Fighting for a fairer start
National Care Leavers' Week is a chance to celebrate children leaving the care system. Becoming independent should be an exciting time for young people, but for care leavers without proper support, it can be tough.
This week, we spoke to Fatima who has left care and is now campaigning so all care leavers get a fair start into adulthood.
becoming a campaigner
Why did you become a campaigner?
I became a campaigner, alongside other care leavers and organisations, to call for better care provision, support package and policy reform within the English care system. Ultimately, to improve the lives of care leavers.
Care leavers in England not only deal with family breakdown, loneliness and chronic mental health issues, they also face high rate of criminalisation, academic failure and unemployment leading to poverty, homelessness and drugs abuse.
The council tax exemption is one of the campaigns I feel most strongly about because I was fortunate enough to benefit from it.
However, not all care leavers are as lucky as me. Some councils still demand council tax from young people as soon as they leave care. It's a postcode lottery of care-related poverty.
What is the council tax exemption?
The council tax exemption for care leavers is a relief from paying council tax between the age of 18 and 25. Across England, roughly two thirds of local authorities implemented this exemption.
It means care leavers don't need to worry about hefty council tax bills as they move into independent living. I’m proud to say my council – Croydon - is one of them. As a children in care champion, I helped make it happen.
The relief lessened my money worries and allowed me to focus on my rent, living costs and savings.
Sadly, not all councils have introduced the exemption. In some areas, young people are carrying mounting council tax debt with the constant worry of further bills and fines.
I’m campaigning for transparent, reliable and consistent council tax exemption policies across all local authorities in England.
Do you have advice for a young care leaver?
To a care leaver, I want them to know, there is help, support and effective advocacy out there for you. Research, reach out and connect with your personal advisor, local and regional organisations as well as your peers. Independent life can be daunting, but you’ve survived so much more.
No doubt you can thrive at it with your acquired resilience, adequate support and honest communication with your support network.
Let your experience of care be your most positive driving force!
Campaign for change
If you'd like to speak up for children's rights in your community, join our team of Campaign Champions.
They play an important role in getting voices heard and creating real positive change for children and young people.