Councillor Renard’s Swindon Advertiser Column 12 October 2017

Councillor David Renard, Leader of the Council

Next Wednesday (18 Oct) Cllr Fionuala Foley, the Cabinet Member responsible for Children’s Services and Russell Holland, the Deputy Leader of the Council whose portfolio includes Finance, will ask Cabinet colleagues to authorise starting a new policy that will go some way towards helping care leavers make the transition into adult life.

Councillors are corporate parents

It is our duty to look after all children who do not have anyone to care for them and it is a responsibility everyone at the Council takes extremely seriously.  In fact, all councillors act as corporate parents to those children in our care.

Giving our young people in care a stable home life is actually a privilege and it is extremely rewarding when you hear of how they have progressed in their lives when they no longer need the Council’s help.

Of course, when a young person first leaves care it can be a challenging time. For most people, venturing into the big wide world is rather less daunting as parents or family members are on hand should they need them.

If you have no relatives to support you, it can be quite a shock to the system. A report by the Children’s Society entitled ‘The Wolf at the Door’ found that when care leavers move into independent accommodation, managing their own budget for the first time is a challenging experience.

The Children’s Society report makes a number of recommendations including ensuring that care leavers are exempt from council tax in order to relieve some of the initial financial pressure for a young person.

Seeking to consult on help with Council Tax for care leavers

As a result, the Council’s Cabinet will be asked to start a consultation on making care leavers exempt from paying council tax up until the age of 21 and consult on a 50 per cent discount for those with joint council tax responsibility living within the borough. This would give young people a period of time to get used to managing their own finances without the extra burden of council tax.  However, since we know that can be a challenge, we will also be looking to have a discretionary scheme that could support young people with council tax up to the age of 25.

If agreed these discounts will be effective from 1st April 2018 with discretion to cancel any outstanding arrears owed prior to this date.

Care leavers will also receive help with personal budgeting and other skills training to help develop their independence through the every Pathway Plan run by the Council’s Transition and Leave Care Team.

The proposal to make the council tax exemption for care leavers is in line with one of the Council’s key Priorities of helping ‘people to help themselves while always protecting the most vulnerable’. Looking after our care leavers is definitely one of our top priorities.