Leaving care support

If you are a looked-after child Children’s Services will have to give you support when you reach 16 and help you to prepare for leaving care. The type of help you will get will depend on your situation.

You are a looked-after child if you have been provided with care and accommodation by Children’s Services for a period longer than 24 hours under a care order or with the agreement of your parents.

Am I an eligible child?

You will be an eligible child if:

  • You are aged between 16 and 17
  • You have been looked-after by Children’s Services for at least 13 weeks, since the age of 14. (The period of 13 weeks does not need to be all in one go)
  • You are still being looked-after by Children’s Services.

An eligible child will be entitled to the following services:

  • Personal advisor
  • Needs assessment
  • Pathway plan.

Am I a relevant child?

You will be a relevant child if:

  • You are aged between 16 and 17
  • You have been looked-after by Children’s Services for at least 13 weeks, since the age of 14 (the period of 13 weeks does not need to be all in one go)
  • You have been looked-after for at least 1 day after your 16th
  • You have now left the care of Children’s Services.

A relevant child will be entitled to the following services:

  • A Personal Advisor
  • Needs Assessment
  • A Pathway Plan
  • Housing and Maintenance
  • Children’s Services will also need to keep in touch with you, at least until you are 18.

Am I a former relevant child?

You will be a former relevant child if:

  • You are aged between 18 and 21
  • You have been previously been either an eligible child or relevant child or both.

A former relevant child will be entitled to the following services:

  • A Personal Advisor
  • A Pathway Plan
  • Children’s Services will also need to remain involved with you until you are 21 or 25 if in education detailed in your Pathway Plan
  • Help with money for your education, training or employment, if detailed in your Pathway Plan
  • Assistance in general (sometimes by providing cash)
  • The provision of, or funds to secure the provision of vacation accommodation if you are in full-time higher or further education, if needed.

Am I a qualifying care leaver?

You will be a qualifying care leaver if:

  • You are aged between 16-21 (or 25 if you are in further education or training)
  • You were looked-after by Children’s Services for a period of time between your 16th and 18th birthday.
  • You were not looked-after by Children’s Services for at least 13 weeks, since the age of 14, or if you were, you were not looked-after) for at least 1 day after your 16th birthday.

A qualifying care leaver will be entitled to the following services:

  • Children’s Services will need to take steps to keep in touch with you
  • Advice and assistance
  • Financial assistance – Children’s Services MAY, in exceptional circumstances, provide cash and MAY contribute to costs incurred by you in living near your place of work, or contribute to the costs of education or training
  • If you are in full-time further or higher education and need accommodation during a vacation as term time accommodation is not available, Children’s Services MUST provide accommodation or money for accommodation.

What is a Pathway Plan?

If you are an eligible child, relevant child or former relevant child you will be entitled to a Pathway Plan. A Pathway Plan will set out the support that you will be given once you have left care. This must be based on the needs assessment carried out. The plan should be prepared before you leave care.

The Pathway Plan should set out:

  • support to stay in contact with family and friends.
  • support to develop practical and other skills to live independently.
  • support for your physical, emotional and mental health needs.
  • support for your further education or employment.
  • information on your ability to control your money and any money you might need
  • arrangements to provide you with suitable accommodation

When drafting the Pathway Plan Children’s Services should think about your views and wishes.

They should also make sure that back up plans are built into each element of your Pathway Plan, in case things go wrong.

The Pathway Plan should be checked regularly until you reach the age of 21, or beyond if you stay in education.

What is the role of a Personal Advisor?

Your Personal Advisor will:

  • Provide advice and support to you on a regular basis.
  • Consider and participate in the Pathway Plan as this is written.
  • Ensure that your Pathway Plan is being followed.
  • Organise the services available to you.
  • Remain informed about your progress and wellbeing.
  • Provide housing options available to you when leaving care.
  • Provide support in finding further education, employment or training.

If you are not getting the help that you need from your Children’s Services after you have left care you should firstly explain the problem to your Personal Advisor and they should be able to make the changes that you need. If you are still having problems then you should make a formal complaint to Children’s Services responsible for your care. For more information, see Complaints to Social Services. You may also want to seek legal advice from a Community Care solicitor which you can find on the Law Society website.

Useful organisations

Who Cares? Trust 020 7017 8901