I have just read this article on Community Care and while children’s charities believe it will put parents off getting help, I think it is a brilliant idea. I don’t think if you’re someone who actually needs help this would put you off. More often than not, when parents get to the stage that they are ready to put a child out, other services have been or continue to be involved with the child. So there is oversight by one service or another. If it is instituted properly, I think it has the potential to force families to think about the impact of what they are doing when putting their child into care. I don’t think it should be a set charge. I think it should be based on the cost of the family caring for a child. I think it should be linked to their benefits as well.
At present the proposal offers exemptions for families who are receiving benefits. However, I think this needs further inspection. Child tax credit is paid “a family with children and an income below about £42,000 can claim child tax credit on top of child benefit. The tax credit is “non-wastable” – i.e. it is paid whether or not the family has a net tax liability – and is paid in or out of work.” Child benefit is “a social security payment which is distributed to the parents or guardians of children, teenagers and in some cases, young adults.” If you are not taking care of your child why should you be collecting this benefit? Why should you receive a weekly payment for a child that is not in your care?
I am not sure how many families are still claiming benefits for children that are in care but I know this has been an issue in recent years for the same reason I raise above. In an age where the goal of programs like Troubled Families is to reduce the cost of these families, we should be making sure that where a child is in care, the family is not collecting benefits in his/her name. If that’s a problem for them, it’s okay because another goal of Troubled Families is getting parents into employment.
Our work should be about empowerment and encouragement. This sometimes needs to work within the context of drastic action. The goal is not to oppress already impoverished people but to bring the reality to the forefront. If you didn’t have this child you wouldn’t be entitled to these funds, so once a child is no longer in your care you shouldn’t be entitled to the benefits. We, as Social Workers, need to get better at contacting benefit agencies once a child is in care.