Tax break for care leavers

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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