Information for Care Leavers

Are you a care leaver aged 16-25? We have a duty to support care leavers to successfully move onwards and upwards to independence. Find out your current entitlements as a care leaver and what support is available for you.  

In April 2017, the Children and Social Work Act became law, and the provision for care leavers was extended to include young people aged 22-25 who are not in education. 

 

Developing a local offer for care leavers

Section 2 Children and Social Work Act 2017 requires each Local Authority in England to publish a ‘Local Offer for Care Leavers’. The Local Offer must contain information about services offered by the Local Authority for care leavers:

  • as a result of its functions under the Children Act 1989; and/or
  • made available to assist in or prepare for adulthood and independent living.

Redbridge Council, in conjunction with Barnardo’s who deliver the Redbridge Leaving Care Service, will be embarking on a consultation exercise regarding the financial elements of our local offer.  Further information on this will be available soon.

 

All children who are over 16 and leaving care fall within one of the following categories:

  1. eligible child
  2. relevant child
  3. former relevant child
  4. other qualifying care leavers

 

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

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 birthday 
  • 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.

A ‘relevant child’ can include those who have been detained through the criminal justice system, or were in the hospital on their 16th birthday.

If a ‘relevant child’ has returned home to their parents, they cease to be a relevant child after being at home for 6 months. However, if this arrangement later breaks down before their 18th birthday, they return to being a ‘relevant child’.

If a young person has experienced a series of pre-planned respite arrangements, not lasting longer than 4 weeks, each of these will not be considered as qualifying towards ‘relevant child’ status. However, if a young person receives respite care on a regular basis, this may amount to the young person being classed as a ‘relevant child’; our policy will need to be considered to determine this.

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

 

Redbridge Leaving Care Team will support you if you are a former relevant child up to the age of 25. If you are embarking on a course of education or training this will be outlined in your pathway plan. The Redbridge Leaving Care Team will also provide or fund any vacation accommodation if you are in full-time higher or further education if needed.

Former relevant children are no longer solely dependent upon the Local Authority for income and housing costs.  They can obtain benefits in their own right. If you become homeless at the age of 18, 19 or 20, you will automatically be seen as being a priority need. If you become homeless at the age of 21 or over, you will need to be assessed to establish whether you are vulnerable. Redbridge Leaving Care Team currently pays the accommodation costs all our former relevant care leavers up to the age of 21 and 25 if in progressive or full time higher education.

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

 

This category also includes previously ‘looked after’ children aged 16 to 20, who ceased to be ‘looked after’ on the making of a Special Guardianship Order, and:

  • are either still being cared for under the Special Guardianship Order (16 or 17 year olds)
  • or the Order remained in force until they reached 18

 

As a  qualifying care leaver, you will be entitled to the following services:

  • the Redbridge Leaving Care Team will need to take steps to keep in touch with you
  • offer advice and assistance which may include financial assistance – the Leaving Care Team 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, the Leaving Care Team must provide accommodation or money for accommodation.

In 2014, the Children and Families Act formalised the practice of allowing young people to remain with their Foster Carers post 18. Under Staying Put Arrangements young people can remain with their foster carers beyond their 18th birthday if this suits the young person, carer and the Local Authority. For some young people, this will be to complete their education. Others may need extra time to make the transition to independence because of their support needs and the additional emotional and practical support they require to prepare.

The Local Authority has a duty to monitor the arrangement and to provide advice, assistance, and support to the ‘former relevant child’, with the view to maintaining the ‘staying put’ arrangement until the care leaver reaches the age of 21. This includes financial support. This duty, however, will not apply if the Local Authority feels that the ‘staying put’ arrangement is inconsistent with their welfare.

If a care leaver feels their views are not being listened to in relation to a ‘staying put’ arrangement, they should raise this with their Independent Reviewing Officer.

