A CAMPAIGN by young people to make care leavers in Devon exempt from paying Council Tax has been heralded a success, as each of Devon’s eight District Councils have agreed the proposal.

The campaign was brought by Devon County Council’s Stand Up Speak Up group, comprising care experienced young people who felt that waiving council tax would put all care leavers on a firmer footing financially, as they move into independence.

Young people in care often live with their foster families, and some choose to continue those arrangements as care leavers once they have turned 18. But some move on to live elsewhere more independently, and with bills and rent to pay, it is often difficult for those young people without having the financial security of a family behind them.

Devon County Councillors recently gave care leavers protected characteristic status, in recognition that young people's experience of being in the care system can be a potential source of discrimination, similar to other protected characteristics.

That status means not only will the County Council do all it can to support children in care and care leavers, but that the council will work with District Councils and other partners to improve support for care experienced people in all aspects of their lives, including housing and accommodation, health, employment and education.

The agreement by District Councils to exempt council tax for care leavers has been widely welcomed, as has Devon County Council’s agreement to cover the costs of Council Tax for Devon care leavers living out of the county.

Twenty-four-year old Amelcia, said: "Care leavers are more vulnerable to the pressures of the cost of living crisis, in terms of both finances and mental health. Exemption from paying council tax could literally save lives. You’ll definitely be changing lives for the better."

Luke, a care leaver now working as an apprentice for Devon County Council, said: “The council tax exemption means it will be cheaper for me in my first home. It will allow me to get myself onto a better footing financially, and I'll be able to start setting aside some money and saving for my future.”

Another Devon care leaver said: "I struggle paying for my council tax as it feels like a second rent. I am just about keeping on top of all my utility bills." 

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council's Cabinet Member with responsibility for children in care and care leavers, said: "I am delighted that our District Council partners are also doing what they can to support care experienced young people. It shows that as a collective Team Devon we can help make these young people's lives a little easier."