Council Tax exemption for care leavers until the age of 25

Suhel with Mayor John Biggs-2

Suhel with Mayor John Biggs

We have chosen to give care leavers the best start in adult life by exempting them from Council Tax until they are 25 years old.

The decision follows a report by the Children’s Society, called Wolf at the Door, which calls for exemptions up to 21 years old.

This is because young adults transitioning from care to independent accommodation often struggle to manage their finances and are likely to fall into arrears and debt. Since then the charity has raised the recommendation up to the age of 25.

Over half of the families surveyed by the Children’s Society in its report had borrowed money to pay their Council Tax bill and eight in 10 families responded to Council Tax debt by cutting back on essentials, such as food or heating.

Tackling inequality is a key priority for Mayor John Biggs and, as a result, his Cabinet has decided to exempt everyone up to the age of 25. Three hundred care leavers living within and outside the borough are set to benefit from the exemption, which is due to be backdated to April this year.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “It’s no secret that Tower Hamlets is committed to supporting vulnerable residents and reducing inequality. That’s why we are going the extra mile by saving care leavers up to the age of 25 from having to pay council tax. 

“As corporate parents, we are responsible for keeping our care leavers safe and supporting them to have successful lives. We are setting an example for others and we know that our borough will be better off as a result.” 

Peter Grigg, External Affairs Director at The Children’s Society, said: “Tower Hamlets are setting an example by exempting care leavers from council tax up to the age of 25.

“Its actions will change the life opportunities for thousands of care leavers who often experience a really difficult upbringing which may have included abuse, neglect or family breakdown.

“Without the family support most young people get as they become adults, care leavers often struggle to juggle their household bills and make ends meet. Many find themselves in debt, or having to go without food or other basic necessities.  

“We’re delighted that Tower Hamlets council has taken this vital step which will make life easier for many young people making the move into independent living. We would urge more councils, in London and beyond, to follow suit.”

Care leaver Suhel Chowdhury, 22, was in Tower Hamlet council’s care from the age of eight. He went to university and when he graduated at the age of 21, he moved into a rented one bedroom flat in Bow.

Suhel, who now works for the council as a finance officer, said: “Having an exemption from Council Tax will make a huge difference to my life and other care leavers.

“In moving into independent accommodation, I had to get used to being more responsible and being careful with my money. There were rough patches when I ran out of money.

“I received my first Council Tax bill in August last year. It was for more than £700.  I was already having a tough time and I had to borrow money to pay it all at once.

“I know other care leavers have a similar experience so having an exemption up to the age of 25 will help us to progress in our lives and careers without this burden.”

Cllr Amy Whitelock Gibbs, Cabinet Member for Education and Children's Services, said: “When a young person leaves care and begins to manage their own financial affairs for the first time, they can easily fall into debt, especially without vital advice and practical support from family.

“This exemption will give our care leavers a helping hand in their first step towards independence, helping them to avoid debt as they learn to manage their finances.

“The Children’s Society report powerfully shows how a relatively small cost of funding this exemption could have a potentially massive impact on the lives of care leavers.” 

Posted on Wednesday 2nd August 2017