Leaving Care and Transition
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
These procedures apply to young people who are or have been in care and are entitled to support after their 16th birthday.
There are three categories of those leaving care all of whom are entitled to support after their 16th birthday. The categories are Eligible, Relevant, and Former Relevant.
These Procedures also refer to Qualifying Young People who may receive support, advice and assistance after their 16th birthday.
Department for Education web page on Children Leaving Care, which has links to several related pieces of guidance/information (archived).
AMENDMENTThis chapter has been updated. Amendments have been made in:
- Section 1, Leaving Care Assessment of Need - in relation to children who are victims of trafficking or unaccompanied asylum seeking children;
- Section 3, Reviews of Pathway Plans - in relation to Relevant/Former Relevant young people moving to 'unregulated' accommodation; and
- Section 4, Personal Advisers/Social Worker - in relation to frequency of visits by Personal Advisers.
Normally the definitions relating to Keywords are found by accessing the Keywords Appendix, but a number of the terms used in this procedure are specific to it; therefore they have also been summarised below:
Eligible Young People
They are aged 16 or 17, have been Looked After for a period or periods totalling at least 13 weeks starting after their 14th birthday and are still in care. (This total does not include a series of pre-planned short-term placements of up to four weeks where the child has returned to the parent.) There is a duty to support these young people up to the age of 18, wherever they are living.
The statutory definition and requirements to undertake a needs assessment, prepare a Pathway Plan, keep the Pathway Plan under review and appoint a Personal Adviser are now covered by Regulations 42, 43 and 44 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010.
Relevant Young People
They are aged 16 or 17 and are no longer Looked After, having previously been in the category of Eligible Young Person when in care. However, if after leaving care, a young person returns home for a period of 6 months or more to be cared for by a parent and the return home has been formally agreed as successful, he or she will no longer be a "Relevant Young Person".
A young person is also "Relevant" if, having been in care for three months or more, he or she is then detained after their 16th birthday either in a hospital, remand centre, young offenders' institution or secure training centre. There is a duty to support Relevant Young People up to the age of 18, wherever they are living.
The statutory definition and requirements to stay in touch with the young person, undertake a needs assessment (unless this was done when the young person was 'Eligible'), prepare and keep the Pathway Plan under review, appoint a Personal Adviser (unless this was done when the young person was 'Eligible') and provide accommodation and assistance to meet his or her needs in relation to education, training or employment are now covered by Regulations 4 to 9 of the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010.
Former Relevant Young People
They are aged 18 to 21 (or up to 24 if in full-time further or higher education), and have left care having been previously either "Eligible", "Relevant" or both. There is a duty to consider the need to support these young people wherever they are living.
The statutory definition and requirements to stay in touch with the young person, keep the Pathway Plan under review, continue the appointment of a Personal Adviser and provide financial assistance near where the young person is employed or seeking employment/to enable the young person to pursue education or training remain unchanged they are now covered by Regulations 4 to 9 of the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010. These duties continue until the young person becomes 21 or, where the Pathway Plan sets out a programme of education or training beyond 21, they continue so long as the young person pursues the programme. The duty to pay a higher education bursary also continues, as before for those who started a course of higher education after 2008.
The duties of Local Authorities are extended in relation to Former Relevant Young People who inform the Local Authority of their wish to take up a programme of full time further or higher education after the age of 21 and under the age of 25. In relation to these young people, the Local authority has a duty to:
- Appoint a Personal Adviser/sw;
- Carry out an assessment of the needs to determine what assistance (if any) it would be appropriate to provide;
- Prepare a Pathway Plan;
- Give assistance to the extent that the young person's educational or training needs require it. The kinds of assistance are: contributing to expenses incurred by the young person in living near the place where s/he is, or will be, receiving education or training; or making a grant to enable the young person to meet expenses connected with his education and training;
- For those in full-time education, aged 16-19 access to the bursary fund which came into place in 2011 see Section 5, The 16-19 Bursary Fund.
The duties of the Local Authority subsist for as long as the young person pursues the programme of education or training in accordance with the Pathway Plan, and the Local Authority may disregard any interruption in the education/training if it is satisfied that the young person will resume it as soon as is reasonably practicable.
In each case where a care leaver requests this support, the Local Authority will need to assess the appropriateness of the course and how it will help the young person to achieve his or her ambitions. The extent of the practical and financial assistance provided will reflect the type of course, whether full - or part-time, and the young person's existing income.
