A SCHEME which will see people who have been in care during their childhood exempt from paying council tax has been given the green light.

From April, Swindon will join a number of other towns across the country in giving those who have been in care as children complete exemption from council tax.

The programme is aimed at care leavers below the age of 21 and will be extended to those up to the age of 25 if they can show that having to pay the bill would result in financial hardship.

The idea behind the scheme was set out in a cabinet report released last October. It reads: “Children and young people who are looked after by the local authority rather than their parents are likely to be amongst the most vulnerable in the community.

“A report by the Children Society found that when care leavers move into independent accommodation, managing their own budget for the first time can be challenging.”

Care leavers will also receive assistance with personal budgeting and other skills training, the aim of which is to help develop their independence.

Councillor Fionuala Foley, the cabinet member for children’s services and school attainment, said: “I feel really passionate about this new policy because we have a really important part to play as corporate parents to so many young people in our care and we have a duty to give them the best possible start in life, just as all parents would care for their own children.

“Many other local authorities have imposed a blanket council tax exemption for all care leavers up until the age of 25, but I do not feel this would help our young people to stand on their own two feet.

“This is why our exemption safety net is open to care leavers up until the age of 21 and, after that point, we want to work with them to help them manage their own finances and source any alternative help that may be available to them.”

Coun Foley stressed that the council was committed to providing additional funding for new staff “so we can deliver a wrap-around service for care leavers that will be available around the clock, 365 days a year”.