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Support for care leavers earns praise from national charity

22 March 2017

​​​Local care leaver Luke Sharp.

A top charity has praised the council after it became the first local authority in Greater Manchester to exempt care leavers from paying council tax up to the age of 21.

The move was unanimously approved at a recent council meeting on the back of a campaign by The Children's Society and it is hoped other councils will now introduce exemptions for care leavers.

'This is a welcome step in the right direction by Rochdale' – Peter Grigg, Children's Society

Peter Grigg, director of external affairs at The Children's Society, which wrote to the council to welcome its move, said: "Care leavers have often experienced abuse, neglect or family breakdown, which can have a big impact upon their life chances. 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.

"To expect some of the country's most vulnerable people to start paying Council Tax just days after leaving care is setting them up to fail. This is a welcome step in the right direction by Rochdale."

'Council only 11th of 373 councils to introduce the change'

The council is only the 11th of all 373 councils in England and Wales to introduce an exemption from Council Tax for care leavers up until either the age of 21 or 25.

Rochdale brought in its exemption following a suggestion by local care leaver Luke Sharp, who is a young trustee of The Children's Society and a member of the council's corporate parenting board.

Luke, 20, who went into care in 2011, said: "I got so involved with this campaign because 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 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."

'Move one of a number of measures available locally to help care leavers'

The move is one of a number of measures available locally to support young people, with financial support offered to care leavers up to the age of 25 who are in full time education, to help meet costs associated with studying.

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. I applaud Luke for coming up with this idea and the council is proud to implement it I now hope that other councils will look at this and make the change to give care leavers a helping hand to the as they start to lead  independent lives."


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