Councils Seek to Charge Children for Being in Care


Councils are exploring the idea of charging children and their families for being taken into care. The initiative was first raised by Worcestershire county council and focuses on those who put their children into care voluntarily.

Child being charged for being in care

£10,000 charge to Social Care Families

The council would still pay for services it is legally obliged to provide, such as statutory child protection and adoption services. But in light of this, it could still land youngsters and their families with a bill totalling up to £10,000 a year. On top of that, if they do not comply with the scheme they could face legal action brought against them by the council.

Despite already having a heavy workload that has been well documented in the past, social workers will be the ones responsible for assessing whether parents or children can afford to pay the price for accommodation and social worker fees.

Children's Rights Organisations Speak Out

Siobhan Williams, head of children's social care has said that these changes are aimed at those parents who refuse to "offer their children a home again" after leaving social care and that those that cannot afford it would not be charged. However, she also admits that at the time when a child is taken into care, financial assessments may be difficult to start.

Organisations that have long supported children's rights such as Barnardo's and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) have condemned the scheme. They believe a move like this could prevent people from seeking help from social services at the earliest possible opportunity because of the fear of the potential costs involved.

Over 16's Pay the Price

The initiative also introduces the idea of charging the child over 16 for the cost of care. This step would only be taken where it would not impact on the child's future and sustained independence and not just on financial means.

According to Tom Rahilly, the NSPCC's head of strategy and development for looked after children, "it's unlikely that they will recover a significant contribution" given the amount of exemptions that are already in place to prevent families from paying towards their child's time in voluntary care. However, it is the deterrence to parents, carers and children from seeking help from social services that will be the main impact of this initiative.

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