Tax break for care leavers
YOUNG care leavers will no longer have to pay council tax after Cheshire East became one of the first councils in the country to make them exempt.
The council has a duty to look after adults who used to live in its care, either in foster families or council-run homes.
With some young people choosing to live independently from as young as 16, Cheshire East has decided to make them council tax exempt until the age of 25, reducing the chances of them getting into financial difficulties at an early age.
Many are already exempt from paying council tax, but for those who must pay it can become an extra burden.
The council has also pledged to meet the council tax costs of eligible care leavers even if they live outside the borough.
Coun Liz Durham, Macclesfield mayor and Cabinet member for children and families, said: “The council’s policy is that cared-for young people do not have to live independently until they are ready for that. But for various reasons, some young people choose to live independently once they are 16, and they are particularly vulnerable to getting into council tax debt. By giving them 100 per cent exemption, we will relieve some of the pressure that these young people are facing as they start out in life.”
As at the end of December 2015, there were 394 children and young people in care and 219 care leavers. It will cost the council £11,000 a year to cover 33 young people currently eligible for the exemption. Meeting the costs for care leavers living outside of the borough is estimated to be £6,000 per year.
This means the exemption will lead to a modest cost to the council of £17,000 a year – but council leaders say the scheme could have a larger impact, due to it helping to reduce care leavers’ dependency on public services.
The Children’s Society, which issued a report calling for local authorities to make care leavers exempt from council tax, has welcomed the move. They say it will ensure a smoother transition to adult life, and reduce the chances of care leavers falling into debt once they start managing their own finances.