Council tax break for care leavers

Published Wednesday, 30th August 2017
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Extra financial support is being offered to vulnerable young people in Rotherham after plans to exempt care leavers from paying Council Tax were revealed.

Rotherham Council is proposing that all care leavers under the age of 21, or up to 25 if they are still in full time education, should be free from having to pay any Council Tax.

The plans are to be decided by the Council’s Cabinet next month.

Leader of Rotherham Council, Cllr Chris Read, said: “When any young person sets up home on their own for the first time, paying bills can come as a bit of a shock.

“But for care leavers this can be even more difficult to manage, so through acting as corporate parents and taking care of our own, we can help in those first few years of independent living.

“We are one of the first councils in our part of the world to be adopting this sort of policy, which reflects our changing priorities to ensure that we give more Rotherham young people the best possible start in life.”

The move is being considered following a report by The Children’s Society, a national charity which supports vulnerable children, including in Yorkshire. The report suggested that care leavers are a particularly vulnerable group when it comes to accruing Council Tax debt. The charity found that it can be challenging for care leavers when moving into independent accommodation and beginning to manage their own budget fully for the first time and that falling behind with their Council Tax payments is a particular problem.

The Children’s Society has been calling on local authorities across the country to exempt care leavers up to the age of 25 from council tax and  29 have already agreed the recommendations. Rotherham would be an early adopter of the scheme, if the proposals are passed.

If agreed around 45 current care leavers living within and outside the borough will benefit from the exemption. The cost to cover this would be £13,000 with similar costs year on year, depending on the numbers of care leavers per year.

Peter Grigg, Director of External Affairs at The Children’s Society added:“Care leavers have often experienced a really difficult upbringing and they may have experienced abuse, neglect or family breakdown which can have a big impact upon their life chances.

“Without the family support most young people get as they become adults, care leavers often struggle to juggle their household bills and make ends meet.

“Many find themselves in debt, or having to go without food or other basic necessities.

“To expect some of the country’s most vulnerable people to start paying council tax just days after leaving care is setting them up to fail.

“This would be a welcome step in the right direction by Rotherham.”

The Council’s Cabinet will review the plan at its meeting on September 11.