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3.13.1 Leaving Care

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 Young People, Relevant Young People, and Former Relevant Young People.

These Procedures also refer to Qualifying Young People who may receive support, advice and assistance after their 16th birthday.

RELEVANT CHAPTERS AND GUIDANCE

Assessing Housing Need: Care Leavers Procedure

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers (revised January 2015)

Staying Put Policy

AMENDMENT

In June 2017 Section 3, Contact, Visits and Reviews of Pathway Plans was updated to reflect that, for all care leavers aged 16, 17 or 18, the IRO will offer to continue to independently review their Pathway Plan. The IRO will offer to chair a maximum of 3 reviews following the young person ceasing to be looked after; the decision to continue the independent oversight of the Pathway Plan will be led by the young person who may not want the IRO to continue in this role or may want the IRO to chair only one or two of the maximum 3 further reviews offered.

The basis for the IRO’s continued involvement is to maintain the benefits of an established relationship between the IRO and the young person. This requires the young person to want to be actively engaged in the review process. If the young person does not wish to take part in any meaningful discussions with the IRO about their Pathway Plan, the IRO will not continue their involvement either in chairing a Pathway Plan review or in overseeing the progress of the Pathway Plan, and will inform the young person and the SW/PA of this decision. The Pathway Plan will then be reviewed by the Social Worker or Personal Advisor.


Contents

Definitions

  1. Leaving Care Assessment of Need
  2. Pathway Planning
  3. Contacts, Visits and Reviews of Pathway Plans
  4. Personal Advisers
  5. Education, Training and Employment
  6. Young People Resuming Education or Training After 21
  7. Qualifying Young People
  8. Where Care Leavers Live or Move to a Different Local Authority Area
  9. Staying Put
  10. Access to Records

    Appendix 1: Needs Assessment and Content of Pathway Plans for Relevant and Former Relevant Children

    Appendix 2: Practice Guidance - Undertaking Independent Reviewing of Pathway Plans for Relevant and Former Relevant Young People


Definitions

  1. 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;
  2. 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 six 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;
  3. Former Relevant Young People

    They are aged 18 to 21 (or up until their 25th birthday 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;
  4. Qualifying Young People

    They are over the age of 16 and under the age of 21, (or up until their 25th birthday 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. Unaccompanied asylum seeking children who have become CLA between the ages of 16 and 17 years who qualify under Section 24 can be included as Qualifying Young People.

    Any decision to cease looking after a child aged 16 or 17 who is Looked After other than by virtue of a Care Order, must be approved by the Director of Children and Families' Services. The Director must be satisfied that:
    • The child’s wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
    • The child’s Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted;
    • The child’s relatives have been consulted, where appropriate.
  5. Personal Adviser

    A Personal Adviser is the person appointed to work with every Looked After young person, on the young person's 16th birthday, and will occupy a key role in providing support to the young person after he or she leaves care. Where the young person is an Eligible Young Person, the Personal Adviser will always be a qualified social worker. Where the young person is either a Relevant Young Person or a Former Relevant Young Person, the Personal Adviser role can be undertaken by the primary worker (who may or may not be a qualified social worker).

    The Personal Adviser will hold a pivotal role in the planning and review of services as set out in the Pathway Plan, and will co-ordinate with other agencies as necessary.

    The extent to which the Personal Adviser becomes the main source of advice and support to the young person will vary according to individual circumstances.

    See Section 4, Personal Advisers for the Role of the Personal Adviser;
  6. Pathway Plan

    The Pathway Plan sets out the 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 their 25th birthday if in education. Where a young person had previously left education but wishes to re-engage with education, a new Pathway Plan must be developed to reflect their changing needs.

Please see the Pathway Planning - Eligibility Tick Box.

A pathway assessment template, a pathway plan / review template and information sharing consent form are located in the Resources and Forms Library.


1. Leaving Care Assessment of Need

All Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant Young People 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 allocated social worker will be responsible for coordinating the needs assessment and actively involving the young person in the assessment, the social worker will record the assessment information, any conclusions as well as the outcome of any meetings. The young person's social worker is also responsible for completing the pathway plan.

The needs assessment can be initiated three months before the young person's 16th birthday but must be completed no more than three months after their 16th birthday. Where the young person becomes an Eligible or Relevant Young Person after they have become 16 years old, then the assessment must be completed as soon as possible. The timetable must take account of any forthcoming exams and avoid disrupting the young person's preparation for them.

