Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting WN NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
Council chiefs want to charge parents for "non crisis" cases of children put into care
PARENTS who put their children into care face being slapped with a controversial charge, it has emerged.
Council chiefs in Worcestershire say a new “charging policy” will deter parents from “abandoning” children in cases where they are not willing to bring them up.
But it will also apply in situations where children flee the family home of their own accord and end up in care - leading to fears parents will be hit with massive bills if their offspring run away through no fault of their own.
The policy, which Worcestershire County Council wants to introduce from June, will end the age-old principle of taxpayers meeting the full costs for children’s social care.
Under the changes:
- Bosses will “seek contributions towards the costs of certain services” needed to ensure children are looked after
- It includes caring for a youngster “intentionally made homeless or abandoned” by family
- It would also apply to day care services and home care in some cases
- Parents will need to pay the “full cost” of a service if they are deemed to not require any help, or if they reject suitable alternatives, like placing the child with a relative
- If children run away and end up in care, parents will also face making a contribution towards services
- Charges would not apply to parents on benefits or where there are court orders put on children to keep them safe
A hard-hitting report on it says it will help “make better use of council resources” and act as a “potential deterrent” for parents who want to hand their offspring to the state.
Parents also face a charge if a cared-for child damages council accommodation.
It follows concern in neighbouring Gloucestershire that parents were asking for their children to be put into care so they can go out boozing, only to reclaim them days later.
Council chiefs were unable to say yesterday whether Worcestershire has a similar problem.
Latest figures show 633 children in care across Worcestershire, compared to 417 five years ago.
Councillor Liz Eyre, cabinet member for children and young people’s social care, said: “The council has got statutory duties to children and young people, but parents also have duties which need to be spelt out.
“We must have a balance between protecting children, families and using council resources efficiently.”
Bosses say it is a common misperception children from socially deprived families enter care, saying illness, alcohol, domestic and drug abuse all plays a part.
But Councillor Peter McDonald, leader of the opposition Labour group, said: “All of us at some time in life have a crisis, we look to the local authority to help - this is a terrible move that will put economics before children’s well being.
“The last thing we should do is make it more difficult for parents to approach the council when they feel, for whatever reason, they aren’t fit to parent at that moment.”
It would be subject to consultation during May and June, with a view to becoming active from June 30.
COUNCILS have statutory duties to help under 16s assessed as being ‘in need’ under the Children Act 1989 Help can take many forms, from 24-hour residential care at one extreme, to home visits from a social worker at the other end of the spectrum
County Hall say any statutory service which must be required by law will not be charged for, but “contributions” will be sought in circumstances which warrant it
Families deemed fine to do the parenting, or those who reject alternative homes for the child will pay the full care costs
The authority says the move aims to discourage parents from neglecting their children