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Proposals to charge parents for seeking help is reviewed
CONTROVERSIAL proposals to charge parents for putting their children into care have been watered down by council chiefs, it has emerged.
Worcestershire County Council, which has come under fire from anti-cruelty campaigners, has made significant alterations ahead of a vital consultation ending.
After stinging criticism from objectors, the authority now says the policy will not be retrospective, meaning parents of children currently in care are safe from any charges.
The stance will protect just over 600 children in the system now, and leave the charging policy to new entrants deemed to be in “non-crisis” situations.
And the county council also says outstanding charges will not be passed onto children once they turn 16.
Both measures are an attempt by the Conservative leadership to appease critics, including the NSPCC, ahead of the consultation closing on Friday, October 11.
As your Worcester News first revealed in March, the cash-strapped authority wants to hit parents with a bill if they are deemed capable of looking after a child themselves.
It is aimed at tackling what the council calls “rare cases” of parents not accepting their offspring back into the family home.
Councillor Liz Eyre, cabinet member for children and families, said it could continue to “evolve” over the coming weeks.
She said: “The council understands its statutory duties – there are no proposals where a family is in any form of crisis.
“Where there is a court order we are under a statutory duty and would consider the family to be ‘in crisis’ charges would not apply.
"The policy would only apply where a child has been voluntarily placed into care – in other words, when the family have agreed to it.”
Coun Eyre says it would also allow the council to accept contributions from parents who are willing to make them.
But the NSPCC is still objecting to the idea, as well as rival politicians, who say it should be scrapped altogether.
Councillor Richard Udall, from the opposition Labour group, has labelled the policy “embarrassing” for Worcestershire.
“It would be a disincentive for parents seeking help with their children,” he said.
“They will not turn for help and advice to social workers if they thought a charge for their services could be imposed.”
The NSPCC is still calling for it to be axed, and believes it could place children at “significant risk”.
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