Qualifying Young People
They are over the age of 16 and under the age of 21, (or up to 24 if in full-time further or higher education), and have been Looked After or, if disabled, have been Privately Fostered after reaching 16, but do not qualify as Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant. They may receive support, advice and assistance wherever they are living. If in full-time further or higher education, this may include assistance in relation to securing vacation accommodation. They may also qualify if they are the subject of a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) and were Looked After immediately before the SGO was made.
Personal Adviser/Social Worker
A Personal Adviser/Social Worker is the person who will work with a Relevant child or Former Relevant child, and will occupy a key role in providing support to the young person after he or she leaves care.
The Personal Adviser/Social Worker will contribute to the assessment, planning and review of services as set out in the Pathway Plan, and will co-ordinate with other agencies as necessary.
Where accommodation is provided to a young person by the responsible authority under Section 23B or Section 24B, of the Children Act 1989, the Personal Adviser/Social Worker must visit the Relevant child or Former Relevant child at that accommodation:
- Within 7 days of the accommodation first being provided;
- Subsequently, before the Pathway Plan is reviewed; and
- At subsequent intervals of not more than two months.
The extent to which the Personal Adviser/Social Worker becomes the main source of advice and support to the young person will vary according to individual circumstances.
They should be kept up-to-date with the young person's progress and wellbeing.
The Pathway Plan sets out the ambitions and route to the future for young people leaving care and will state how their needs will be met in their path to independence. The plan will continue to be implemented and reviewed after they leave care at least until they are 21; and up to 24 if in education.
1. Leaving Care Assessment of Need
All Young People - Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant - must receive a multi-agency assessment of their needs as to the advice, assistance and support they will need when leaving care.
The young person's social worker will be responsible for coordinating the Needs Assessment.
This assessment should be completed no more than 3 months after the young person's 16th birthday or after the young person becomes Eligible or Relevant if this is later. The timetable must take account of any forthcoming exams and avoid disrupting the young person's preparation for them.
The young person's Care Plan together with information from the most recent Assessment will form the basis of the Needs Assessment.
The young person's social worker will be responsible for recording the assessment information and conclusions as well as the outcome of any meetings held. The young person must be invited to any meetings held in connection with the assessment.
The Needs Assessment should take account of the views of the following:
- The young person;
- The parents;
- The current carer;
- The school/college and the education service;
- Any Independent Visitor;
- Any person providing health care or treatment for the young person;
- The Personal Adviser/Social Worker;
- Any other relevant person including, in the case of a young person with special needs, a representative from Adult Services;
- A care leaver's needs in relation to their status as a victim of trafficking or an unaccompanied asylum seeking child must be considered when the local authority is preparing an assessment of needs. Also, to require that, where a child is a victim of trafficking or an unaccompanied asylum seeking child, the local authority must consider whether their related needs are being met when reviewing the child's pathway plan. (See amended Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010).
A decision not to include significant people must be recorded in the young person's file.
Young people with particular language or communication needs should be provided throughout the process with appropriate interpretation, translation or advocacy support.
Where the young person refuses to engage in the assessment process, this should be recorded, together with any actions taken to ascertain the young person's views.
All parties, including the social worker's manager, should sign the completed Needs Assessment Record. The young person should be provided with a copy in a format that is accessible to him or her within 2 weeks. The social worker is responsible for ensuring that the outcome of the assessment is explained to the young person.
The Needs Assessment will inform the development of a Pathway Plan which will be based on and include the young person's Care Plan.
Where the young person continues to be Looked After, the Placement Plan/Placement Information Record should describe what arrangements have been made within the placement to support the Pathway Plan.
When carrying out an assessment of needs, the local authority must determine whether it would be appropriate to provide advice, assistance and support to facilitate a Staying Put arrangement. Where they determine that it would be appropriate, and where the child and the local authority foster parent wish to make a Staying Put arrangement, then the local authority must provide such advice, assistance and support to facilitate a Staying Put arrangement.
2. Pathway Planning
All young people will have a Pathway Plan in place within 3 months of becoming Eligible and, wherever possible, a Pathway Plan will be in place by the young person's 16th birthday.
The Pathway Plan will be based on and include a young person's Care Plan and any Personal Education Plan or Connexions Plan will inform and complement the Pathway Plan.
