ON Wednesday evening Thurrock Council considered whether young people leaving the borough’s care should be exempt from paying Council Tax until they reach the age of 25.
48 English councils have, so far, agreed to exempt young people leaving local authority care from paying Council Tax and campaigners had hoped that Thurrock Council would be added to the list.
However the move – put forward by Labour’s John Kent – was not successful as no Conservative or UKIP councillors voted for the plan.
Cllr John Kent said “I am very disappointed that Thurrock Council couldn’t agree to this practical move that would give real help to some of the most vulnerable youngsters in our community.
“When a young person leaves care and starts to live independently, they face the challenge of having to cope with the demands of living on their own at a young age: having to manage finances, maintain a home and manage their lives independently, often without the kind of support from families that many of us enjoy and take for granted.”
The Children’s Society is campaigning for all councils to exempt their care leavers from paying Council Tax following the publication of two reports – “The cost of being care free” and “Wolf at the door” – which clearly set out the real financial struggles many care leavers face.
All councils will have to publish an offer for care leavers next year as part of the Children & Social Work Act and Thurrock Council agreed that its ruling cabinet should bring forward proposals for council tax exemptions as part of that offer.
John Kent said “We will now have to wait for the details of the Conservative proposals – but, frankly, why would they refuse to back my motion only to do the same thing in a month or two?
“I am expecting a watered down proposal that falls short of what the Children’s Society is calling for.”
“There were some very disappointing comments from councillors during the debate” states cllr Kent
Cllr Deb Huelin insisted that not all care leavers need this help and the portfolio holder Children’s Social Care, Cllr Sue Little, claimed that such a move risked building a “dependency culture” amongst care leavers.
Statistics show that only 14% of children in care achieve 5 good GCSEs (against 53% of the non-looked after population), 39% of care leavers are not in educational employment or training, 60% of care leavers have special educational needs or disabilities and care leavers are consistently over-represented in studies on people in custody, homelessness and other negative outcomes.
John Kent said, “Thurrock had the opportunity on Wednesday to do something that is simple and effective that would be of real help to some of our most vulnerable young people. Conservative and UKIP councillors decided against taking that opportunity.”