PLANS to exempt West Oxfordshire care leavers from council tax until they reach 25 could prevent dozens of young people from 'falling into despair'.

West Oxfordshire District Council unanimously agreed to the proposal on Wednesday, with the scheme set to come into force in April.

The decision follows a national campaign by The Children's Society, which found many young people struggle financially when they leave care aged 18.

Aaron Miles, a 21-year-old care leaver, said the measure would provide a 'safety net' for those who suddenly find themselves alone.

He added: "The true family support that most people have post-18 won't be available to care leavers. Some may be leaving children's homes, while most people who lived with foster families will lose contact with them.

"Some live hand to mouth and can't get out of the house to go to work, because they can't afford the bus or public transport.

"This is a safety net for those who don't have the financial security that very few people living in care have."

Until the age of 18, young people in care across the county are under the responsibility of Oxfordshire County Council.

Financial support stops when they reach adulthood and research from The Centre for Social Justice found 57 per cent of young people have difficulty managing their money and avoiding debt when leaving care.

Mr Miles, ex-chair of Oxfordshire's Children in Care Council, said: "When you're released into the big, wide world most of that blanket of support disappears.

"People leaving care should still get help - they're the same as they were 12 months ago."

West Oxfordshire joins 30 other local authorities in adopting some policy of exemption or discount for care leavers.

There are 460 care leavers in Oxfordshire and some county councillors want to introduce a similar plan for all districts in September.

The county council, district and parish councils and Thames Valley Police will be expected to make up the shortfall and work is currently ongoing to examine the costs.

The cost to councils is likely to be low, as many care leavers would be eligible for discounts anyway.

Rosa Bolger, district councillor for Witney East who proposed the motion, said: "It’s a small but very significant way in which we can support the care leavers in our district, from the moment they transition from being a child in care to becoming an independent adult."

Mr Miles admitted he is one of the 'lucky few' care leavers who reached 18 and had a clear path ahead of him.

The Chipping Norton said he was the only young person leaving care in west Oxfordshire to enter higher education in the last two years.

He is currently in the final year of a social and political course at Oxford's Ruskin College, while he still lives with the foster family he met nine years ago.

Mr Miles entered care aged 11 and initially spent nine months living with a family in Carterton, but revealed it took him a long time to come to terms with his position.

He said: "Frankly, I was terrified.

"Even when you're in a position where it's obvious you need to be removed, your family are still your family.

"When you're separated from them it's unimagineable.

"For months, maybe years, I was very resentful of the people who placed me into foster care.

"I didn't realise until a year after that it was helping me have a better life."