CONTROVERSIAL plans to charge parents who put their children into care have been delayed by four months – but council chiefs still say they want to introduce it.
As from October, Worcestershire County Council wants to charge parents for certain children’s services to avoid them intentionally “abandoning” their children.
The move, first revealed by your Worcester News in May, has been heavily criticised by the NSPCC, Britain’s leading children’s charity.
A consultation planned for May and June never took place, partly because of the local elections, but has now finally got under way and runs until Friday, October 11.
Critics have urged the authority to pull “back from the brink” and scrap the idea before it is introduced.
Councillor Peter McDonald, opposition Labour group leader, said: “Once a child is in care, if you’re chasing parents all over the place for money, it just won’t work.
“It will become a minefield and will cause nothing but trouble, stress and anxiety. We should be putting the children first, not the council’s bank balance.
“When we come across parents who, for whatever reason, feel they can’t cope with parenting, we should not be making it harder for them.”
Under the policy, the council say they will seek contributions to the costs of “certain services” to ensure children are cared for.
It includes youngsters made intentionally homeless, or those who are abandoned by their family.
Controversially, parents could need to pay the “full cost” of a service if they are deemed to not require any help.
The county council says children under a court order for care will not be included, which makes up 403 of the 636 youngsters currently in the system.
Siobhan Williams, head of children’s social care, said there are “rare cases” when children taken into care are ready to go back into their parents home again, but are refused.
She said: “We believe a child’s parents should be as fully involved as possible in all aspects of the care and well-being of their child – and this policy is about supporting that partnership approach.
“If a family are in crisis they would not be charged for services.”
She also said it would enable some parents to make a contribution towards their child’s care if they want to, something they cannot do at the moment.