Each young person will be central to drawing up their own Pathway Plan setting the goals and identifying how the local authority will help meet them, including any services being provided in respect of the young person's disability or needs arising from being in custody or as a result of entering the country as an unaccompanied asylum seeker. It should be written in a way that meets the needs of the young person, capturing their aspirations and key messages. Young people with particular language or communication needs should be provided throughout the process with appropriate interpretation, translation or advocacy support.
The Pathway Plan must clearly identify the roles of each person who has a part to play in supporting the care leaver.
The Pathway Plan should also include:
- The plan for the young person's continuing education or training when he/she ceases to be looked after - where the young person is no longer of statutory school age, the Pathway Plan may need to incorporate the goals and actions that were previously included in the PEP;
- How the Responsible Local Authority will assist the young person in obtaining employment or other purposeful activity or occupation, taking into account his/her aspirations, skills and educational potential to improve their chance of employability;
- Access to the FromCare2Work programme for Care Leavers funded by the Department For Education if appropriate;
- The financial support to be provided to enable the young person to meet accommodation and maintenance costs; taking into account his/her financial capabilities and money-management capacity, along with strategies to develop skills in this area. See Financial Arrangements for Care Leavers - to follow;
- The nature and level of contact and personal support to be provided, and by whom, to the young person;
- Details of the accommodation the young person is to occupy (including an assessment of its suitability in the light of the young person's needs, and details of the considerations taken into account in assessing that suitability);
- Details of the arrangements made by the Responsible Local Authority to meet the young person's needs in relation to his or her identity, with particular regard to their religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background.
The Pathway Plan must identify contingency arrangements that will come into effect to support the young person if, for whatever reason, the planned arrangements are not realised.
A Financial Summary should be attached to the Plan, at the latest from the point where the young person leaves care.
Where a transfer from Children's to Adult Services will be required, the Plan should specify who has responsibility for giving notice to Adult Services and liaising with them to ensure a smooth transition.
The Designated Manager (Leaving Care) should approve and sign the Pathway Plan.
On completion and approval of the Pathway Plan, all parties involved including the young person should sign it.
A copy of the Financial Summary should be forwarded to the Finance Section who will process the necessary weekly payments.
The young person will be provided with a copy of the most up to date Pathway Plan and the contents must be explained.
The young person will have a say about with whom the Pathway Plan will be shared when they leave care. If information is to be shared with a person or agency that the young person has not consented to, s/he must be informed of this, with reasons, and be given the opportunity to challenge this decision and to be present when the information is shared.
Those who have a role in implementing the plan should have a copy of the Pathway Plan, at least, of the part relating to their contribution.
3. Reviews of Pathway Plans
The Pathway Plan must be reviewed at least every 6 months.
Reviews should take place more often if requested by the young person or the Personal Adviser/Social Worker or where there has been a significant change in the young person's circumstances.
The purpose of the review is to check that the goals and milestones are still right and that they are being met. All levels of support should be reviewed to ensure that they are adequate and delivered according to plan.
For an Eligible Young Person, the date for the first review of the Pathway Plan will be set to coincide with the young person's next Looked After Review after the Pathway Plan has been drawn up.
For a Relevant Young Person, the date for the first review will, if possible, be set at the last Looked After Review before the young person ceases to be looked after and in any case within six months of becoming a relevant young person.
For a Former Relevant Young Person, the date for the first review will take place within six months of the young person's 18th birthday.
Whilst the young person is Eligible his or her Independent Reviewing Officer will chair reviews or support the young person to chair.
Otherwise, the Team Manager of the Leaving Care Service or his/her nominee will chair the Pathway Plan reviews or support the young person to chair.
The review immediately prior to the young person's 18th birthday will agree how future reviews will be conducted, including whether they will involve face to face meetings, and this will be recorded by the Chairperson. In all cases, even when no formal review meetings are held, the Team Manager of the Leaving Care Service will retain a monitoring role, at six monthly intervals, to check the progress of the Pathway Plan.
Other participants at reviews should include the young person, Personal Adviser, the social worker (if the case is still allocated) and any other significant person.
The young person's expenses (travelling and subsistence) in attending the review will be met by the local authority.
