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Controversial move "could place children at risk of harm"
7:00am Tuesday 12th March 2013 in Local
PARENTS who put their children into care could face being charged, it has emerged.
Worcestershire County Council bosses say a new charging policy will deter parents from abandoning children in cases where they are not willing to bring them up.
The policy will apply in cases where social workers believe there is not a crisis, such as where parents abandon their offspring, or kick them out.
It will also apply in cases where children run and refuse to return home, as long as the parents have an income.
The controversial move 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.
County councillor Liz Eyre, cabinet member for children and young people, stressed that if a family is in genuine crisis, there will not be a charge.
“We believe this will provide a deterrent in cases where there is no crisis, and parents just want rid of their child,” she said.
“An example may be where we take a child in, then things settle down at home but the parents say ‘we don’t want them back with us’.
“It will also apply when we think there is no genuine crisis, and the parents want help from a day care centre, or another service, where we will say ‘you need to pay for it’.
“It will not make us money, and it will only affect very, very small numbers - but it does seem sensible to ask parents with money to contribute where there is no crisis.”
The move has been attacked by leading children’s charity the NSPCC who said they fear victims of abuse will “slip through the net”.
Tom Rahilly, head of the NSPCC’s looked after children programme, said: “The expectation that parents who are able to should take full responsibility for the care and wellbeing of their children is hugely important.
“However, we are concerned about the implications of charging parents for services to support the needs of their children.
“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.
“By potentially excluding some children and families from using services in this way, it is also possible that children suffering abuse will slip through the net.”
A consultation over the plan will run during May and June with council bosses saying parts of the end policy could change.
- The policy would be aimed at any children deemed to be “not in crisis” after being examined by social workers
- It could be applied retrospectively, meaning bosses may trawl through all 633 children currently in care to see if their parents can pay
- Although county council chiefs insist there is not a major problem with parents trying to give their offspring to the state, there is anecdotal evidence of it
- No other council across the country is believed to be charging for children’s social care, according to in-house research
- Some parents of children with foster carers will also be asked to pay if they are in employment