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Proposed change to contribution to care cost consultation opens

Published: 7 May 2024

We’ve opened a consultation into a proposal for us to start charging parents a contribution towards the cost of looking after their children.

The public consultation, which launched today (Tuesday 7 May 2024) outlines a proposed change to our contribution to care policy.

In a small number of cases local authorities may agree, under national legislation in the Children Act 1989 and following thorough assessments, to look after children for families who are significantly struggling and need support.

This is a temporary arrangement and parents retain their full parental responsibility while the legal arrangement is in place.

Although the legislation means local authorities can legally ask eligible parents for a contribution to their children’s care in such cases up to their 16th birthday, we have never made a charge.

But as we face budgetary pressures far greater than experienced before including higher than anticipated inflation, higher prices for fuel, energy and materials plus the increasing costs of care provision, we’re considering starting to charge for this form of care.

If the proposal is agreed following the 8-week consultation, we would intend to request a 50% contribution of its weekly fostering allowance towards the care of a child in these specific circumstances (see table).

Our Cabinet Member for Families and Children Councillor Julie Patten said:

“Despite not being legally obliged to fund this kind of care we have been prepared and able to do so in the past, but unfortunately now find ourselves in a position of unprecedented financial challenges creating the need for us to consider changing our contribution to care policy.

“Our situation has been made even more unsustainable by the spiralling cost of the private care placements we sometimes have to use - and which we’re campaigning at national level to address - to balance that market to make it fairer for all local authorities finding themselves in similar positions.

“If the proposal is approved following this consultation, families coming to us requesting we look after their children would be fully assessed and exemptions would apply, therefore we would anticipate any change would not have an impact on many families.

“We also hope any change may encourage parents who are struggling, to work with their social worker and all the support services available before considering we take their children into care to help us ensure accommodation in these cases is only used where absolutely necessary.”

As well as the public consultation, social workers working with families we’re currently supporting will discuss the consultation with them.

Based on our records over the last 6 months it is estimated that if the proposals are approved, between 14 and 28 families whose children enter care in these circumstances would be eligible to be charged.

If approved, we would carry out a financial assessment on any family requesting care before calculating any contribution towards it to ensure it would not unreasonably affect their household income.

Families’ specific circumstances and any immediate risks and needs would also be assessed before any decision was made.

If the proposals are approved, exemptions would apply for eligible families – for example who receive benefits – and while the legislation states that from 16 a child themselves could be charged for contributions to their care, we would not intend to make that charge.

The proposals would not affect cases where we, like all local authorities, have a statutory duty to protect children who are at risk of significant harm, where risks are unmanageable within the home and take necessary action to actively remove a child from their parents’ care under the Children Act 1989.

In these cases we would continue to take all responsibility for the financial commitments of looking after a child.


Weekly fostering allowance rates - April 2024
Age Weekly allowance 50% contribution
0 to 4 £179.20 £89.60
5 to 10 £198.57 £99.26
11 to 15 £226.69 £113.35


Take part in the consultation.