Hammersmith & Fulham has become the first borough in London to scrap council tax payments for care leavers.
Managing budgets can be very challenging for vulnerable young people adjusting to living by themselves. H&F Council plans to relieve some of this pressure by exempting care leavers from council tax until their 25th birthday.
“Young people in care have often had traumatic experiences and find it more difficult than most to adjust to living by themselves,” said Cllr Sue Fennimore, H&F Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion.
“Exempting them from council tax will give them the vital breathing space they need as they establish their new, independent adult lives.”
The plans have been praised by the Children’s Society. The charity’s policy director Sam Royston, said: “To expect some of the country’s most vulnerable young people to start paying council tax just days after leaving care is setting them up to fail.
“Without the family safety net that most children benefit from as they become adults, many new care leavers struggle to open a bank account, let alone juggle their household bills and plan financially for the long-term.
“We urge other councils across the capital to follow H&F’s lead and give care leavers a better chance of a fair start in life.”
The council tax exemption is part of a range of measures by H&F Council to help care leavers.
- Extending H&F Council’s duty to support all care leavers up to the age of 25, rather than the current 21 for those not in full-time education
- Enabling young people to stay with their foster carers after the age of 18
- A care leavers’ team which mentor young people, helping them as they begin their independent lives
- A care leavers’ hub offering them housing, legal advice and other support until the age of 25
- An online school offering a wide range of courses and qualifications
- Securing more affordable and local homes for care leavers.
This has all been made possible despite the government cutting 66 per cent of H&F’s funding since 2010.
This year, the government has made an another £15.9 million of cuts and given the council a greater role in the care of young adults without any extra money to support the work.
Despite this, H&F’s children’s services were ranked among the best in the country in a recent Ofsted inspection.