Post Care guide
Welcome to Five Rivers Post Care Guide
The law says that Children’s Services may:
- Support and assist you until you are 25.
- Provide you with a Personal Adviser (PA).
- Review your Pathway Plan.
- Help you with money for your work, education, or training.
- Provide or pay for accommodation during college or university holidays if you are studying away from home.
- Contribute towards living expenses near to your job, education, or training.
- Give you a £2,000 grant if you are in higher education.
- Provide you with other financial support where necessary.
- Keep in touch with you.
- Visit you regularly.
Children’s Services may:
- Consider making a contribution to post-graduate courses.
- Help you to find financial support and resources to help you to undertake postgraduate study.
You are expected to claim benefits or apply for a student loan in the same way as any other young person.
To learn more about your rights as a care leaver visit the GOV.UK website.
Local Authorities are required to post about their local offer to care leavers, which can serve as a starting point in finding out what help that you can receive. To check your local authority, visit this Local Council / Authority search tool here!
Common Questions about leaving care
In England and Wales, the leaving care age is 18, although young people can leave care from the age of 16. At 18, however, a young person’s care order ends and the local authority is no longer their corporate parent. All statutory support from the local authority will end by 25, although for many, it ends sooner, at 21. This doesn’t mean you have to leave your foster home necessarily though, as there are options such as “staying Put” which you can read more about on page 4.
Many 16 or 17-year-olds actively choose to leave care, while they are still children in the eyes of the law – too young to smoke, drink or vote. Some feel they are ready, are excited at the prospect of not having adults around to tell them what to do, or are unhappy in their placement. However, independent living may be much harder than they expected.
But many young people don’t feel ready to leave their foster carers or residential home at 16, 17 or 18. They are afraid of being lonely and having no one to turn to when things go wrong.
Leaving care should be something young people and their carers are thinking about and preparing for long before a young person’s 18th birthday. Just as any good parent supports their children to prepare for independence, children and young people in care should be helped to develop practical domestic skills like cooking healthy meals, doing their own laundry and managing their money.
Between the ages of 16-18 young people are assigned a personal adviser who will support them up to the age of 25 if they wish. The young person and their social worker/personal adviser will begin working on their pathway plan.
The pathway plan should set out the individual package of support that the local authority will provide to help the young person achieve their goals. It might cover their education, training or employment ambitions, where they want to live, what financial help they require or what their mental health needs are. It should be updated every six months and it must reflect the care leaver’s wishes.
When you turn 18, you have a few options:
- Independent and Semi-independent living
- Staying put
- Staying Close
- Going Home
Independent and semi-independent living
Local authorities have a responsibility to house all care leavers aged 16 and 17. Once aged 18, young people’s accommodation needs are assessed under homelessness legislation and most young people will require the need to claim Housing Benefit.
The current law states that care leavers must be given ‘suitable accommodation’ – this is defined as suiting a young person’s needs and lifestyle (being near work or college, for example), have received adequate checks from the local authority and follow health and safety regulations for rented accommodation. The law also states that bed and breakfast accommodation is not suitable for 16 and 17-year-olds and that 18-year-olds should only be placed in a B&B for a short time period. Young people’s wishes and feelings regarding their accommodation should also be taken in to account.
In reality, housing is a significant challenge that many young care leavers face and few care leavers will have a lot of choice about their accommodation. Young people often speak of being placed in unsuitable housing.
￼Young people who are in a foster placement when they turn 18 may, if their foster carers agree, remain living with their foster carers until the age of 21.
Under the policy, introduced in 2014, councils have a legal requirement to support young people in what is known as ‘Staying Put’ arrangements, if both the young person and their carers agree. The same opportunity does not yet apply to young people who are in residential care (see Staying Close).
A young person living in a Staying Put arrangement is no longer a looked after the child but a young adult and care leaver, entitled to some financial support and access to a Personal Adviser. The arrangement is not a continuation of a foster placement and the foster carer becomes the young person’s ‘former foster carer’.
The benefits of the Staying Put policy are significant for many care leavers. Of course, some young people are ready to leave care and want to live independently at the age of 18 – but Staying Put allows those in foster care to decide if they are ready or not. It allows a transition into adult life that is more like that experienced by the majority of young people in the UK.
