Council tax break for young care leavers

Young care leavers have been made exempt from paying council tax under a new move introduced by the borough's ruling cabinet.

Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 7:28 am
Updated Friday, 15th December 2017, 4:20 pm
Wigan Council director of children's services James Winterbottom with care leavers

Senior Wigan Council politicians last week decided to give the financial relief to anyone aged 18 to 21 coming out of the local authority care system.

The change was introduced with immediate effect and will also be back-dated to April.

Care leavers in full-time education up to the age of 25 are already spared from having to pay council tax.

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Wigan Council hopes the new move will support care leavers in their bid to live independently and prevent them falling into debt or rent arrears as they take their first steps into the adult world.

James Winterbottom, Wigan Council’s director for children’s services, said: “Care leavers are among the most vulnerable groups in our community but also have many individual skills and talents that benefit our communities in many ways and we want to make sure that we support them to make best use of these.

“As corporate parents and through our commitment in The Deal, the council wants to ensure that young people’s experiences of leaving care and moving into independent living are positive and improve their life chances – just as any parent does.

“We are proud to have introduced this change and know through speaking with our young care leavers and through the research available that this will make a big difference to their lives.”

There are currently 142 care leavers in the borough in the 18-to-21 bracket and the town hall says the cabinet’s decision will help 31 who are currently making council tax payments.

Wigan has a strong record on supporting children through the care system in recent years, with its children and young people’s services rated Good in its last Ofsted inspection.

The council says it is particularly important to help these young people as many of those who come into the care system have experienced complex trauma or significant challenges in their early years.

National research shows that care leavers often experience debt and arrears of rent, council tax, household bills and transport costs and feel insufficiently prepared for independent living when they left care.

Their transition from care to independent living, usually aged 18, is swifter and earlier than for their peers.

Organisations supporting care leavers have encouraged councils to think creatively about helping them.