If the Relevant Young Person or Former Relevant Young Person moves to 'unregulated' accommodation (i.e. accommodation that is not regulated/inspected by OFSTED), the Local Authority must:
- Arrange a review 28 days (or as soon as practicable thereafter) from the time the accommodation is provided; and
- Determine at what intervals (not exceeding 3 months) subsequent reviews will be carried out;
- Reviews should be brought forward where there is an assessed risk that a crisis may develop in a young person's life, for example:
- Where a young person has been charged with an offence and there is a possibility of their being sentenced to custody, which will risk losing their accommodation;
- Where a young person is at risk of being evicted from his or her accommodation or otherwise threatened with homelessness;
- Where professionals are concerned about the parenting capacity of a 'Relevant' or 'Former Relevant' young person with there being a possibility that their own child may need to be the subject of a multi-agency safeguarding plan;
- Where a young person requests a review.
Matters to which the Local Authority is to have regard in determining suitability of accommodation (under Schedule 2 to the Care Leavers Regulations 2010 and Schedule 6 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010):
- In respect of the accommodation:
- The facilities and services provided;
- The state of repair;
- The safety;
- The location;
- The support;
- The tenancy status; and
- The financial commitments involved for the relevant young person and their affordability.
- In respect of the Relevant young person:
- His or her views about the accommodation;
- His or her understanding of their rights and responsibilities in relation to the accommodation; and
- His or her understanding of funding arrangements.
Where a Relevant or Former Relevant Young Person enters custody, pathway planning must continue. The young person must be visited on a regular basis and it is good practice for the first visit to take place within ten working days. The role must not be fulfilled by a YOT worker. The Local Authority must liaise with the YOT or Probation Provider to support the young person emotionally, practically and financially while in custody. A review of the Pathway Plan should be carried out at least a month before the young person's release to give sufficient time to plan for his or her resettlement, including identifying suitable accommodation where the young person's placement had to be given up or has been lost and identifying who will collect the young person and the sources of support after his or her release.
In the event of a Relevant or Former Relevant Young Person breaking off contact and/or not engaging with the agreed support and advice being offered, a review of the Pathway Plan may take place by telephone, email or letter, if agreed in advance by the Chairperson and the Personal Adviser. In these circumstances the Personal Adviser will attempt to negotiate a revised plan that is acceptable to all parties.
Where contact is lost, the emphasis of the Pathway Plan Review will switch to record how attempts will be made to re-establish contact and these efforts will be reviewed within the established system.
A route back for the young person to seek support in the future should be kept open and communicated, for example by sending birthday cards and appropriate festive greetings, and ensuring that the young person receives any circulated information about services or events in which they may have an interest.Where a Pathway Plan is amended as a result of a review, the Personal Adviser will amend the Plan. Any necessary approval to the amended financial arrangements will be sought from the Designated Manager (Leaving Care). Once the changes are approved, the Personal Adviser/Social Worker will send a copy of the amended Plan to the young person, the Chairperson and the Designated Manager.
4. Personal Advisers/Social Worker
The Personal Adviser/Social Worker acts as the young person's principal source of contact in any matter relating to the Pathway Plan and is accountable for the effective implementation of the Plan.
The Personal Adviser/Social Worker will ensure the co-ordination of other agencies and individuals identified in the Pathway Plan.
It is the role of the Personal Adviser/Social Worker to keep in touch with the young person and to remain informed as to the young person's progress. The Personal Adviser/Social Worker must maintain a written record of their contacts with the young person, monitoring the effectiveness of services in preparing the young person for a time when they will move to greater independence or when they cease to be looked after.
The Personal Adviser/Social Worker will take responsibility for initiating the review of the Pathway Plan and for recording its outcomes.
Care leavers under the age of 25 who wish to take up a programme of education or training will have an entitlement to resume support from a Personal Adviser previously responsible for their leaving care support.
When a care leaver moves to new accommodation, and the accommodation is unregulated / comes under Section 23B and 24B of the Children Act 1989, the Personal Adviser must see them at that accommodation:
5. The 16-19 Bursary Fund and Higher Education Bursary
The 16-19 Bursary Fund helps 16-19 year olds continue in further education, where they might face financial barriers to participation such as the cost of transport, food or equipment. Young people in the defined group include those in care and care leavers. See the Department for Education website/The 16-19 Bursary Fund.
The Higher Education Bursary is for Care Leavers in higher education.
6. Young People Resuming Education or Training After 21
Young people previously eligible for leaving care services resuming programmes of education or training after the age of 21 are entitled to continuing support from a Personal Adviser.
