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30th Jun, 2022

Council tax exemption for vulnerable Solihull care leavers approved after fiery debate

Felix Nobes 12th Dec, 2018

A SCHEME 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.

Separate notices of motion were proposed by Conservative cabinet member for children, education and skills, councillor Ken Meeson, and Green Party councillor Maggie Allen the full council meeting.

The plans would cost the council less than £30,000.

Coun Allen’s motion was voted down by the Tories while Coun Meeson’s was approved after a compromise.

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.”

Coun Meeson and many Conservatives opposed the motion, bringing forward a motion which would include a commitment to lobby the government to issue statutory guidance which will exempt all care leavers, nationally, from council tax up to age 25.

He also called on the government to provide funding to compensate for the loss of council revenue arising from exemptions.

He said different councils had different schemes, which resulted in unfairness between local authority areas.

There are currently more than 400 looked after children in Solihull, which has placed considerable strain on the council’s finances.

The costs of placements for looked after children in the borough has risen by more than £1.5million pounds since 2015/16.

It spent more than £10.5million on placements in 2017/18.

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