DORSET care leavers may not have to pay council tax until the age of 25 – if the council decided to support a national campaign by the Children’s Society.

It claims that having to stump up the tax is putting many young people who come out of care into debt, in turn, creating other problems.

But councillors have been told that the cost could run into a six-figure sum, each year, if they support the move.

The Children’s Society say many care leavers get into debt because of a lack of support networks of family and friends; a lack of financial education while in care and because they are more likely to be the subject of benefit sanctions than other claimants.

Care leavers in Scotland and Wales are already exempt from council tax with 102 English authorities now signed up to the Children’s Society campaign.

In Dorset the council has a parenting responsibility for 225 care leavers aged between 18 and 25. Of the 130 who live in Dorset 64 are in Weymouth and Portland. Of the 95 care leavers who live outside Dorset, or whose whereabouts are unknown, 33 live in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. 66 care leavers are in full time education and because of that exempt from council tax for the duration of their studies. 26 of those live in Dorset.

The figures add up to 104 care leavers who would curently be liable for council tax, although 37 of these are not in employment, training or education and are likely to qualify for council tax support because of that.

More work will now be carried out on the statistics but the idea has won the backing of the Dorset Council corporate parenting board which will now need to convince the council cabinet to finance it.

Board chair Cllr Toni Coombs says she believes the outlay on the scheme should be treated as ‘spend to save’, helping the community avoid further costs in the future by avoiding debt problems: “it might even end up being cost neutral,” she said.