By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Kent County Council (KCC) has pledged to wipe the council tax bill for care leavers aged 18 to 21, costing the authority up to £594,000 each year.
A total of 1,515 Kent care leavers, including 142 young people in Medway and hundreds living outside the county, would benefit from the scheme, which is likely to be implemented from April 1.
KCC is seeking to financially support its vulnerable care leavers who can find themselves “grappling with the challenges of living independently,” such as seeking employment or paying household bills for the first time.
A council paper states: “This can make care leavers a particularly vulnerable group when it comes to the collection of council tax when moving into independent accommodation.”
The latest report has been published ahead of a crunch council meeting next week in Maidstone involving KCC’s children’s, young people and education committee.
Its 18 members have been advised to endorse the move and delegate authority to the corporate director of children, young people and education, Matt Dunkley, to implement the decision.
Fears have been expressed that inaction from the council could lead to hundreds of Kent care leavers spiralling into debt and lose their tenancies.
If approved, KCC would have partially completed a challenge set by KCC’s young people’s council 10 months ago after council bosses were originally asked to waive council tax for care leavers up to 25.
County Hall has told the committee that paying council tax for care leavers aged 22 to 25 would be financially non-viable and cost up to £1.2million-a-year.
In addition, KCC says an extra 50 care leaver workers would need to be hired to meet the increased demand, which would cost just under £2million.
A KCC paper adds: “Within this proposal, Kent County Council have taken into account that due to the numbers of unaccompanied asylum young people, they have much higher numbers of care leavers compared to other local authorities.
“Therefore, the proposal for payment for council tax for Kent young people who are care leavers aged 18-21 years, is a realistic and balanced offer that would not put Kent County Council at a significant budget risk.”
If approved, Kent care leavers would be responsible for applying for any council tax exemption and required to pay any historic council tax liability.
In situations where a care leaver is part of a couple, and where the partner is not a care leaver, 50% of the joint liability may be reclaimed.
A care leaver is any adult who spent time in care as a child, under the age of 18. This could include foster care, residential care or other arrangements outside the immediate or extended family, such as local authority care.
KCC has declined to comment further prior to Friday’s key public meeting, which will take place at Maidstone County Hall, in Sessions House.