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Leaving care: What next?

How we will support you when your time in care comes to an end.

Last updated:
29 October 2020
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1 Overview

Our leaving care service is the key team for you to know, as they will be your first contact point for all your needs.

You will start to work with an allocated personal advisor or social worker from this team when you turn 18.

2 Who can receive a service

If you’ve been looked after, that doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get a leaving care service. There are some important distinctions to make on who can receive one.

The following key terms describe young people aged between 16 and 25 to distinguish the levels of support that will be offered:

Eligible child

  • Aged 16 or 17
  • Looked after by children’s services for a period of 13 weeks since the age of 14
  • Currently looked after.

Relevant child

  • Aged 16 or 17
  • Looked after by children’s services for a period of 13 weeks since the age of 14
  • Looked after for a period after their 16th birthday
  • No longer looked after.

Former relevant child

  • Aged between 18 and 21 OR between 18 and 25 if still in full-time education
  • Previously an eligible child and/or a relevant child.

Qualifying child

  • Aged between 16 and 21 OR between 16 and 25 if still in full-time education
  • Looked after by Children’s Services on, or after, their 16th birthday and no longer looked after
  • Spent less than 13 weeks in care since their 14th birthday and so do not fulfil the criteria for an eligible or relevant child.

For a description of each category and what you are entitled to, visit the Child Law Advice website.

There are also other entitlements that relate to specific areas, such as housing or education.

3 Services

Young people who are eligible, relevant or former relevant can expect:

  • a personal advisor (PA) or social worker
  • a pathway plan
  • general advice and assistance.

If you are former relevant, we will:

  • provide you with a PA who will visit you at least once every two months
  • provide you with and review a pathway plan at least once every six months
  • help you with expenses relating to getting into, or remaining in education, employment or training
  • offer you advice and support
  • keep in touch with you
  • offer or pay for somewhere for you to live during the extended university holidays (Easter, Summer and Christmas) if you have no other home
  • provide you with a £2,000 higher education bursary and a setting up home allowance (SUHA)
  • help you find suitable housing.

If you are qualifying, we will:

  • offer you advice and support
  • keep in touch with you
  • offer or pay for somewhere for you to live during the extended university holidays (Easter, Summer and Christmas) if you have no other home.

4 16 and 17 year-olds

The leaving care service starts to take a leading role on working with you when you turn 18. However, the leaving care journey begins before adulthood when each young person who qualifies for a service is matched to a personal advisor (PA) or social worker from age 16.

The idea of an earlier match is to ensure you get to know the professional who will provide post-18 support before you become an adult. The professional will also have a much stronger idea and understanding of your support needs before you turn 18 and can better prepare you for what is to come.

Work with an 'eligible or relevant' 16 or 17-year-old will still be led by a social worker. The matched PA from the leaving care service will also help the social worker prepare for your independence.

Our charter for care leavers means that we will treat you with respect, listen to you and support you every step of the way to ensure you have the best possible start in life.

At some point before or just after your 16th birthday, you will sit down with your social worker and other adults who play an important role in your life to write a pathway plan for your future.

Your plan will contain lots of different things that matter to you, including:

  • where you are going to live and your accommodation
  • mapping out what needs you have
  • setting out how your needs can be met in the future
  • your health, wellbeing and development
  • your education, employment and training
  • your family, social relationships and personal support
  • practical skills and how you are going to develop them
  • financial support you are receiving
  • your future goals and how you are going to achieve them
  • helping you move towards independence
  • how we will provide you with the support you need.

Your PA will take the lead with the pathway plan when you turn 18. It is important that everyone around you knows what is happening and what plans you have.

When the plan is written you will have an opportunity to read it, comment on it and sign it. If you agree to its content, it becomes a legally binding document, so signing it is kind of a big deal.

Your plan will be reviewed at least once every six months, though it can be reviewed sooner if you wish. You can think about:

  • what has happened over previous months
  • what you may like to do next
  • what you have achieved
  • any goals you have for the future.

It will also give you a chance to discuss how you are getting on and how you feel about where you are living.

Your plan can be changed at any time - things can happen in life that you don’t expect, so you might find that you want different things, or your circumstances change.

It is important you work with your PA on your pathway plan, as they won’t know what you would like them to help you with.

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