This morning, I received an e-mail from Jacq who is part of the Campaigns team at The Children’s Society. As a result, I contacted my local council. (Council = local government.) Apparently, roughly half of Britain’s council’s are helping so-called “care leavers” with their council tax bills, whether Labour-led, Lib-Dem-led, Green-led or Conservative-led.
My council does not do that yet. It means that the roughly 230 care leavers in Portsmouth are worse off than care leavers in, for example North-Somerset, which has the same number of care leavers.
When young people who have been in a care home or in foster care are thrust into society on the basis of their age, they have had almost no financial education, apparently, and little or no preparation for what it means to live on your own.
Particularly council tax bills tend to get them into trouble. I think that makes sense. These so-called care leavers may never have heard of council tax, and they’re not seeing anything tangible in return for paying these bills. It makes sense for young people to ignore them. You pay water bills for water, electricity bills in return for electricity, council tax bills because you use… eh, what?
Since my move to Britain, I have tried to explain council tax to educated adults in other countries a few times and they too are flabbergasted by the idea of “council tax”. In response, I was even told once that I was paying someone else’s taxes, was paying bills I should not have to pay – by someone who’s probably never paid a bill late even once throughout his entire life.
If the concept of council tax is that incomprehensible to educated adults in other countries, it probably makes even less sense to young care leavers.
Unless councils step in to support these care leavers, council tax ruins these young people’s lives before they’ve even had a chance at a life.
(Of course, the real issue includes the lack of support they’ve obviously had while in care. Fixing that is more complicated and more expensive, however.)