You should expect to receive the same level of care and support as others would receive from a reasonable parent. The Social Worker or Personal Advisor should consider what advice, assistance and support is appropriate, taking into account your:

  • health needs
  • education or training
  • need for accommodation and financial help
  • race, religion and culture
  • family relationships (including the need to maintain these)

You must be fully involved in discussions and plans for your future, and the social worker must also consider the views of any person with parental responsibilities. You must be fully involved in discussions about your future and plans for your transition to independence and adulthood.

If you are an eligible child, relevant child or a 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.

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 the Redbridge Leaving Care Team after you have left care, you should first 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. Email children's complaints, call us on 020 8708 5174 or contact the Children’s Rights Officer on 020 8708 5811. You may also want to seek legal advice from a solicitor.

Care leavers will be supported by a new £1,000 bursary payment if they choose to do an apprenticeship from August 2018, the Government has announced in line with Government policy announced in May 2018. The extra financial support will be for those aged 16-24 and help them in the first year of their apprenticeship as learners transition into the workplace for their practical studies. This change is one of a small number of improvements – including increasing the number of apprenticeship funding bands - which will come into effect from August 2018. This grant will make apprenticeships a more viable option for young people looking to find work after leaving care and help set them on the path to a brighter future.

The £1,000 bursary will be paid once to each care leaver in the eligible age range, when they start an apprenticeship after 1 August 2018. This comes in addition to the £1,000 we provide to both employers and training providers when they take on 16 to 18 year olds or 19 to 24 year olds who were in care or who have an Education, Health and Care plan.

The new apprenticeships funding policy was introduced in May 2017, in support of the apprenticeships levy. For more information, read the new Apprenticeships Funding policy paper.  If you would like further information about apprenticeship opportunities within Redbridge Council please see our Become an Apprentice webpage.

In Redbridge, the Leaving Care Team provides a range of accommodation. This includes the option of Staying Put or Independent Housing.

There are many types of independent housing but usually, independent housing means that you have signed a tenancy or license agreement and as such are responsible for paying rent or a service charge, being a good neighbour and keeping the accommodation clean and in good repair.

Your Personal Advisor or Social Worker will speak with you about moving to independent accommodation and together you will decide when this is right for you. Your Personal Adviser or Social Worker may ask for some evidence - such as proof that you’ve paid all your bills and can manage all of your appointments. They will also need to see that you have been a good neighbour by not creating too much noise or inviting a lot of friends over. They will also want to know that you can keep yourself safe and know how to respond to an emergency.

You may choose to move into private rented accommodation or ask to be put on the housing register. Care Leavers in Redbridge do go into the priority needs category for social housing in the borough.

Property Maintenance

When you live in supported accommodation or your own general maintenance of the property is a joint responsibility between you and the landlord. You must keep the property clean and tidy and can assist in ensuring things don’t break by looking after your property. If something breaks from general wear and tear than the landlord should fix this. If you break something this is your responsibility. If you do so deliberately this is called ‘criminal damage’ and this is an offence.

If you need support for general maintenance you can ask your Personal Advisor or Social Worker.

 

Housing Support

As soon as you feel worried about making rent payments or being a good neighbour you should speak to your social worker. The sooner we begin supporting you the easier it will be to get on top of things. You can ask Housing for support for anything relating to tenancy sustainment. If you are worried about budgeting you can speak to Welfare Reform.

Redbridge Council has a duty to provide the following financial assistance once you turn 18:

  • Leaving Care Grant - you are entitled to £2000 when you move to your permanent property or close your case with the Leaving Care Team
  • 16-19 Bursary- if you are aged 16-19, you should receive £1,200 each academic year from your college
  • Higher Education Bursary - if you're in higher education, you’re entitled to £2,000, usually paid in installments over the duration of your course
  • vacation accommodation for higher education - you should either get somewhere to live or help paying your rent
  • assistance with costs for education, employment and training

Redbridge Council’s financial policy for care leavers is currently under review. In all instances, your Pathway Plan should highlight the support you need.

Universal Credit will replace some individual benefits with a single payment that considers all your financial needs. You don’t have to tell the job centre you’re a care leaver, but if you do, they should provide extra support.

