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Leaving care: Health and wellbeing

Steps you can take to keep yourself healthy and well.

1 Overview

The most important thing you have is your health, and we offer a range of support options for you. Some of that support is offered by personal advisors, but sometimes we might need to refer you to services available in your local area.

We have several initiatives already up and running that will benefit care leavers. We also have links with organisations who are ready with some important help should you need it. As a starting point, you can find a complete directory of services on the West Sussex Wellbeing website.

2 Support from your personal advisor

Every care leaver will have different support needs when it comes to health and it will be for you to ask your personal advisor (PA) for help where you need it.

For example, if you feel there are things in your past that you really need to talk to someone about, your PA can direct you to services and perhaps attend some of the initial meetings with you.

There are some key things that you might want to consider asking your PA to help you with:

  • Registering with a doctor (GP), dentist and optician if you have not done so already or if you have moved to a new area. You have the right to choose your primary healthcare providers and cannot legally be refused treatment based on any outstanding application for leave to remain in the UK. To check for your nearest Health Service use the NHS Search tool.
  • Signposting you to appropriate services for your physical, mental and sexual health.
  • Attending hospital appointments with you for non-routine health concerns, as these can often be stressful. If you do end up as a patient at hospital, your PA should come in and see you.
  • Healthy living advice, which could include anything from being smart about having safe sex to having a balanced diet.

Being healthy is important for all young people and covers things like what you eat, what exercise you do and being confident and happy. It is also important that you know when and how to seek help or advice from professionals if you are feeling unwell or worried about your health or wellbeing.

You can help yourself stay healthy by keeping active, warm and eating well. Even small changes such as doing more exercise can have a big impact on your health. Depending on where you live, you may be able to access free gym membership, so speak to your PA about this.

3 Health assessments

In West Sussex we have the expertise of the Looked After Children (LAC) Nurse Team, who support you until you turn 18. They are responsible for several things, including booking you in for your annual health assessment.

All under 18s are offered a health assessment, which is an opportunity for you to meet and talk with a LAC nurse who will help you with your health.

The assessment should cover things like:

  • how you are feeling
  • what you can do to be healthy
  • any problems you have or things you are worried about
  • whether you have been to a dentist
  • whether you need your height and weight, eyes or hearing checked.

It might also include things about your health and wellbeing.

Shortly before you turn 18, the LAC nurse will put together a health summary. This will contain details of all the major events in your life that relate to your physical and mental health, as well as other important information for you, such as:

  • your NHS number
  • immunisations (vaccinations) you have had
  • any health professionals you have seen
  • your current GP
  • useful contacts.

4 Registering with a doctor or dentist

When you first register with a doctor (GP) surgery, you will be asked to attend a medical examination with a nurse and complete an application form.

The examination may include measuring your weight, height and blood pressure. If you have problems registering with a GP, your personal advisor (PA) will help you.

When you first register with a dental surgery, you may be asked to attend a check-up and complete an application form.

If you have difficulty finding an NHS dentist, your PA will help you.

5 Mental health

Just as we all have physical health, everyone has mental health. Sometimes it is pretty good, but other times it’s not so good.

Your personal advisor (PA) is experienced in supporting care leavers with a wide range of diagnosed conditions, including:

  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • anxiety disorders
  • bipolar disorder
  • schizophrenia
  • dissociative disorders
  • personality disorders.

If you happen to have one of these diagnoses, or another diagnosis, your PA will ensure that the support offered is suitably tailored to something that works for you. You may also be able to get longer-term support.

If you need referral to mental health services, you need to be registered with a GP in West Sussex and at least 18 years old. You can self-refer or ask your GP to do it for you and a member of the service will contact you to make an initial phone assessment, before deciding what support would be best for you.

6 Sexual health, drugs and alcohol

Sexual health

We encourage you to be smart about sex. Your personal advisor (PA) will discuss this issue with you in a non-judgemental way, so be prepared for it!

As with any other health matters, your PA will be supportive of you and happy to offer their advice, but you can get support from local clinics.

You can also:

  • attend drop-in sessions for young people only at our Find-It-Out Centres
  • pick up free condoms from several places across the county through a condom distribution scheme called the C Card.

Drugs and alcohol

We encourage you to be smart about drugs and alcohol and your PA will discuss this in a non-judgemental way. If you ever have issues along these lines, then we will urge you strongly to get the help you need. We value your health and hope you would too.

West Sussex is fortunate enough to have specialist support available if you do ever need it. Change Grow Live provides a service for substance misuse and will provide you with a support worker who links you to other organisations to help you turn things around.

Nothing changes if you don’t put in the hard work to make the changes as well, but there is always someone there to help and guide you. If you do need help, please visit the Change Grow Live website.

7 Other support

LGBTQ

For advice and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) issues, visit our LGBTQ support page.

Young Parents Pathway

Becoming a parent can be both exciting and challenging. In West Sussex, all care leavers have access to additional support through the Young Parent’s Pregnancy Pathway. This is run by ourselves, the Healthy Child Programme, and midwives to support pregnant women and their partners either in groups or one-to-one.

Everyone can get advice on healthy relationships, how to bond with babies and nutrition. The support lasts throughout pregnancy and the first months of the baby’s life. The Young Parents Pathway is tailored to individuals.

Your personal advisor (PA), midwife or health centre can tell you more and arrange for you to access this support.

Care leavers can apply to Care to Learn to receive £160 per child, per week for childcare costs while you study.

Information, advice and guidance on childcare in West Sussex is available from the Family Information Service.

PAUSE

Women who have experienced, or are at risk of, repeat removal of children from their care can get support from a national charity called PAUSE.

In West Sussex we prioritise providing support for our care leavers who have had one child removed or relinquished from their care. Our goal is to allow them the opportunity to understand their past and how it impacts on their behaviours and, through support, transform behaviours to develop confidence and hope that in the future they will be able to have a family in the future.

Domestic abuse

We offer support to all care leavers who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse through our Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence service. This can be done directly or through consultation with your PA.

The direct support will be either be provided by a young person's domestic abuse worker or an independent domestic violence advisor (IDVA). An initial assessment and safety planning will be completed for the care leaver and any children. This will focus on individual needs to promote safety and provide both practical and emotional support.

Longer-term support for any ongoing criminal investigation and support in court can also be part of this work. If consultation is provided, this will include tool kits that can be used with care leavers directly and joint visits, as required.

The domestic abuse service will also provide training for the care leavers' workforce, as agreed by the service leads. This will be adapted to ensure it meets the team’s requirements.

Lifecentre

This charity supports male and female survivors of rape and sexual abuse of all ages. For the national helpline and a counselling team based in Sussex see the Lifecentre website.

SEND and the disabilities offer

Young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) can find a wealth of information about local services and opportunities through the County Council's Local Offer.

It is worth a look if you have ever had a Statement of Educational Needs or an Education Health and Care Plan, as you may be able to make use of some of the services offered.

We have an enhanced offer of support for young people with physical and mental health disabilities, as well as those with learning disabilities. This support comes from our Transitions team who, if you meet the criteria for Adults' Services support under the Care Act 2014, will take a lead role in providing you with a service.

Instead of a personal advisor, your support comes from a social worker or care coordinator who specialises in working with young people with disabilities. You will still be legally entitled to the same entitlements as other care leavers.

Parts of your service will be different to that received by other care leavers, for example you will receive enhanced support with housing.

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Last updated:
28 April 2021
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