More councils look at care charges for parents

By Neil Puffett

| 13 August 2013

At least two further councils are considering following Worcestershire in introducing a controversial system to charge parents if their children are taken into care, CYP Now has learned.

Councils could soon start charging some parents for looking after children in care homes.

On the back of a launch of a consultation by Worcestershire County Council on the idea, the head of a leading children’s charity has warned that others are contemplating following suit.

Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of the Who Cares? Trust, told CYP Now that she is aware of at least two more local authorities that are considering introducing a similar charging system.

She declined to name the authorities considering the move, but said: “This is something an increasing number of authorities are considering.

“I know of at least two others considering it.”

Under the Worcestershire proposals, parents could be forced to pay up to £900-a-month in “non-crisis” situations.

A child may also be asked to contribute to the cost of their own care if they are over 16 and are deemed to have enough cash.

Certain exemptions will be made, including parents in receipt of income support or child tax credit, jobseeker's allowance, or state pension.

The proposals have already been opposed by the NSPCC and Barnardo’s.

Finlayson said the Worcestershire plans would put extra pressure on social workers.

“The administrative burdens on social workers and the added work for them is something we should be concerned about,” she said.

“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.

“It is difficult to see how a policy like this, if robustly implemented, could sit with making decisions that are in the child’s best interest.

“I imagine social workers will be concerned that this will affect their relationship with parents.

“This looks like a dangerous sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

A consultation on the proposals in Worcestershire is due to end on 11 October.

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