Are You a Care Leaver and Eligible for Support?

Posted on: 3 mins read
Victoria Pogge von Strandmann

Partner, Head of Public Law and Human Rights

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Our Public Law Solicitors advise a large number of young people over the age of 18 but under 25 who aren’t receiving support from children’s services as care leavers, even though they’re clearly entitled to it. So how do you know if you might be a care leaver and still eligible for support?

  • Were you provided with accommodation which was arranged by a social worker or someone in social services (or children’s services) while you were still aged under 18? Or was the accommodation provide by the housing department, but a social worker was involved in your case?
  • Were you provided with the accommodation for 13 weeks or more?
  • Did the accommodation continue until you turned 18 or, if it stopped earlier, did it stop less than 6 months before you turned 18?

If you’ve answered yes to these questions, then you may have become a “former relevant child” or “care leaver” when you turned 18. And that means you can get support from children’s services potentially up to the age of 25, even if children’s services explicitly told you that this doesn’t apply to you.

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What Type of Support Can You Get?

  • A personal adviser, who can provide practical advice and support to care leavers on areas such as accessing education, housing and claiming benefits.
  • A pathway plan - a document which should set out your needs and how they are going to be met. It should outline how children’s services will help you achieve your goals in life and tell you who will help with each issue, what they are going to do, and when that help will be provided to you.
  • Other support which is tailored to your needs.

The law on this changed on 1 April 2018, which means all care leavers between the ages of 18 and 25 can get support, whether they’re in education or not.

What Does the Law Now Say?

According to the new law, children’s services should offer help to all care leavers up to the age of 25, even if they aren’t in education or training. Previously, a care leaver over the age of 21 but under 25 would have to be taking part in an agreed program of education or training, or want to return to education or training, in order to receive support from children’s services.

The revised law also includes a selection of 'corporate parenting principles' that have been extended to apply to all care leavers under the age of 25. This includes duties to promote the physical and mental health and wellbeing of young people, to encourage them to express their views, wishes and feelings, and to take those views into account. 

Given that one of the key issues faced by care leavers is that their views, wishes and feelings are ignored in decisions impacting their lives, these new principles are key. These duties apply to all Local Authorities, even if they aren’t the one who is (or was) responsible for the care leaver. Guidance has been published to explain these duties in more detail, which confirms that Local Authorities must ask themselves, "Would this be good enough for my child?"

The law requires Local Authorities to publish information about the services it will offer to care leavers that may help them prepare for adulthood and independent living. This is called the 'local offer for care leavers' and should be updated when appropriate.

How Could this Affect You?

If you’re a care leaver who is over 21 and not in education or training, you should now be able to access support from children’s services. As this is a new law, you may find that the children’s service in your Local Authority isn’t fully up to speed with the changes.

If you don’t believe that you’re receiving adequate support, or if you’ve notified children’s services that you’d like to access support and you’re still not receiving it, then please get in touch with our Public Law Solicitors. If you aren’t sure whether you’re a care leaver, or whether you’re entitled to support from children’s services, we can help you.

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