Parents who ask social workers to take their challenging children into care may be charged for doing so if councillors approve an official proposal.
An increasing number of parents are asking Brighton and Hove City Council to take children into care, according to a report going before the Children, Young People and Skills Committee next Monday (11 January).
The report said: “We have seen an increase in the number of requests from parents who feel they no longer can manage their challenging teenagers and at the same time refuse to work with us to look at wider family support.
“This is causing considerable pressure on the social work system, numbers in care and budgets.
“It is hoped that by focusing parents’ attention on the fact that even in care they have responsibility for their child, it may act as a lever for some to work in a different way with the local authority.
“Within a wider council budget that is under pressure, the specific budget that supports the care of children who are looked after continues to be very challenging.
“It is reasonable to expect parents to contribute to the costs for their child to be cared for when they request it and if they can afford to do so.
“It encourages parents not to abdicate responsibility for their child and emphasises the importance of parents continuing to be involved in their child’s life.
“It is unlikely in reality, however, that this will generate much or any income but may act as a partial deterrent to those parents who could work with us to find alternative solutions for their child, could afford to contribute but are presently not expected to do so or who are unwilling to do so.”
The potential income for a placement is £6,300 a year. But the report said that the council did not expect to impose the charge more than two or three times a year.
This could result in savings of up to £117,000, the report said, adding that placing a child in foster care through an independent agency would typically cost £39,100.
Parents would not be required to contribute to care costs if they were receiving means-tested benefits or if their child was subject to a care order, remanded into foster care, subject to a youth rehabilitation order or police protection.
There would also be no charge for children given up for adoption.
Parents choosing to give up their child to care were encouraged to explore options with their wider family, the report said.
A liable parent could be required to contribute a weekly sum for the care of their child.
The report said: “The cohort of families that will be covered by the proposal to charge parents will be very small.
“Attention has been paid to identifying exemptions and to allowing senior staff discretion not to apply the policy when it is deemed inappropriate to the safety and welfare of the child concerned, including when a child is disabled.
“Costs will not be imposed where parents are in receipt of a means-tested benefit and will be reviewed if parental situations change.
“It is anticipated that this proposal will impact on a very small number of families each year and the EIA (equalities impact assessment) has not identified any disproportionate impacts on any legally protected or other groups.”
The proposal is due to be debated by the Children, Young People and Skills Committee at a virtual meeting on Monday (11 January). The meeting is scheduled to start at 4pm and to be webcast on the council website.
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