12 December 2018
A scheme, championed by Green Councillor Maggie Allen, to prevent vulnerable care leavers from paying council tax up to the age of 25 is set to be implemented by Solihull Council in the new year. In a debate which split the chamber, councillors agreed a compromise to apply the exemption next March.
The Council has legal parenting responsibilities for young people who have left care up until the age of 25, even if they now live outside of the borough.
The plans would cost the council less than £30,000.
Many councillors said an exemption will be a lifeline for those leaving care who are adapting to life without support.
Coun Allen delivered a moving account of her own personal experience as a foster carer, reflecting on the story of an abused seven-year-old boy.
She said: “This is the story of just one looked after child. All stories are different, but the theme is the same. Neglect and abuse.
“These are children more vulnerable than our own. And many of them don’t have the emotional health to be independent at 18 and manage their own money.
“The sanctions available for council tax debt are severe, to exempt them until they are 25 is a small and affordable thing we can do to make things easier for them.
“Looked after children are our children and they are not to blame for their circumstances.”
Although Councillor Allen’s original motion was voted down by the Tories, a compromise was finally agreed which included a commitment to lobby the government to issue statutory guidance which will exempt all care leavers, nationally, from council tax up to age 25 and to call on the government to provide funding to compensate for the loss of council revenue arising from exemptions.