The definition of a programme of education or training must be interpreted broadly. For example, this might include options such as: completion of a basic skills course, so that the young person has the numeracy and literacy skills needed to compete in the jobs market; take up of a course of further education; take up of a university place; support to enable the young person to complete a recognised postgraduate qualification; or participation in vocational training and apprenticeships.
Where a care leaver requests this support, an assessment should be made to assess the appropriateness of the education or training course and how it will help them to achieve their ambitions. The leaving care team should meet with the young person and, based on the assessment of their needs and the suitability of the course, assign a Personal Adviser to participate in the preparation of a Pathway Plan. The plan should reflect the agreed educational outcomes for the young person and the type of support the young person will require. This assessment should draw on the information about the young person's skills and capabilities which will have been set out in Pathway Plans up to age 21. The extent of practical and financial assistance provided will depend on the assessment of the young person's needs and will reflect the type of course, whether it is full or part time and the young person's existing income.
All care leavers (including those who live out of authority) should be made aware of their entitlement to a Personal Adviser up to age 25 if they wish to return to education and training, including by the provision of information (e.g. a letter or leaflet) on how to get in touch in the future. It should be explained to them that they will be supported to overcome difficulties so that they can return to education or training up to age 25 if this is their wish. In particular, all young people who are not in education, employment, or training (NEET) should be encouraged to take up this offer of support.
This entitlement to resume the pathway planning process and a support relationship with a Personal Adviser starts from the time the young person informs the local authority of their intention to resume their education or training and ends with the completion of the course. This may include the need for continuing assistance where young people seek support to complete a series of education/training opportunities. Young people do not need to have decided what education or training they would like to pursue. In such cases, the Personal Adviser should help the young person identify the options best suited to them.Care leavers will need support and guidance to help them think about and plan their return to education or training, consider all aspects such as financial support and impact on housing or benefits. The re-instated Pathway Plan must have a specific focus on the support that the care leaver will need to be able to meet the education or training goals agreed.
7. Qualifying Young People
Services for Qualifying Young People will be determined by an assessment of need carried out by the Leaving Care Team.
The support offered, which could be financial, will focus upon helping the young person to manage and cope in the community and to manage the transition to adulthood. Attempts will be made to ensure that they are able to access suitable accommodation and maintain social and family links.
Where necessary, in addition to support, practical help should be offered to the young person. This could include helping to acquire basic living skills and consideration of health needs and choices. Where necessary, links will be made with other services and assistance can be provided when he or she has to have contact with other agencies. Advice and support should also be offered in relation to employment, training and educational opportunities.
Where a Qualifying Young Person accesses education, or training, financial assistance, this will be possible to the age of 24. This will ensure that he or she is able to take advantage of the opportunities being offered.
The young person's social worker should also help to identify, secure and pay for vacation accommodation, for those qualifying young people who have accessed higher education, or residential further education courses.
Approval for the provision of such financial support must be sought by the young person's social worker by making a written request to the Designated Manager (Leaving Care).
The request should specify the type of financial support, sought the reason for the request and the total cost involved.
8. Where Care Leavers Live or Move to a Different Local Authority Area
Where a care leaver resides in a different local authority area, the local authority must seek to ensure that a service is provided that is commensurate with the service which he or she would receive if he or she had remained resident in the area.
Whenever possible, plans for movement of care leavers to a different local authority area must be discussed and the level of service provision agreed with the host authority concerned prior to the move taking place.
All care leavers should be advised on how to access care leavers' services if they move to a different local authority area and need assistance. The advice provided should be in written form.
With young people moving to other authorities, a discussion and joint meeting between the respective Leaving Care Teams must be arranged.
9. Staying Put
A Staying Put arrangement is where a young person who has been living in foster care remains in the former foster home after the age of 18.
For a young person living in foster care, the first Looked After Review following his or her 16th birthday should consider whether a Staying Put arrangement should be an option.
10. Access to Records
Over the course of their lifetime, people who have spent all or part of their childhood and adolescence in local authority care may want to access information about this period in their lives. There can be a range of reasons why people who have left care want to do this, including curiosity about why they came into care; what happened and when; a need to make sense of difficult memories and life events; to clarify disparate explanations; a desire to trace family members; seeking medical information in reference to hereditary illness/disease and also to obtain photos/certificates. For information on access to records by care leavers, see Access to Records Procedure.