The Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council are set to champion the needs of care leavers at this evening's Full Council meeting by putting a motion forward to exempt them from Council tax for the first few years of their adult lives.
Paignton Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Doggett, who is proposing the motion, said: “There are approximately 200 care leavers in Torbay at present. By promoting this motion, I would like to give these vulnerable young people a better start into adulthood and protect these and future leavers from debt charges, especially council tax. The Children's Society's " Wolf At The Door" 2016 report into such debt showed that the pace of growth of debt to local authorities could be frightening to care leavers, and can escalate very quickly into a court summons and enforcement action being taken. Once they turn eighteen, young people leave care and become responsible for the challenges of independent living, running a home, managing personal finances and paying bills. Some former care leavers told the Children's Society that they had no idea what council tax was, or indeed that they had to pay it.
A number of councils have already adopted the scheme − Labour-controlled Islington in January 2017, and both Conservative-led Cheshire East and Conservative-led North Somerset in April 2016."
The motion to be put this evening is as follows:
Notice of Motion – Council 2 February 2017 (Council and Mayoral Decision)
Care Leavers Council Tax Exemption
The Council notes that:-
1. Last year a number of young people (aged 16 or over) left the care of Torbay Local Authority and began the difficult transition out of care and into adulthood.
2. 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.
3. Research from the Centre of Social Justice found that over half (57%) of young people leaving care have difficulty managing their money and avoiding debt when leaving care.
4. The Local Authority has a duty of care to care leavers.
The Council believes that:-
1. To ensure that the transition from care to adult life is as smooth as possible, and to mitigate the chances of care leavers falling into debt as they begin to manage their own finances, they should be exempt from paying Council Tax until they are aged 25.
2. Care leavers are a particularly vulnerable group for Council Tax debt.
This Council resolves:
i) To request officers to explore exempting all care leavers from Council tax up to the age of 25 as part of the development of the 2018/19 Council Tax Support Scheme; and
ii) the Mayor write to the Minister of State for Children and Families, Edward Timpson M.P, urging him to introduce a national exemption for care leavers from Council Tax up to the age of 25.
Proposed by Councillor Ian Doggett
Seconded by Councillor Cindy Stocks