Young people leaving care in Harlow exempt from paying council tax

News / Sat 15th Feb 2020 am29 08:56am

By Local Democracy Reporter

YOUNG people leaving care in Harlow will be exempt from paying any council tax to Essex County County and fire and police services until they reach the age of 21, under plans to be introduced.

However it will be up to the other of the county’s precepting authorities – including city, borough and district councils – to decide on their own council tax exemption policies.

An ECC cabinet decision is set to give young people living in Essex who have previously been in care a discount of 100 per cent on their council tax until they turn 21.

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.

A council report to Councillor David Finch, leader of the council, read: “Many local authorities across the country have introduced measures to exempt care leavers from council tax, following publication of the Children’s Society’s ‘Wolf at the Door’ report 2015, which shows care leavers to be a group who are particularly vulnerable to falling into council tax debt when they move into independent accommodation for the first time.

“As responsible corporate parents, the council wishes to assist care leavers to work toward managing independent living in a positive and supportive way. The report showed that the pace of escalation of debt by local authorities could be frightening for care leavers – what can start out for many care leavers as failing slightly behind can very quickly escalate to a court summons and enforcement action being taken.”

The council is currently responsible for more than 800 care leavers up to the age of 21.

The report added: “A number of care leavers are already exempt from paying council tax by virtue of being in education or receive an existing discount by virtue of their income levels.

“It is proposed to encourage billing authorities to adopt such a scheme in a way that means that the resultant cost to the district would, insofar as it relates to the ECC element of the council tax, be borne by ECC.

“We would only bear this cost of reduction after all discounts/cost reductions and exemptions have been applied.

“The cost of this is estimated to be £75,000 per year, although clearly the cost will depend on many factors and it is not possible to know the exact cost.

“This reduction would only apply to ECC care leavers aged under 21 who are resident in the ECC area.”

Roger Hirst, Essex Police Fire and Crime Commissioner, said he would introduce a similar scheme for the part of the council bill he is responsible for.

He said: “We will be supporting it. The benefits will massively outweigh any potential costs.”

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