The needs assessment must take account of the views of the following:

  1. The young person;
  2. The parents;
  3. The current carer;
  4. The school/college and the education service;
  5. Any Independent Visitor;
  6. Any person providing health care or treatment for the young person;
  7. The Personal Adviser;
  8. Any other relevant person including, in the case of a young person with special needs, a representative from Adult Services.

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. The Transitions Team can assist with future needs planning for disabled children aged 14-25 years.

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 two 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 complements and forms part of the young person's Care Plan.

Where the young person continues to be Looked After, the 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. For further information see the Staying Put Policy.

For further information see Appendix 1: Needs Assessment and Content of Pathway Plans for Relevant and Former Relevant Children.


2. Pathway Planning

All young people must have a Pathway Plan in place within three months of becoming Eligible Young People and, wherever possible, a Pathway Plan will be in place by the young person's 16th birthday.

The Pathway Plan will replace 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. Young people with particular language or communication needs should be provided throughout the process with appropriate interpretation, translation or advocacy support.

Where young people have more complex and significant needs, a Future Needs Plan will be made by the Transitions Team.

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;
  • 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 address in particular:

  • The young person’s health and development building on the information included in the young person’s Health Care Plan;
  • Education, training and employment. The Personal Education Plan (PEP) should continue to be maintained while the young person continues to receive full or part-time education. Information within the PEP will feed directly into the Pathway Plan. Pathway Plans must have an explicit focus on career planning, taking into account the young person’s aspirations, skills, and educational potential;
  • Contact with the young person’s parents, wider family including siblings and friends and the capacity of this network to encourage the young person and enable them to make a positive transition to adulthood;
  • The young person’s financial capabilities and money management capacity, along with strategies to develop the young person’s skills in this area.

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 allocated social worker's team manager must approve and sign the Pathway Plan.

On completion and approval of the Pathway Plan, all parties involved including the young person should sign it.

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 must have a copy of the Pathway Plan, at least, of the part relating to their contribution.

The local authority should have a flexible approach to supporting young people; It should be borne in mind that the it has a duty to accept young people aged 16 and 17 years back in to care if a young person’s decision to move into semi-independent accommodation, leave care or decline leaving care services is subsequently identified as premature.


3. Contacts, Visits and Reviews of Pathway Plans

The Pathway Plan must be reviewed at least every six months.

Reviews should take place more often if requested by the young person or the Personal Adviser or where there has been a significant change in the young person's circumstances. It is good practice for a review to be held within 28 days of any change in the care leaver’s accommodation. Other significant changes which may trigger a review can be found at Looked After Reviews Procedure, The Review of the Social Worker.

The purpose of the review is to check that the goals and milestones are still appropriate 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. The Pathway Plan Review will take place between the young person and their Personal Adviser and may include the following:

  • Allocated social worker;
  • Education provider;
  • Connexions;
  • Housing support worker;
  • Health professional;
  • Carer(s);
  • Parent(s) and Connected Person(s).

The outcome of the Pathway Plan Review will be formally discussed at the young persons Looked After Review with the IRO unless their has been a significant change in the young person's circumstances as discussed above that triggers an earlier Looked After Review. Whilst the young person is Eligible his or her IRO will chair reviews or support the young person to chair.

For a Relevant Young Person, the date for the first review will, if possible, be set at the final 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.

For all care leavers aged 16, 17 or 18, the IRO will offer to continue to independently review their Pathway Plan. Ideally the IRO will discuss this with the young person prior to the point at which they cease to be looked after. The IRO will offer to chair a maximum of 3 reviews following the young person ceasing to be looked after; the decision to continue the independent oversight of the Pathway Plan will be led by the young person who may not want the IRO to continue in this role or may want the IRO to chair only one or two of the maximum 3 further reviews offered.

An evaluation of the independent review of Pathway Plans for care leavers identified that the IRO’s continued role at the first care leaver review was particularly valued in relation to ensuring that plans at this key transition point had been effectively implemented. Therefore, the IRO service will continue to promote the independent review of the Pathway Plans at the first review following the young person ceasing to be looked after, whenever this is in keeping with the young person’s wishes.

The basis for the IRO’s continued involvement is to maintain the benefits of an established relationship between the IRO and the young person. This requires the young person to want to be actively engaged in the review process. If the young person does not wish to take part in any meaningful discussions with the IRO about their Pathway Plan,  the IRO will not continue their involvement either in chairing a Pathway Plan review or in overseeing the progress of the Pathway Plan,  and will inform the young person and the SW/PA of this decision. The Pathway Plan will then be reviewed by the Social Worker or Personal Advisor.

