THE COUNCIL’S Cabinet has considered proposed changes that would see care leavers benefit from discretionary discounts and exemptions from council tax payments.
In line with recommendations made in the government’s care leaver’s strategy, ‘Keep on Caring’, in July 2016, the Council has decided to use discretionary powers to help care leavers by either discounting their level of council tax payments or exempting them completely.
It was recommended at a meeting of the Cabinet (Wednesday 12 July) that a new class of discretionary discount was created to reduce the amount of council tax payable by any care leaver living within the Borough up to 100%, up to the date that they reach 25 years of age and that the change also be applied retrospectively for care leavers residing in the Borough from 1 April 2017.
It is estimated that the approximate cost of this change will be £10,000 per year.
Leader of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, Councillor Bob Cook, said: “This is an important decision and a positive development that will be of real benefit to some residents of the Borough who are most in need of financial support.
“Such discretionary discounts from council tax payments will provide valuable assistance to a small group of care leavers while not representing a significant financial commitment on the part of the authority.
“We believe we are the first local authority in the North East to take this action and we would encourage others to consider doing the same. These discounts from council tax payments demonstrate a clear example of the Council’s commitment to fulfilling its corporate parenting responsibility.”
The Children’s Society has campaigned nationally for care leavers to be exempted from council tax. Sam Royston, Director of Policy and Research, said: “Care leavers have often experienced a really difficult upbringing and they may have experienced abuse, neglect or family breakdown which can have a big impact upon their life chances.
“Without the family support most young people get as they become adults, care leavers often struggle to juggle their household bills and make ends meet. Many find themselves in debt, or having to go without food or other basic necessities.
“We’re delighted that Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council has become the first council in the North East to introduce this exemption which will make life easier for many young people making the move into independent living.”