North Ayrshire Council Exempts All Care Leavers From Council Tax
The council, which has a reputation for radical and unorthodox policy initiatives, has announced that from today care leavers will pay no council tax.
Other councils promoting a similar policy have asked care leavers to register for the scheme, but North Ayrshire decided to go with a pro-active ‘auto-enrolment’ approach. They have already identified all 185 care leavers in the council area. The power to exempt care leavers was devolved to councils following the introduction of a motion by Council Leader Cllr Joe Cullinane in October 2017 backing the move. The Scottish Government announced just days later that it would accede to the demand.
This is not the first innovation that the Labour Council or Cllr Cullinane has made in this area. In 2016, they signed up to the Scottish Care Leaver’s Covenant, and guaranteed at least five modern apprenticeships would go to care leavers every year. They are currently above their target.
These schemes have been described as critical, with 2017 research from Who Cares Scotland showing that care leavers have an average unemployment rate of 30%, with estimates for homelessness among care leavers five years after leaving care standing between 21% - 50%. These are truly shocking statistics, and all councils should follow North Ayrshires lead in auto-enrolment.
Councillor Cullinane said: “I am delighted that from today Care Leavers, not only in North Ayrshire but across Scotland, will be able to claim an exemption from Council Tax and I am incredibly proud at our role in leading the way to deliver this real change.
“Now that the power has been granted, the Labour administration in North Ayrshire has taken the pro-active step to identify the young people eligible for the Council Tax exemption and have registered them for it.
“I have always said that one of the most important roles that Councillors hold is a corporate parent to our young people in care and that places a great responsibility on all us to deliver the mix of opportunities that will allow them to reach their full potential.
“That’s why supporting our children in care has been right at top of my agenda. It is an absolute priority of ours.
“In addition to pushing the Council Tax exemption, last year, along with all our community partners, we signed the Scottish Care Leavers Covenant and that has kickstarted a process of improving our support to try and make a tangible difference.
“Our modern apprenticeship guarantee, which sets aside at least 5 Council modern apprenticeship places for local Care Leavers, is offering young people an opportunity to work for the Council, whilst our mentoring programme is going from strength to strength with Chief Officers of the Council taking part.
“I know Care Leavers are a group of young people with talent, skills and ambitions just like their peers. However, we know the many challenges they face in being able to fulfil their potential. We have made progress but I will not rest on our laurels. Until we achieve real equity for Care Leavers then there will be much more that we can and should do.”