CONTROVERSIAL plans to charge parents who put children into care are being finalised today, it has emerged.
Worcestershire County Council's Conservative cabinet, which has come under fire from the likes of the NSPCC in recent months, is expected to rubber-stamp the policy today despite the criticism.
Under the policy, which has been out for consultation in recent months, the cash-strapped authority wants to hit parents with a bill if they are deemed capable of looking after a child themselves.
A new report on the move says families deemed to be "in crisis" will not be asked to pay, nor will those subject to a court order and in need of safeguarding.
Those that do have to pay will be subject to a means assessment, and those on benefits or low incomes will also be exempt.
The council has been heavily criticised amid claims it is putting finances above children's needs.
But the Conservative leadership insist the policy is aimed to helping parents who want to pay towards their child's care but currently cannot, and that it will deter families who for whatever reason do not want to keep them.
Councillor Liz Eyre, cabinet member for children and families, said: "We firmly believe that a child's parents should be as fully involved as possible in all aspects of the care and wellbeing of their child and this policy is about supporting this approach."
She said despite the policy, a charge would still be "very unusual" because most children are under safeguarding orders.
The council says there are rare cases when a child is ready to go home but parents refuse to take them back in, and the policy would protect taxpayers from that.
But Councillor Peter McDonald, from the opposition Labour group, said: "It's quite clearly a move to charge parents, which is a terrible thing.
"It won't help parents who are thinking about putting their children into care for whatever reason - if anything it will put them off because they can't afford it."
Tom Rahilly, head of strategy and development at the NSPCC, has consistently called for a u-turn.
He said: “If the council is saying parents should be charged for care services, then they have seriously misjudged the complex needs of often vulnerable families."
A final report on it says charges could apply when a young person is "abandoned" or "made homeless on purpose".
It says the council expects to apply it "in a minority of cases" involving youngsters in foster care or children's homes.