 

The Government have contributed £200 for each eligible looked after young person to open a Junior ISA.  The Share Foundation, a registered charity, has been authorised by the government to set up and manage the Junior ISAs for all looked after children. The Share Foundation also raises funds which it contributes to the Junior ISAs that it manages.

 

What changes now I am 18?

When you become 18 you are entitled to access the funds. You can then choose, for example, whether to invest in a regular ISA or draw out the money. If you make no decision the Junior ISA will automatically become an adult ISA in your name.

 

What do I have to do to access my account?

You should contact your Social Worker or Personal Advisor at the Leaving Care team who will enable you to have direct contact with The Share Foundation.  We recommend that young people contact Share Foundation as soon as possible after they turn 18 as, without an instruction from you the account will convert to a regular ISA automatically and can no longer be subject to active investment decisions on your behalf. It may, therefore, not be invested in the most advantageous way for you.

 

How can I see how much money is in the Junior ISA or how it is performing?

Regular JISA valuations are sent to the local authority, and you can obtain a balance of the latest statement from them. Once you reach 18, a final valuation will be sent to the local authority, at which time you will need to take on the responsibility of managing your own account.

 

Can I get advice and support on how to understand my money better as part of the scheme?

Yes - a programme of financial education support is available to you. Materials for young people in care, as well as Local Authorities, Corporate Parents and carers have been developed by pfeg and are available via www.sharefound.org or the pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group) website at www.pfeg.org/JuniorISA.

Telephone support is also available to advise you on further educational materials that will help you learn how to manage your money, including your Junior ISA. Call us on 01296 310400 to find out more.

 

Is it possible to contact the Share Foundation and get further information?

Further information on the scheme and copies of all materials can be obtained from The Share Foundation website sharefound.org or by calling the number below. (General information only, until you have been introduced by the Local Authority).

Alternatively, you can call 01296 310400, email info@sharefound.org or write to:

The Share Foundation,  Oxford House, Oxford Road, Aylesbury,  Buckinghamshire HP21 8PB

As a young person, we are aware that managing your finances can be difficult. If you have rent arrears or any other financial worries we may be able to help.  

The Redbridge Leaving Care Team can offer help and support regarding the following:

  • Benefit Maximisation - ensuring that you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to.
  • Claim Support - help for making and maintaining benefit claims including completing applications for; Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance,
  • Universal Credit
  • Housing - options and advice regarding Housing and the related Benefits.
  • Personal Budgeting Support- advice and skills surrounding budgeting and how to make your money go further.
  • Low-Level Debt Advice - contacting creditors and advice on setting up affordable payment plans to ensure you stay on top of your finances.
  • High-Level Debt Aid - sign-posting to experts who can assist with larger debts.
  • Employment Support - support and assistance for those who are ready for work.
  • Financial Support – financial support for rent arrears and council tax arrears that you may be entitled to.

 

Benefits (help with living costs, from the government)

If you’re receiving benefits and need extra help, you can apply for a budgeting loan. It’s interest-free, but repayments come out of your benefits.

 

Council Tax 100% exemption for Redbridge care leavers

Care Leavers who were previously looked after by Redbridge Children Services are exempt from paying  Council Tax up to the age of 25.  Managing budgets can be very challenging for young people adjusting to living by themselves. Redbridge Council continues to relieve some of this pressure by exempting our care leavers from Council Tax until their 25th birthday. Exempting you from Council Tax gives you the vital breathing space you need as you establish your independent adult life.

National Insurance Number, Passport, Driving Licence

Your Social Worker will help you to apply for your National Insurance Number as soon as you are old enough. You should have this before your 18th birthday. Redbridge Children Services will help you to ensure you have photographic identification, which you will need to access services. We will support you with either your passport or provisional driving license.

 

Birth Certificate, British Citizenship

Redbridge Children Services has facilities to securely store your birth certificate if you’d like us to keep it safe for you. If you don’t have one we can support you to get a birth certificate. If you don’t have citizenship in the UK you can speak to your Social Worker or Personal Advisor about what support you can get to apply for Naturalization. This is a long and complicated process and you will usually need to speak to an immigration solicitor. 

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