Instead of support and caring relationships falling away at 18, care leavers have continuing security and support to take up education, employment or training opportunities. They also have longer to develop the practical and emotional skills necessary for independent living.
In the 12 months after the policy was introduced, it is believed that a quarter of eligible young people took advantage of the arrangements.
Former foster carers receive a lower allowance for the Staying Put arrangement than for fostering. The young person will then be expected to make contributions to the household budget from their wages, allowances or benefits they may be entitled to claim, including Housing Benefit. This is part of a young person’s transition into independence and gets them accustomed to paying rent and bills.
We understand that for young people leaving residential care it is really important that they stay close to the home they lived in previously.
Through our Staying Close policy, we promise to ensure your new independent home is close to your children’s home.
This will mean you:
- can stay in touch with staff and friends who know you well;
- can stay connected with your local community;
- have somewhere to celebrate special occasions.
Many families are able to overcome the turbulent times that led to a child being taken into care.
At 18 you can choose where you live, you are an adult. You may choose to return home to your birth family, if possible.
Around a third of children who go into care will return home after a short time; this is the most common conclusion to a period spent in care. For some children that will be the end of the state’s intervention in their family’s lives.
It’s vital that your views are properly listened to about whether you feel ready to return home. If you do not feel your views are being listened to you, you might seek the support of an independent advocate or you could discuss the matter with your Independent Reviewing Officer before your 18th birthday.
We have a befriending service, Five Rivers Futures – read more here!
Support from your council:
Your council has a duty to provide the following financial assistance once you turn 18:
Leaving Care Grant (setting up home allowance) To furnish your accommodation. Government guidance says at least £2,000.
16-19 Bursary Aged 16-19? In education? You should receive £1,200 each academic year from your college.
Higher Education Bursary In higher education? You’re entitled to £2,000, usually paid in instalments over the duration of your course.
The vacation accommodation for higher education You should either get somewhere to live or help to pay your rent.
Assistance with costs for education, employment and training All councils should have a financial policy for care leavers and your pathway plan should highlight the support you need. For example, money towards driving lessons.
Benefits (help with living costs, from the Government):
Lots of factors affect which benefits you can apply for and the amount you’ll receive. Benefit calculators are a handy way to work out what you’re entitled to! Try turn2us.org.uk and entitledto.co.uk.
The three most common benefits for single young people are:
Jobseeker’s Allowance If aged 18- 24, not in full-time education, actively seeking/available for work or working under 16 hours per week, you could receive £57.90 per week*.
Income support If aged 16-19, in full-time education and either a parent, not living with a parent, or you’re a refugee, you could receive £57.90 (£73.10 if you’re a parent)**. Care leavers can continue to receive income support until age 22 if your claim started before you turned 21 and you’re still in education.
Housing benefit If you live away from family, have a low income and less than £16,000 in savings, you can get help with your rent. People who cannot claim include EU jobseekers, asylum seekers without leave to remain and full-time students (unless you have children). Different rates apply depending on where you live. Care leavers eligible for housing benefit should be entitled to the full one-bedroom rate up to age 22.
Grants (These don’t need to be repaid):
Capstone Care Leavers Trust awards grants of £300- £2,000 to care leavers aged 17-25, for education courses and equipment (including travel), driving lessons/tests and household items.
Buttle UK awards grants of up to £2,000 to estranged young people aged 16-20 for support with education, employment and training, setting up home, and improving emotional and physical wellbeing. Applications should be made by statutory or voluntary organisations on your behalf.
The Spark Foundation awards grants of up to £600 to care leavers up to age 25 for setting up home, education/ employment, skills and interests.
Lawrence Atwell’s Charity awards grants of £100-£1,500 to young people aged 16-26 to help with training courses, including buying equipment, living expenses during the course and fees for tuition, enrolment or exams.
The Prince’s Trust awards grants for young people aged 17-25, working fewer than 16 hours, or in education for fewer than 14 hours per week, to help with getting into work, education or training; loans are also on offer to help you start a business.
Turn2Us have a grant search tool. Enter your postcode for info on grants you could apply for.
Please note: this information should be used as guidance and is in accordance with English legislation
The Rees Foundation offers different types of financial assistance and grants.
At Five Rivers we have a befriending scheme, Five Rivers Futures that are in place to support young care leavers until they’re 25. You could be eligible for a financial grant through us, even if you were only with us for a short spell many years ago -find out more here!