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Leaving
Care


I'm leaving care and want to know my rights.

Leaving care means that you are between 16 – 18 and have previously been in care, but are no longer legally “looked after” by your Local Authority Children’s Services.  You don’t have to leave care when you’re 16.  You can stay until you are 18, unless you feel ready to be more independent.  If you are in foster care, you can also request a ‘Staying Put Arrangement’ to remain in your foster home after you turn 18.

When you leave care Children’s Services still have a duty to support you until the age of 21, or 25 if you are in full time education or have a disability. You should receive the support of a Personal Adviser until you are 25.

Support for care leavers

  • You have a right to a needs assessment before you leave care. This report should include your views and wishes. It should consider your independent living skills and ability to manage your own finances.  The aim of the needs assessment is to ensure that you leave at a time that is right for you.  You should have a copy and discuss it with your social worker.
  • You should have a Pathway Plan, started sometime after your 15th birthday, that you have contributed to and agree with. Working from the outcome of the needs assessment, this should make clear what help you will get when preparing to leave care and what support you will receive after you have left. The Pathway Plan should say how your Local Authority will help you achieve the things you want in life, such as accommodation, educational achievements, training, finances or getting a job.
  • You should be given a Personal Adviser until you are 25. This could be your current social worker or a worker from the ‘leaving care’ team. It is their job to keep in touch with you, check that you are alright and help you get what you need. To do this they must make sure that your Pathway Plan is followed and reviewed with you at least every six months.

Finding somewhere to live

  • Your Local Authority must make sure that you have somewhere ‘suitable to live’. This means that it has to be right for you and, above all, safe. It is important that wherever you prefer to live, you make sure that your Local Authority puts this into your Pathway Plan. You can decide to return home if this is what you and your family wish. If there are problems with the accommodation, including trouble paying rent, the Local Authority must advise you on how to sort this out.
  • When you are moving into your own place you can ask your Local Authority for the Setting Up Home Allowance, which is normally £2000. This is to help you buy essentials for your new home, such as furniture or appliances.

Managing your finances

  • Until you are 18, Children’s Services must support you financially. Once you are 18, if you are not in employment or full-time education, you can claim benefits. However, your Local Authority should continue to give you financial help (for example towards the costs of your education and training), if that is what they have agreed to do in your Pathway Plan.
  • When you’re moving into your own place you can ask your Local Authority for the Setting Up Home Allowance, which is normally £2000. This is to help you buy essentials for your new home, such as furniture or appliances.

Continuing your education

  • You should be given good advice and guidance about accessing further or higher education or training.
  • If you are staying in full-time further education and are 16-19 you would be entitled to the 16-19 Higher Education Bursary of up to £1,200. If you go to university you would be entitled to the Higher Education Bursary of £2,000. You should get in touch with your school or college to find out how to claim the bursary.
  • If you are attending university, the Local Authority should provide accommodation and financial support during the holidays.

Involvement in decisions

  • You have a right to be involved in all major decisions, including when you leave care, where you go to live and what support you receive. Decisions should be made with you, giving you enough time to have your say. Your views should be taken seriously and if you cannot have what you want, this should be explained to you with evidence of why not.

Making a complaint

  • You are entitled to let children’s services know if you are not happy and, if necessary, you can make a formal complaint if you are not satisfied with the support you are getting, or feel that you have not been listened to. You also have the right to have an advocate who can help you do this.

Viewing your files

  • The law says that you have a right to see information that is written about you. This includes social services files. You can request access to your files by contacting your Local Authority.  Talk with your social worker or personal advisor about how to do this.
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