Councils consider charging parents for children in care

WorcesterAt least three councils are considering charging parents if their children are taken into care.

Earlier this month, Worcestershire County Council published a consultation on plans to charge parents as much as £900 a month for “non-crisis” situations. Children over the age of 16 could also be made to pay towards the cost of their keep, Children & Young People Now reports.

Parents receiving child tax credits or some benefits would be exempted from the charges. The Council is looking to make cuts in its budget of £90 million over a four year period.

The idea was described as “really outrageous and really stupid” by the county’s Labour leader, Peter McDonald. He said:

“Expecting parents who have had their children taken into care, often against their wishes, to then pay towards the costs of their care, is something that just will not happen.”

The policy was, he added, “being driven by finance rather than by children’s welfare and raises the spectre of turning social workers into bailiffs as they chase unpaid bills from troubled families.”

But other councils are now reported to be looking into similar schemes. Nastasha Finlayson of the care charity the Who Cares? Trust told Children & Young People Now:

“This is something an increasing number of authorities are considering. I know of at least two others considering it.”

She added:

“Under the Worcestershire plans, social workers would be responsible for initiating a request for money and deciding whether an exemption applies, but I don’t know many social workers with the spare time on their hands to do this. Overall it is just not a child-centred approach.”

Tom Rahilly of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said the scheme, if implemented, could end up costing councils more money rather than saving funds.

“Families that need support at an early stage will worry that they could face bills in the future and will avoid seeking the help they need. Help and care arriving at a later stage, will inevitably cost more  as the problems  will often have got much worse.”

The Worcestershire consultation runs until October.

 Photo of Worcester by Russ Hamer via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence

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