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Leaving care: Who's there to help

The people who will be there to help and guide you towards independence during your time in care.

1 Social workers

Every young person who is looked after by the County Council will have a social worker until they are 18 years old.

Their role is to ensure you receive appropriate care, education and health services and they will always treat you with respect and dignity.

Your social worker will be there to support you with any problems you might have and can answer questions about living away from home.

They will be there to listen to what you have to say and will advocate on your behalf.

Your social worker is the person who is responsible for:

  • making sure you’re properly cared for
  • visiting you
  • helping you to keep in touch with your family
  • being there to help if you have problems
  • making sure you're healthy
  • supporting you with your education.

Your social worker will be able to help you better if you tell them the things that are important to you.

Changing your social worker

Most young people get on with their social worker, but sometimes they don’t. If you don’t get on with your social worker, it is important to know why.

You can always tell your social worker or any other adults you are living with that you’re not happy and you can ask for a different one. This is not always possible, but your wishes will be listened to.

Contacting your social worker

To speak to your social worker, you should call the office where they are based. If they are not in their office, you can leave them a message. Your social worker does not work 24 hours a day, so may not always answer their phone.

If the office is closed and the matter is urgent, you can contact the Emergency Duty Team by phoning 033 022 26664 during the following hours:

  • Monday to Thursday - 5.00pm to 8.00am
  • Friday to Monday - 5.00pm to 8.00am (includes all day Saturday and Sunday)

2 Independent reviewing officer (IRO)

As well as the social worker who will manage your case, an independent reviewing officer (IRO) is a very important person for you as a looked after child. This is because an IRO is in charge of monitoring your case.

You will be given the contact details of your IRO and they should meet you before your first case review.

An IRO has to make sure:

  • the local authority is doing what it is supposed to do for you while you’re in care
  • your placement is right for you
  • you are happy and safe. 

Every looked after child will be allocated an IRO within seven days of becoming looked after. Where possible, you will have the same IRO throughout your time in care. This is so that you can build a good relationship with them and trust them to help you if things need to change about your situation in care.

If you stop being looked after, but then become looked after again, you will be given the same IRO as before.

If you have brothers and sisters who are also in care, they should have the same IRO as you, even if they live somewhere else.

Youth justice system

If you are being cared for within the youth justice system, your IRO should specifically check that:

  • your social worker is sharing information and contributing to assessments with the Youth Offending Service 
  • you have been given expert legal help
  • your social worker is going with you to court hearings
  • your social worker has provided all the necessary information that will help the court to reach a decision, including anything in your defence and plans for your future
  • your placement is supporting you and complying with bail conditions.

3 Personal advisor (PA)

From the age of 16, you will be working with both your social worker and a personal advisor (PA). Your PA will be responsible for working with you to prepare you to live in independence where you are healthy, happy and safe.

They will provide you with advice and support to help you on your journey to living independently successfully. They will also keep you informed about the support we and other services can offer you.

If you are worried about anything or have any problems, you can talk to your PA, who will do their best to support you. Your PA will listen to what you have to say, treating you with respect and dignity.

The key thing to note with a PA is that the onus is very much on you, as a care leaver, to say when you need support – we expect it of you!

Your PA will also:

  • meet with you to write and review your Pathway Plan
  • support you in looking after your health and wellbeing
  • support you in education, employment and training
  • keep in touch with you until you are at least 21 years old or 25 if in education
  • keep an eye on any difficulties you may be having.

Visits from your PA

Before turning 18, your social worker is most likely to visit you where you are living, though they can meet you somewhere different.

After turning 18, your PA will meet you wherever you’re both happy to meet. Your PA may wish to visit your house for a particular reason, such as seeing how you are managing with living independently.

Your PA must, by law, see you at least once every eight weeks (unless expressly against your wishes). They may not see you as often as you would like, but they will do their best to see you as often as possible, and when you are in most need of support.

Between visits, you’ll keep in touch through other means like text, mobile, email, Skype and/or app. Once again, the PA will be led by your wishes and if you want to see your worker’s smiling face more often, then they’ll be happy to see you too!

Most young people get on with their PA, but sometimes they don’t. If you don’t get on with yours, it is important to know why.

You can always tell your PA or someone you trust that you are not happy and you can ask for a different one. This is not always possible, but your wishes and feeling will be listened to.

Contacting your PA

You can call your PA on their mobile phone and talk to them during office hours, Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm.

If your PA is not available or is in a meeting and you need to talk to them urgently, leave a message and they will call you back as soon as they can. Your PA does not work 24 hours a day, so may not always answer their phone.

If it really is urgent and you can’t wait for your PA to call back, you can contact the helpline on 033 022 22004.

Remember, the person who answers may not know you or your circumstances, so be patient and explain fully why you are calling and how they can help you.

4 Independent visitor

A befriending scheme for children and young people between the ages of 8 and 17 years, who are looked after by the local authority and will not be returning home is run by West Sussex Independent Visitor Scheme.

Independent visitors are non-professional adult volunteers who enjoy spending time with children and young people. After being suitably matched, they will visit you once a month, building up a friendship and doing things together which you enjoy.

This can be going for a bike ride, having a chat over a hot chocolate, watching a film together, visiting a museum - whatever you are interested in and want to do.

Most visits naturally take place at weekends or during holidays, when you are free.

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Last updated:
13 May 2021
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