OLDHAM council could become the latest authority in Greater Manchester to make young people leaving care exempt from paying council tax.

Under new proposals, due to be put before Cabinet in April, it would see 18, 19 and 20 year olds leaving care, who are not in full time education, free from council tax payments.

According to the Department for Education (DfE), 70,440 children were in the care of local authorities in England on 31 March 2016, compared to 69,540 in 2015.

The North West has one of the highest rates of children living in care, Oldham Council currently accommodates 470.

Children in care

*Years ending 31 March 2012 to 2016. Figures courtesy of Department for Education

Councillor Abdul Jabbar, Deputy Leader of Oldham Council said: “Here in Oldham we try extremely hard to ensure children in care are well supported.

“But that should not just end at 18 with someone sending them off into the outside world to make their own way.

“It’s a tough world out there and care leavers often struggle to adapt to living on their own, managing their own money and securing employment.

“What we want to do with this policy is to make a contribution to ensuring care leavers are able to successfully adapt to adult life.”

According to national charity The Children’s Society, there are over 3,000 young people in Greater Manchester who are currently at risk of falling into council tax debt.

If the plans go ahead Oldham will be become the second council in Greater Manchester to make care leavers exempt from paying council tax.

Numbers of looked after children in England have continued to steadily rise

Children in care in England
Data taken from DfE (2016): Children looked after in England (including adoption) year ending 31 March 2016

Earlier this year Rochdale Council backed a nationwide campaign by The Children’s Society and cut council tax for care leavers up to the age of 21.

Councillor Donna Martin, cabinet member for children’s services at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “Young people who have been in care often find themselves struggling with to deal with grown-up issues like paying bills and rent, at a relatively young age and with little or no support from friends and family. This is often just one of many challenges these young people have had to overcome.

“We take our role as corporate parents to these young people very seriously and want to do everything we can to give them a good start in life, just as we would with our own children.

If Oldham Council approve the measure they will become the tenth of all 373 councils in England and Wales to do so.

Luke Sharp, 20, who is a young trustee of The Children’s Society and a member of Rochdale Council’s corporate parenting board said: “I know I what it feels like to be in council tax debt, it caused me to have depression and anxiety.

“This policy will make a big difference to me because I owe a lot of council tax currently but because I won’t have to pay council tax until November [2017] it means I can catch up on my arrears.

“I’ll have been given a second chance which will enable me overcome my depression and anxiety and be like other young people my age and have fun instead of worrying about so many bills.”

According to Oldham Council, the estimated cost of implementing the measure will be around £25,000 each year.

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