Posted: 01 March 2019

Talking change: a fairer start for care leavers

Over the past few years we have been campaigning to free care leavers up to the age of 25 from the burden of council tax debt. 

Since the campaign started, 19 district councils and and 94 local authorities have changed their policies to exempt care leavers from paying council tax. For thousands of young people, this has allowed them a few years of financial stability at a critical turning point in their lives. 

In this month's episode of Talking Change, we reflect on the campaign and discuss why it was necessary, why it was successful and what remains to be done. 

Why do care leavers need a fairer start?

Young people are taken into care by the council when their parents or guardians are unable to look after them. When they finally leave care, they have to begin a difficult transition into adulthood. Often, they will have received very little if any financial education, and have no family to support them or fall back on in times of trouble.

We know from our research that care leavers are a group who frequently get into council tax arrears – many may not even know what  the bill is until the first threatening letter arrives. We know from talking to young people that council tax is a particularly frightening debt for them as it can quickly spiral out of control, with some council pursuing it very aggressively.

Councils have a legal responsibility to act as a care leaver’s parent until they turn 25. That’s why we’ve been asking councils to give care leavers a fairer start in adult life, by exempting them from council tax for just a few valuable years as they transition to adulthood.

A success story for local campaigning

Since we launched the campaign, we have gone from just a couple of councils making this change, to 93 councils across England - over two thirds of the country! The Scottish and Welsh Governments have also announced that they will introduce a nationwide exemption for care leavers, meaning that much of the UK is now covered by this change. This is a fantastic achievement, and a testament to the value of local campaigning.

Read more about The Fairer Start for Care Leavers campaign, where you can look up your postcode on our interactive map, and download resources that will help you take this forward in your local area. Don’t forget to listen to our other podcasts.

By Scott Compton
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