The continuation of the IRO role with care leavers is premised on the benefits of maintaining an established relationship; if the allocated IRO leaves their position, a new IRO would not usually be allocated although this could be considered on a case by case basis.

See Appendix 2: Practice Guidance - Undertaking Independent Reviewing of Pathway Plans for Relevant and Former Relevant Young People for further information.

Note: Bed and Breakfast Accommodation is not considered as suitable accommodation other than in exceptional circumstances. On such occasions:

  • The placement should be limited to two working days;
  • The Local Authority provides appropriate supervision and contact with the young person.
7.12, DfE The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations. Volume 3: planning transition to adulthood for care leavers (January 2015)

 


4. Personal Advisers

The Personal Adviser 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 will ensure the co-ordination of other agencies and individuals identified in the Pathway Plan, and ‘act as a focal point’ to make sure the young person has access to the appropriate services, including those provisions to enable them to develop some financial management capability.

It is the role of the personal adviser to keep in touch with the young person and to remain informed as to the young person's progress. The regularity and method(s) of contact put in place will be based on an assessment of the needs of the individual young person and any risk factors present. Contact arrangements must be documented in the Pathway Plan and agreed between the personal adviser and the young person. When a care leaver moves to new accommodation, the Personal Adviser must see them at that accommodation within 7 days of the move.

On each visit, the Personal Adviser must consider whether the accommodation continues to be suitable for the young person.

Where contact with the young person has been lost, the personal adviser must take steps to re-establish contact with the young person in the same way that a reasonable parent might try to resume contact with an estranged adult child.

The Personal Adviser will take responsibility for initiating the review of the Pathway Plan and for recording its outcomes.

The Personal Adviser is seen as a ‘function’ rather than a specific person and the local authority should consider delegating it wholly or partially to the best person able to carry out the role out. (See Part 3, Regulation 8 of the Care Leavers (England) Regulations).

The Personal adviser should be someone who is best able engage with the young person and motivate them to take up, and best make use of, the services that are available and provided.

It would be good practice were possible and appropriate for the Personal Adviser to maintain the same person from 18 years from when they were an Eligible or Relevant child. However, this will not always be possible, although the Personal Adviser should have the necessary skills and experience to carry out the function. The transfer of the role should be undertaken in a planned and managed way.

When allocating a Personal Adviser to an individual young person, consideration must be given to the wishes of the young person and to issues of gender, race, religion, linguistics, disabilities and equal opportunities. The assessment of need and a judgment as to who is most appropriate to fulfil the role of Personal Adviser will influence the choice and allocation of worker.

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.

5. Education, Training and Employment

5.1 Planning for Education, Training and Careers

Care leavers must be provided with access to high quality information, advice and guidance to inform their plans in order to progress into continuing education, training or employment. How this will be met should be included in the Pathway Plan. They should be offered work experience and other opportunities to allow them to test their career aspirations and needs. Career planning tools should be used to inform Pathway Plans.

The local authority should make every effort not to disrupt a young person’s education during their key stage 4 years, both in terms of their school and care placement unless the circumstances clearly require this. (See also Education of Looked After Children Procedure).

Placement arrangements for young people considering attending university, from their 18th birthday to the point they commence higher education courses, must be addressed and agreed well in advance of their 18th birthday. Plans need to be made for the vacation breaks. The local authority should not move a young person participating in a course of education during the academic year after their 18th birthday.

5.2 Care Leavers Continuing in Education

Where young people are continuing with an education or training course beyond their 21st birthday, the practical and financial support being provided must continue to be set out in their Pathway Plan.

Pathway Plans must set out accommodation arrangements, including financial arrangements during term time, short vacations and the long summer vacation.

5.3 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 must be determined by a social work assessment of need.

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 up until their 25th birthday. 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 Outside the 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.

For further information see the Staying Put Policy.


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.


Appendix 1: Needs Assessment and Content of Pathway Plans for Relevant and Former Relevant Children

Click here to view Appendix 1: Needs Assessment and Content of Pathway Plans for Relevant and Former Relevant Children


Appendix 2: Practice Guidance - Undertaking Independent Reviewing of Pathway Plans for Relevant and Former Relevant Young People

Click here to view Appendix 2: Practice Guidance - Undertaking Independent Reviewing of Pathway Plans for Relevant and Former Relevant Young People.

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