid benefits cut' call condemned

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
Image caption Nick Clegg said Ealing Council was wrong

A London council has been criticised for sending out leaflets suggesting people foster a child to avoid losing benefits if they have empty bedrooms.

Under government plans, social housing tenants who have a spare bedroom could have housing benefit cut from 1 April.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the Labour-run Ealing Council should not have sent out the leaflets.

The council said foster care applicants would not be approved if their "sole motivation" was financial gain.

A caller to the deputy prime minister's weekly radio phone-in on LBC 97.3, who gave her name only as Lisa, said she had received a letter from Ealing Council suggesting she could "subsidise" the loss by taking in a foster child.

Rigorous assessment

Mr Clegg said it was wrong for councils to suggest families should take such a drastic step simply to cover a 14% cut in benefit.

"I think it is not right for Ealing Council to take what was an exemption that we announced a couple of weeks ago when we said foster families will not be covered by this and then to use that locally to say 'why don't you turn yourself into a foster family?'," he said.

An Ealing Council spokeswoman said: "We want as many people as possible to consider fostering and recognise welfare benefit changes may have appeared to be a barrier to some families who could become potential foster parents.

"Until recently foster families were not exempt from the changes regarding spare bedrooms so we produced a leaflet to explain the position."

She added: "We have a very rigorous assessment process and if financial gain was the sole motivation the applicant would not be approved."

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