Issue details

20/00005 - Payment of Council Tax for Kent Care Leavers

Background

The Children and Social Work Act (2017) implemented on 1st April 2018, places corporate parenting responsibilities on district councils for the first time, requiring them to have regard to children in care and care leavers when carrying out their functions. Councils have the power to introduce exemptions for council tax for certain groups under section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992.

Corporate Parenting is a statutory function of the Council with the underlying principle that every local authority will seek the same outcomes for children and young people in care that every good parent would want for their own children; for example, successful transition to young adulthood and financial independence.

The children’s social care inspectorate, Ofsted, has the ‘Experience of Looked After Children and Care Leavers’ as a key judgement area in its evaluation of local performance, and expects Councils and children’s services to provide clear evidence that it supports its young people leaving care up to the age of 25, in a way that optimises their outcomes.

The Government’s care leavers’ strategy, Keep on Caring, published in July 2016, encouraged councils to consider the role of a corporate parent, ‘through the lens of what any reasonable parent does to give their child the best start in life’.  As a further development of this local authorities were encouraged to consider exempting care leavers from council tax using the powers already at their disposal, to be aspirational for care leavers in achieving financial independence.

 

How we got to the decision:

Kent has 1,718 young people who they have corporate parenting responsibility for as Care Leavers aged 18 -25 years. The vast majority are living in Kent, with 155 in Medway and 408 placed outside of the county. The original proposal was to work with the 12 Local District Borough Councils to request an exemption for council tax for all Kent Care Leavers living within the county. After extensive work on the logistics involved in this, the request is to implement a simplified proposal, in which Kent County Council in their role as a Corporate Parent would fund council tax payments where young people who are care leavers are eligible to pay. This would be for young people who are Kent Care Leavers aged 18-21 years, wherever they are living. The reasons for this are:

  • Young people are not equally accommodated across the district, meaning some boroughs such as Canterbury and Gravesham would have significantly more young people compared to other boroughs such as Dartford and Tonbridge & Malling.
  • The cost and coordination of administration across 12 districts was not a cost-effective model.
  • Alongside district councils there would need to have been agreement from the police, fire services and parish councils in each of the 12 district boroughs.
  • Kent young people living outside of Kent would have been at a significant disadvantage, as would not have been able to access the exemption.
  • Personal Advisors can assist young people to claim all eligible benefits and discounts, as two thirds of our young people aged 18-21 years do not currently pay council tax due to their status as a student, being on a low income or residing in certain accommodation types. There are many different ways of reducing council tax liability. The young person can claim, amongst many others, discounts as a single person, if they are severely mentally impaired, as an apprentice and as a student. All these discounts can be applied for online.

The proposal meets the objectives of ‘Increasing Opportunities, Improving Outcomes: Kent County Council’s Strategic Statement (2015-2020)’ through:

·      The Strategic Statement underpins the proposal for the payment of council tax in our aim to improve the lives of children and young people by giving them the best start in life. It meets our responsibility of being the best Corporate Parent we can be and being aspirational for our Care Leavers as they transition into adult hood.

·      Agreement to the funding would improve the outcomes of Care Leavers by ensuring that they are financially supported and give them the best possible opportunities for their futures as adults.

·     For those young people currently paying council tax, it would open up the opportunity to use their own income for more social and leisure activities, promoting and improving their mental health and well-being. 

 

Proposed decision:

To agree that Kent County Council will fund the council tax payments for Kent young people who are Care Leavers from the age of 18 years, up to the age of 21 years. All young people will be expected to claim any council tax benefit/discount entitlement and no backdated payments will be made. For implementation from 1st April 2020. This will be published as part of the Kent Care Leavers Local Offer.

Decision type: Key

Reason Key: Affects more than two Electoral Divisions;

Decision status: For Determination

Division affected: (All Division);

Notice of proposed decision first published: 20/12/2019

Decision due: Not before 21st Jan 2020 by Cabinet Member for Integrated Children's Services
Reason: In order that the proposed decision can be published for a minimum of 28 days, in accordance with statutory requirements

Lead member: Cabinet Member for Integrated Children's Services

Lead director: Sarah Hammond

Department: Education & Young People's Services

Contact: Caroline Smith, Assistant Director, Corporate Parenting, Integrated Children's Services Tel: 03000 415091 Email: caroline.smith@kent.gov.uk Tel: 03000 415091.

Consultees

On 27th March 2019, the Young Adult Council made the following challenge, via the Corporate Parenting Panel,

 

The Young Adult Council would like to raise the following new Challenge:

 

“That all Kent Care Leavers living in Kent should be exempt from paying Council Tax up until the age of 25 years, whilst still engaging with the service.”

 

As part of this, there was consultation with young people and research into other local authorities and how exemptions had been applied.

 

This matter was discussed at the CYPE Cabinet Committee on 10th January 2020.

Financial implications: The estimated cost to KCC will be £594,230 per year. This is based on all eligible discounts being applied for by the young person and starting from 1st April 2020. No historic council tax arrears would be funded.

Equalities implications: An Equality and Impact Assessment has been completed. This identified that the original proposal for a district exemption would discriminate against those young people who are Kent care leavers but living outside of the county. If agreed, the decision will be published through the Local Offer and will be open to all eligible Kent Care Leavers where Kent County Council are the corporate parent. This offer would not apply to Care Leavers placed into Kent by other Local Authorities.

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