LEAVING CARE: It’s a big step, but your local council must provide you with a certain level of support. Council support can continue until you reach 25 (depending on your circumstances).
- At the age of 16: A personal adviser will set up a plan to help you make the transition from care to living an independent life.
- At the age of 18: You will no longer be in care. Even so, your local council must provide a personal adviser and a plan for your future.
- At the age of 21: Help and advice from the council continues through a personal adviser until you turn 25 (if you want it).
Note: When you are leaving care there will be a meeting to help you set out clear goals on what your next steps will be.
Things the Council Must Do to Help
There are several functions and services that the council must undertake to help you, including things like:
- Giving you a personal adviser who will also stay in contact with you even after you have left care.
- Carrying out an assessment to determine what advice and support you need. The local authority must also prepare a ‘pathway plan’ to make it happen.
- Ensuring that you have somewhere to live and enough money to live on (until you reach 18).
- Helping you to continue living with your foster parent (until you reach 21) if that is your choice.
Your Statutory Review Meeting
Discussing your future is part of the process when you are leaving care. The local council will set up a ‘statutory review meeting’ for you. It is an opportunity to discuss your future plans and what support you might need.
What to Consider Before the Meeting
Several important topics get discussed at your statutory review meeting, including things like:
- The place where you will live. You may be able to move to a place where personal support and advice is available on a permanent basis.
- Whether you will start working, receive training, or will you continue in education.
- What kind of, and how much, support you might need from a social worker or your personal adviser.
People who Attend a Statutory Review Meeting
Besides yourself, there should also be several key support staff present at the meeting, including:
- An advocate, if you want one to be present. An advocate is an adult who would help you to explain your particular circumstances.
- Your social worker and your carers.
- Any others who are responsible for helping to support you (e.g. a mentor or a staff member from your school or college).
- An Independent Reviewing Officer (a neutral person appointed to ensure the meeting follows the proper procedures).
How to Complain about the Statutory Review Meeting
You have the choice to make a formal complaint if your meeting was unsatisfactory. You can get extra details from your social worker or your personal adviser from the leaving care service.
Note: The Independent Reviewing Officer must also explain how to make a complaint about a statutory review meeting.
16-19 Bursary: Supporting Your Education
Staying in full-time education means you should qualify for a scholarship or bursary of £1,200 a year. Contact the relevant education provider (school or college) for details on how to claim the 16 to 19 bursary fund.
Note: A higher education bursary of £2,000 also exists from some councils. As a rule, you would need to be going on to higher education (e.g. to university).
Once Care Leavers Reach 16 Years Old
The regional council must write a ‘pathway plan’ for you when you reach sixteen (16). The action point helps you to prepare for leaving care and states what support you should be getting. A pathway plan must include an outline for your:
- Contact with family
- Education (including training and development)
- Financial management
Any pathway plan reviews must involve your personal adviser until you turn 21. The age limit increases to 25 if you choose to continue getting the support beyond 21. As a rule, you will get a pathway plan review:
- At least twice a year (every 6 months).
- If you ask to get one.
- If the council or your personal adviser asks for one.
Claiming Welfare Benefits
You may be eligible to claim certain types of benefits when leaving foster or local authority care, such as:
Setting up a Home Allowance
Some care leavers can get a ‘leaving care grant’ also known as the setting up home allowance. The grant can help pay for essential items when moving into a home of your own. You should contact your local council to check what is available.