Provide care leavers in Essex with a council tax exemption up to the age of 25

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Care leavers are one of the most disadvantaged groups within our society, and deserve a fairer start to life. Individuals leaving the care system have often faced great adversities and have had a difficult start to life, and many have to begin the transition to independence at a significantly younger age than their non looked after counterparts. Many care leavers have no choice but move out of foster care placements or residential children’s home from the age of 16, into independent accommodation. At 16, many care leavers are expected to be responsible for managing their budget, bills and a home - often with little financial education and a lack of a support network. In turn, this means that care leavers are more vulnerable to falling into debt or becoming homeless. Additionally, care leavers are three times more likely to be subject to benefit sanctions than the general population, which means that there are many 16-18 year olds who are left hungry and having no access to gas or electric. Care leavers are also less likely to appeal these sanctions due to a lack of support, however for those who did, it was found that 60% of these sanctions were overturned - meaning that many care leavers are being wrongly penalised in the first place.

As a care leaver, I believe that the government set unrealistic expectations for care leavers which would be challenging for any 16 year old, let alone individuals who are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, social isolation and whom often do not have a supportive network of friends and families to help them. I believe that by implementing a council tax exemption for care leavers until they are 25, this will relieve the financial pressures for care leavers and provide them with time to learn how to effectively manage their money, whilst providing a fairer start to life and avoiding debt in the future. Over 40 councils have already implemented this change within their counties, it’s time for Essex to step up and support our care leavers.

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