Cllr Wright calls for Council Tax Exemption for Young Care Leavers

January 12, 2018 6:12 PM
By Cllr James Wright
Care leavers can be a particularly vulnerable group when it comes to council tax. (https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/care-leavers-web-page_600x300px.jpg)

Care leavers can be a particularly vulnerable group when it comes to council tax.

The Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Norwich City Council, Councillor James Wright, has called for an exemption on council tax payments for care leavers under 25, regardless of income.

Councillor Wright will request the exemption in a motion that will be brought to the next full meeting of the City Council on 23 January. This follows an attempt by Cllr Ed Maxfield to secure the same exemption at Norfolk County Council in December - unfortunately, rejected by the Tories.

Councillor Wright said: "As a local authority we have a duty of care to care-leavers and as Councillors, we have a responsibility to these vulnerable young people as 'corporate parents'. The Norwich Liberal Democrats are keen to ensure that all care-leavers are given the best start into adulthood that is possible. In my view, this should include protection from the damage of council tax debt."

When care leavers move into independent accommodation they begin to manage their own budget fully for the first time. In 2016, the Children's Society's 'Wolf at the Door' report found that care leavers can find this extremely challenging; they are suddenly living independently, managing a household whilst continuing education or seeking employment, as well as managing their personal finances, and paying bills. Often with no family to support them and insufficient financial education, care-leavers fall into debt and financial difficulty. The report also found that council tax debt is an especial challenge for young care leavers, with research from The Centre for Social Justice found that 57% of young people leaving care have difficulty managing their money and avoiding debt.

Councillor Wright explained: "What can start out for many of these young people as a situation in which they are falling slightly behind on their payments can very quickly and frighteningly escalate to a court summons and enforcement action being taken, all incurring significant additional costs that have to be met by the care-leaver."

The Children's Society is asking local authorities to adopt a policy of exempting care-leavers from council tax until they are 25 years of age. There are a number of Labour and Conservative-led councils which have already adopted this low-cost policy, including Islington, Hammersmith & Fulham, Cheshire East, North Somerset and Birmingham.

Councillor Wright is very pleased to hear that Councillor Davis has already indicated she is looking into this.

The full text of the motion is;

A 2016 report by The Children's Society found that when care leavers move into independent accommodation they begin to manage their own budget fully for the first time. The report showed that care leavers can find this extremely challenging and with no family to support them and insufficient financial education, are falling into debt and financial difficulty.

Research from The Centre for Social Justice found that 57% of young people leaving care have difficulty managing their money and avoiding debt.

The local authority has statutory corporate parenting responsibilities towards young people who have left care up until the age of 25.

Council RESOLVES to

  1. Note that The Children and Social Work Act 2017 places corporate parenting responsibilities on district councils for the first time, requiring them to have regard to children in care and care leavers when carrying out their functions.
  2. Include in the next consultation for the 2019/20 council tax reduction scheme a provision for the scheme to include a reduction to zero council tax payable by care leavers up to the age of 25 regardless of income
  3. write to the county council's Leader and Director of Children's Services to urge them to use their convening powers and expertise in corporate parenting to work with all council tax collecting authorities within the county area to exempt all care leavers in the county from council tax up to the age of 25, sharing any arising costs proportionately.