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Leaving care: Money and benefits

Find out what financial support you are entitled to when you leave care.

1 Overview

Becoming an adult and becoming independent is financially challenging for anyone. You may also face the extra challenge of having few or no relatives to support you.

We take our financial responsibilities to you very seriously. We do our best to make sure that you do not have to worry because your bank account is empty.

Financial support does not mean that we pay you money every week. It instead describes a range of ways in which personal advisors and other council employees are expected to help you get your money situation looking and staying healthy.

If you are waiting to find out the outcome of your asylum claim or British citizenship application, different arrangements will apply. This will be explained in your pathway plan.

2 Financial entitlements

When you turn 18, you will no longer get pocket money or a personal allowance paid to you by your social worker. However, if you are not working and earning a wage you will be entitled to claim Universal Credit.

While you are waiting for your Universal Credit claim we will pay you five weekly payments of its equivalent when you turn 18. This is so that you don’t have to accept the advance payment which will put you in debt. It will also help you out until your benefit payments can start, as long as you have made a valid claim.

You can also expect the following:

  • A setting up home allowance of up to £2,000.00 to be used for furnishing your first home and, if relevant, funding rent in advance for a private rental.
  • Up to £300 towards health costs, such as glasses, dentistry or accessing medical appointments.
  • Up to £500 to help you with accessing education, employment or training. This could include course materials or books for a college course or uniform for a new job. We will also help you with transport costs for the first month when you start your first job, if the Job Centre+ won’t meet the cost.
  • A higher education bursary of £2,000.00, usually paid in instalments of £666.67 over the three academic years of university.
  • Support to make an application to Student Finance England for tuition and maintenance loans.
  • A graduation fund towards the cost of gown hire and mortar, graduation photos and other things when graduating from university.
  • No council tax to pay up until the age of 22, anywhere in the country. This payment does not happen automatically, so you must speak to your personal advisor or call us on 033 022 22004 to ask us to make the payments on your behalf.
  • Support to open a bank account, if you’ve not already done so.
  • Support to get a national insurance (NI) number, which you will need for any benefit applications and work.
  • A small gift up to the value of £15 for you and your children, if you have any, on birthdays and the cultural celebration of your choice. Personal advisors should recognise key events and points of celebration by also sending you a greetings card.
  • Cultural allowances if you require help to take part in religious or cultural festivals. If these are included in your pathway plan, we can support you through payments to a maximum of £50 per year. We do not support travel costs for regular worship or attendance at church or mosque.
  • No fee to obtain a birth certificate, by stating on the application that you are a care leaver.
  • One form of identification paid for by us.
  • A holiday allowance for university accommodation costs outside of term time (Christmas, Easter and Summer).
  • Any agency fees for renting privately and your removal costs paid for by us.
  • Your first year’s TV licence, deductible from your setting up home allowance.

3 Help with your first home

As well as your setting up home allowance (SUHA) to fund the items for your new home, the County Council may also help pay your deposit and first month’s rent (the latter will be deducted from your SUHA).

There may be other ways to get your deposit, such as through a local authority deposit scheme. Your personal advisor (PA) will work with you to find what's best for you.

We will also make sure you have adequate means to pack and move your things. Someone can help you move. Whether that’s your PA or a removals company will depend on how much you need to move.

4 Budgeting and income maximisation


This is a vital skill which should be developed at a young age. You can expect advice from your personal advisor on how best to budget and how to make sure you’re getting all the money you’re entitled to.

If you are attending university, you will have to make sure you budget to live on your student loan/grant for a 12-month period.

Income maximisation

This is the term we use when we talk about helping you get all the money you’re entitled to.

Your financial entitlements will depend on your legal status, your age, whether you’re a student, and whether you’re working.

Some of the support that may be offered to you includes referral to an advisor at the Department for Work and Pensions (who manage the Jobcentre) who understands the issues care leavers might have. They can also work out whether there are any other benefits you can claim that you didn’t already know about.

Many factors affect which benefits you can apply for and the amount you’ll receive. Below are two benefit calculators to help you work out what you’re entitled to:

There are several bursaries available to which you may be entitled, including the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund which can be accessed while you’re at college. The sheer range of bursaries reflects the fact that everyone’s situation is different. We will also consider other bursary or grant options such as:

In exceptional cases, we might consider offering you temporary financial support, usually when we are worried about your immediate safety.

5 Discretionary payments

Generally, we will not make any ongoing payments to you, nor to any other care leaver with recourse to public funds. We expected that if you're not earning, you will be accessing benefits to support yourself (Universal Credit).

There are, however, exceptional circumstances where we think you may need some help. The decision is made by considering the following:

  • Are there genuine safeguarding concerns and you would be placed at immediate risk if you do not receive financial support?
  • Are there SMART (specificmeasurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) objectives in place, reflected in your pathway plan, of how you and your personal advisor will try to overcome your current money issues?
  • Have you provided a bank statement to confirm that you have nothing in your account?
  • If your Universal Credit payment has stopped, have you tried to fix the issue and/or access an advance payment from your local Jobcentre?

If we decide we can help you, you will be offered one or more of the following:

  • Food vouchers
  • Food parcel and toiletries
  • Referral to a food bank
  • Direct payment to your bank account.

Your request will be entered into your pathway plan to keep a record. More importantly, there will be a discussion within your plan of your money situation and how we can work together to improve it.

If we do offer to pay money to your bank account, it will take at least 2-3 working days, owing to the way our financial systems work. There is nothing your personal advisor can do to change that.

6 Savings - Junior ISA

As a looked after child, and then as a care leaver, you’ll be able to access the Junior ISA. This is set up by the Share Foundation on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE).

When it’s set up for you, £200 is put in it by the government and over time that amount grows a little. At the age of 18 you can request for some or all the money to be paid to you.

To get the ISA you must have been:

  • born before 1 September 2002 or after 2 January 2011
  • in uninterrupted care for at least 12 months
  • under the age of 18 at the time of applying.

If you find yourself getting into debt, your personal advisor will help you contact companies you owe money to and arrange a repayment plan that is affordable. Or, they will introduce you to a debt advice service for help.

7 No recourse to public funds (NRPF)

The financial arrangements for care leavers with no recourse to public funds (NRFP) is very different to the arrangements made for everyone else. If you are unable to access benefits and housing, you are very likely not to be able to legally work. We have a duty to support you and will provide:

  • a prepaid card to be used in place of a normal debit or credit card
  • weekly subsistence payments to be used for food, drink, toiletries, clothing and other essentials
  • fully subsidised rent and utility bills in accommodation sourced by West Sussex County Council
  • travel payments for getting to college, as this should not come out of your weekly subsistence. You may have to contribute your bursary towards this though.

The support with money is conditional, which means we can stop paying you if you fail to comply with a removal order. If your application for extended leave is refused, or your appeal against refusal is dismissed, we will continue to support you until your 21st birthday.

For the subsistence payments to continue, you must stay in contact with us so that we know you still need our support. We have made this decision in line with the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 – Schedule 3.

If you have NRPF, we are unable to pay university tuition fees. So, if your immigration status allows you to be in higher education, you will need to source funding for this by way of a scholarship or other charitable means. Don’t forget you will have to pay tuition fees at the international student rate.

8 Care leavers in prison

Care leavers who are in prison receive a small amount of financial support from us. The prison itself will be providing things like food, drink, and clothing.

You can also take up work inside prison to pay for any additional items you would like.

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Last updated:
12 July 2021
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