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Proposals to extend council tax exemption for care-leavers up to age 25

Care leavers in Manchester will be exempt from paying any Council Tax until they reach the age of 25 under proposals being considered by councillors.

A report to the Council's Executive outlines plans to give young people living in Manchester who have previously been in care a discount of 100 per cent on their council tax until they turn 25.

It follows the decision taken by the council last July to exempt all care-leavers living in the city from paying council tax up to the age of 21.

Since agreeing this approach last year there have been further developments in terms of the support offered to care leavers in the city, including a decision to set up a new wholly council-owned company to deliver a bespoke leaving care service to all our care leavers.  Legislation that came into force in April also extends the support available to care-leavers, including giving them the right to ask for a personal assistant up until the age of 25.

In line with these developments, under the Council's latest proposal any young person living in Manchester who has been in care for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14, and who was in care on their 16th birthday would now be exempt from paying council tax until their 25th birthday.  

Councillor Carl Ollerhead, Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources, Manchester City Council, said:  "Manchester’s care leavers are very much 'Our Children' and as corporate parents, we have a duty and a moral responsibility to ensure that the steps they take into the adult world are supported and that we give them the help and guidance they need.  

"Making sure we do this is one of the council's key priorities and I hope this new proposal to exempt them from council tax until they turn 25 will at the very least help them with their finances as they find a place to live of their own."

The proposals are in line with the Government’s recently published ‘Keep on Caring’, that encourages local authorities to consider the role of a Corporate Parent through ‘the lens of what any reasonable parent does to give their child the best start in life.’  
They also take on board the findings of a 2015 report by the Children’s Society ‘The Wolf at the Door - how council tax debt collection is harming children’ that care leavers are a particularly vulnerable group for council tax debt.

In addition to this care-leavers nationally have also consistently reported that they were insufficiently prepared for the realities of living independently, particularly in relation to budgeting. 

The proposals going before councillors recognise the challenges facing care leavers and it’s hoped providing this support would help them better manage the social and financial transition from local authority care to independent living.

The Council is currently responsible for 750 care leavers, and it is estimated that there are around 250 additional young people aged 21 -25 years of age.

Councillor Garry Bridges, Executive Member for Children and Families, Manchester City Council, said: “We’ve listened to what our children and young people are telling us - that they have fewer support networks and taking their first steps into independent living is already challenging for them.
“Manchester City Council has always been proud to think big - and on young people leaving our care we make no exception. Our ambition is that every young person ends up with the same support we’d give our own children. That’s a difficult challenge - because these young people have gone through things that we wouldn’t want anyone to go through and their needs are greater.

“That’s why we want to transform our service for young people leaving our care to meet those needs - we know they have untapped potential and we want to do everything we can to help them succeed at the highest level.”

The proposal is going before councillors at this week's Executive meeting.  If approved the exemption will be applied to all 2018/9 council tax bills for care-leavers in the city, backdated to 1 April 2018 where appropriate.  Care leavers who become responsible for Council Tax after this date will be granted the discount from the date of occupation of their property.

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