This House of Commons Library briefing sets out the system of support for children and young people in England aged 0-25 with special educational needs (SEN).
Parliamentary e-petition 601323 calls on the Government to ensure statutory adoption pay is available to a self-employed parent in the same way that maternity allowance is available for self-employed new mothers.
The Government responded to the petition on 2 February 2022. The response stated that ‘The Government has no plans to extend adoption pay to self-employed adopters. Local Authorities can make discretionary payments to self-employed adopters who do not qualify for adoption pay.’ The full Government response can be viewed on the e-petition homepage.
Financial support during adoption
Women in employment having a baby are usually entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay. For those not entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (eg because they are self-employed) there is a fall back benefit, Maternity Allowance, which may be paid. Employees who are adopting a child may be eligible for Statutory Adoption Pay, which is modelled on Statutory Maternity Pay. However, there is no equivalent of Maternity Allowance for people who are adopting a child and do not meet the qualifying conditions for Statutory Adoption Pay (eg because they are self-employed).
Statutory guidance on adoption, published by the Department for Education and last updated in July 2013, says local authorities should consider making payments equivalent to the Maternity Allowance to adopters who do not qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay:
9.38. Entitlement to Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) and adoption leave and ordinary or additional Statutory Paternity Pay and paternity leave depends on how long the adoptive parent (or their partner) have been employed by their current employer and their average earnings. Both of these conditions are based around the date the adoption agency tells the adoptive parent that they have been matched with a child. The local authority should consider making a payment of financial support equivalent to the Maternity Allowance to adoptive parents who are ineligible to receive SAP because of low earnings, length of service or self-employment, but otherwise satisfy the relevant criteria for Maternity Allowance.
However, there is no legal entitlement to a payment; the guidance merely states local authorities should consider making such payments.
Recent government comment on this issue
On 10 February 2022 the government responded to a question from Julian Sturdy MP asking what assessment it had made of the merits of extending eligibility for statutory adoption pay to the self-employed. The Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, Paul Scully, replied:
The Government recognises that it is crucial to the success of an adoption placement that an adopter takes time off work to care for and bond with their child. So far, the Government has focused on supporting employed parents as they do not generally have the same level of flexibility and autonomy over how and when they work as self-employed parents do.
However, we recognise that affordability may limit the time away from work that some self-employed adopters can take, and therefore statutory adoption guidance says that Local Authorities should consider making a payment – equivalent to Maternity Allowance – in cases where adopters do not qualify for any statutory payment because of their self-employment.
In response to a further parliamentary question on 2 March 2022, the Government said it has “no plans to extend adoption pay to self-employed adopters.” It additionally highlighted that “local Authorities can make discretionary payments to self-employed adopters who do not qualify for adoption pay.”
Previously, on 16 November 2021 Sarah Olney MP asked the government why ‘there is different (a) maternity and (b) adoption financial support for the self-employed; and what steps he plans to take to help ensure that the self-employed are supported during the process of adoption.’ In response the Minister, Paul Scully, stated:
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) forms part of a package of employment rights and protections available specifically to the employed. These rights do not extend to the self-employed because of the difference in the nature of the employment. If you are self-employed and expecting, you can apply for Maternity Allowance which is designed for the flexible nature of self-employment and will support you to take a break from your business prior to, and after, giving birth.
The Government recognises that it is crucial to the success of an adoption placement that an adopter takes time off work to care for and bond with their child. So far, the Government has focused on supporting employed parents as they do not generally have the same level of flexibility and autonomy over how and when they work as self-employed parents do. Statutory adoption guidance says that Local Authorities should consider making a payment – equivalent to Maternity Allowance – in cases where adopters do not qualify for any statutory payment because of their self-employment.
The following is a selection of news and media articles potentially relevant to this debate
Please note: the Library is not responsible for either the views or the accuracy of external content.
Children & Young People Now, Charities welcome three-year extension of Adoption Support Fund, 4 March 2022
Department for Education, Multi-million pound boost for new families as adoptions increase, 3 March 2022
Department for Education, Families across England to receive better support to adopt, 26 July 2021
Adoption UK, Self-employed adopters face unequal treatment if they want to start a family, report finds, 21 March 2018
House of Commons Petitions Committee, Impact of Covid-19 on new parents: one year on: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report HC1132, 7 March 2022
House of Commons Petitions Committee, Impact of Covid-19 on new parents: one year on, HC479, 7 October 2021
An overview of kinship care in England, including the different types of kinship care arrangement, support available for kinship carers, issues, and Government policy.
There will be a Backbench Business Committee debate on the provision of auditory verbal therapy in Westminster Hall on Tuesday 12 December at 9:30am. The debate will be led by Sally-Ann Hart MP.