This recent article in The Guardian focuses on Worcester County Council’s proposed initiative to try to charge children over 16 for the services they receive ‘in care’. There are some very interesting philosophical arguments to be had over this point alone, but as usual there is nothing that sophisticated at play here. This is all about money.
Despite the fact that this kind of scheme has been, and is in full force all over the country in various other local authorities and has been shown to be unsuccessful in reducing costs for local authorities, and has managed, as you might imagine, to cause greater rifts between social workers and families, (“Can local authorities charge parents when taking their children into care?”, LexisPSL Family, Rachel Knowles, senior education and community care solicitor at Just for Kids Law, 28th August 2013), desperate times call for desperate measures, and it looks like local authorities all over the land will try anything to cut costs. Even if proven to be a waste of time, and resources.
Ah well, c’est la vie. And in the very informative article written by Rachel Knowles at Just For Kids Law (a charity we love) for LexiPSL, she also tells us that although some of these schemes, which are being reworked all the time, may be unlawful, many of them are not and continue to grow in popularity, despite the worrying outcomes of such schemes, which include the possibility that children who really need care just won’t get it because they can’t afford it. We see a human rights law suit waiting to happen; it’s a shame that we may have to wait until a child is hurt or dies before the government stops this disgusting practice.
However, the wording of the Children Act 1989 in relation to local authorities being able to charge for services is nuanced and effectively does not allow them to offer services on condition of payment (this is one area where less scrupulous local authorities may get into trouble and find themselves on the wrong side of the law). There are also conditions attached to exactly what and how such costs can be recovered. The bottom line is that local authorities do not have the right to cease providing a service or complying with its statutory duties because families or children have not paid contributions.
This will be one area to watch. Fascinating from a legal and a philosophical perspective. And a terrible indictment of our so-called civilised society.
(We apologise for not being able to provide a link to the very good article written by Rachel Knowles for LexisPSL, as it is a subscription site).