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Authority will charge parents of kids in care
Updated 10:43am Sunday 9th March 2014 in News
CONTROVERSIAL plans to charge some parents who put children into care have been rubber-stamped by Worcestershire County Council.
The Conservative cabinet yesterday agreed the new charging regime after shrugging off impassioned calls for a re-think.
Under the policy, the council will be able to ask parents to pay towards a child's social care if the family is not considered to be "in crisis".
The move, first revealed last year, has been subjected to fierce criticism over recent months, including from the NSPCC.
During a debate which saw it finalised at County Hall, councillors insisted they had faith in the policy.
Councillor Liz Eyre, cabinet member for children and families, said: "What we are doing is clear - we will not ask for any contribution from a family in crisis.
"We might ask, in other cases, for a contribution but it's only for a minority of rare circumstances where we would do so.
"One example might be where a child is ready to go home, but the parents refuse.
"But we will never do it when somebody is at risk."
Under the guidance, charges will not be allowed if there is a court order in place around safeguarding.
Parents on benefits and low incomes will also not be asked to pay, as each case will be subjected to a means assessment.
Those asked to pay could be asked to make " contribution", which could include help for clothing or funds for a day trip, said Cllr Eyre.
Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said: "Clearly we've thought about this very carefully.
"What it does reinforce is the importance of working in partnership (with parents), and contributions will be a minor element in that."
The scheme has been criticised strenuously by critics, who claim the council is putting financial needs above the children's welfare.
But the council says with around 700 children currently in care and an extra £3.5 million being pumped into the service, it has to look at its costs carefully.
It is also hoping the charging policy will deter parents willing to neglect their offspring, saying there are rare cases when this happens.
The authority also says there are some cases where parents want to pay a contribution, but until now there was no mechanism in place for them to do so.
After the meeting Councillor Pattie Hill, Labour’s childcare spokesperson, said: "Children in care already have a multitude of problems and these charges will acerbate them.
"Social workers will have extra work loads which itself is both a problem and further cost to the authority."