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Young care leavers in Hertfordshire could be exempt from paying council tax under new proposals

Young people leaving the care system in Hertfordshire will be exempt from paying council tax, under county council budget proposals.

Currently young people leaving care at 18 can find themselves living alone for the first time. That can mean learning how to juggle the financial demands of budgeting rent, food and bills very quickly.

But now Hertfordshire County Council is drawing-up plans to ease that financial burden – by exempting care leavers aged 18 to 21 from council tax. The move is being backed by the council’s executive member for children, young people and families Cllr Fiona Thomson.

Speaking at a meeting of the cabinet on Monday (January 15), Cllr Thomson said: “As corporate parents – and we take our corporate parenting  responsibility very seriously – Hertfordshire County Council is required to do all that is reasonably possible to ensure care leavers have the best life chances.

“Hertfordshire care leavers are responsible for daily living costs that their peers would not be and disadvantaged as a result, leading to increased need for support.

“So I am very pleased that we will be developing an approach to provide council tax assistance for care leavers, aged 18 to 21 years old, from April 2024.”

Cllr Thomson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that it’s an issue that’s been raised with the council by children and young people in care. She says she wants those leaving the care system to receive this support through a council tax exemption.

She highlighted the plan as part of a debate on the council’s 24/25 budget proposals, which will be scrutinised by councillors over the next four weeks. As part of those proposals, children’s services would be allocated almost £257m.

Cllr Thomson – who is also deputy leader of the county council – told the meeting that the children’s services budget had been ‘under significant pressure’ this year. She said they were continuing to see increases in demand for services, increasing complexity of issues children present with and increasing costs of placements.

She added that in these 24/25 budget proposals the council would be investing an additional £18m to support ‘children looked after’ and children with disabilities. She highlighted plans for a £3m increase in fostering allowances and the launch of an intensive foster care programme.

The £4.6m capital investment as part of a ‘transformation’ programme was also highlighted, that would deliver an additional 22 residential places within the county to support children in care.

Meanwhile at the meeting Cllr Caroline Clapper, executive member for education, libraries and lifelong learning, highlighted council plans for additional investment in services for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Earlier this year the county council committed to spending an additional £5m a year on SEND services. Budget proposals for 24/25 propose to increase this additional investment by a further £2m.

“We take this issue extremely seriously and want the best outcomes for the children in Hertfordshire,” she said.

The county council’s budget proposals will be determined by a meeting of the full council on February 13.