Parents who place their children into care who could be asked to foot the bill, under proposals being considered by Worcestershire County Council.
If adopted, the plans would mean parents being billed for the cost of raising children who are thought to be “not in crisis”, according to a report on Children & Young People Now.
Under the proposals, the council would “seek to recover the full or partial cost of providing a service” from parents with “sufficient means”. Young people over the age of 16 could also be billed for services they use.
The plans have attracted criticism from a number of quarters. Tom Rahilly, who is head of strategy for looked-after children at the NSPCC, said:
“At its worst, such a move could place children at risk of harm. There is also a risk that charging for care services will hamper social workers’ efforts to work with parents to address their problems, which is critical to keeping the child safe and helping prevent the need for care.”
“This could potentially store up costs for local authorities in the future, with a need for more specialist support and care later in the child’s life.”
Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of the Who Cares? Trust, said charging was unlikely to make a significant financial difference.
“A nominal charge will not recoup the costs of intervention, but may put off families from contacting the council and mean children do not get the vital support and services they need.”
But Siobhan Williams of the County Council insisted that the plans were not primarily financial in nature, saying:
“If a family is in a genuine crisis situation or on a limited income, there will not be a charge. The proposals are not about saving money, but about defining relationships with parents and carers, being clear with parents about their responsibility for their children…
We believe that this policy will encourage parents who are financially able and want to do so, to continue to contribute towards aspects of the care of their own child. In a very small number of situations it may also act as a deterrent in cases where there is no crisis, or the crisis is past.”
If the plans were implemented, only a small number of families in the county would be affected, she added.