The term ‘care leaver’ is defined in The Children (Care Leavers) Act 2000 and refers to eligible, relevant and former relevant children.

Relevant children are those young people aged 16 and 17 who have already left care, and who were ‘looked after’ for at least 13 weeks from the age of 14, and have been ‘looked after’ at some time while they were 16 or 17.

Former relevant children are those young people aged 18, 19 or 20 who have been eligible and/or relevant.

Care leavers can also be classified as ‘qualifying’ care leavers. This category applies to young people who:

  • left care after 1 October 2001, after they had turned 16, but who are not 'eligible' or 'relevant' because they did not fulfil the 13 week criteria
  • were accommodated, but in residential education, mental health or health provision private fostering or special guardianship
Pathway plans and personal advisors

When you turned 16, your social worker will have discussed your pathway plan with you and you should have had an input into the things that have gone into this plan. We'll review this plan with you every six months, or sooner if needed.

At 16 you will also be allocated a personal adviser. They will remain with you, offering support right through until you turn 21, or 25 if you choose. Your plan will be reviewed by your social worker until you are 18. Your personal adviser will then review your pathway plan with you during your early adult years.

Depending on the support you need, you may continue to have ongoing support from a social worker into adulthood. Your personal adviser will work closely with you if necessary, making sure that we're able to provide the support you need through adult social care services. 

When reviewing your pathway plan, we usually cover certain issues to make sure that we fully support you through the transition process.  This includes your health and wellbeing, money, relationships, education, employment, housing, participation in society, advocacy and more.

Corporate parenting

The government has introduced a set of ‘corporate parenting principles’. We will always try to meet these, and we promise to:

  • act in the best interests of care leavers and promote your physical and mental wellbeing
  • encourage you to express your wishes and feelings
  • take into account your views, wishes and feelings when completing your pathway plan and designing services to offer support
  • help you to gain access to and make best use of services provided by both the local authority and other relevant partner agencies
  • promote high aspirations and seek to secure the best outcomes for care leavers
  • strive to ensure that you are safe and have stability in your home life, relationships, education and/or work
  • strive to prepare you for adulthood and independent living
Local support for care leavers

In Warrington, we're fully committed to providing you with the support you need to make the transition to adult life.

You can find information about the support you can expect from us and our partner agencies at every stage of your journey.

There are also local and national services who can offer advice and support, depending on your individual needs. You can find support by category. These include:

  • health and wellbeing
  • finance and money
  • relationships
  • education, training and employment
  • housing and accommodation
  • participation in society
  • independent advocacy

When you come into care, your social worker will get important information from your doctor, health visitor and/or school nurse.

This is called a ‘health assessment’ and it means they’ll know about any illnesses or disabilities you have, and whether you need any special treatment or medical care.

Your social worker must make sure that your health is properly looked after.

This means that:

  • you're registered with a doctor, dentist and optician
  • you're offered a health check every year
  • your care plan and your review both look at your health

If you’re at all worried about your body or how you feel, you can talk to your social worker, your carer, your doctor, your school nurse or the children in care children's nurse.

The doctor or nurse will keep everything you tell them private, unless you agree they can tell someone else – such as your carer or social worker – or they think you’re in danger. If they do, they will let you know who they’re going to tell.

Benefits and support

There are some benefits and financial support that are available just for care leavers:

Some care leavers living independently, for instance if you have your own flat or a room in a shared house, you may be entitled to an allowance of £57.90 per week.

To get this you need to apply through your social worker or personal adviser.

You are entitled if you:

  • are 16 or 17; and
  • have spent at least 13 weeks in care - either all in one go, or in total - since you were 14; and
  • have spent at least one day in care after your 16th birthday
  • receive further education or higher education support
  • are a care leaver in further education, a traineeship or an apprenticeship you could get an allowance of £10 to £30 per week
  • are a care leaver in higher education or university you could get financial support (this includes money towards your accommodation, your personal needs and an ‘incentive allowance’ to encourage you in your studies)
  • are setting up home independently

Some care leavers who are moving into independent accommodation can apply for a grant of up to £2,000.

This is to pay for the things you need to set up your own home like a cooker, plates or furniture.

You have to apply for this through your social worker or personal adviser.

You are entitled to this if you:

  • are 16 or 17; and
  • have spent at least 13 weeks in care - either all in one go, or in total - since you were 14; and
  • have spent at least one day in care after your 16th birthday.

Or if you

  • are 18 or over; and
  • have spent at least 13 weeks in care - either all in one go, or in total - since you were 14; and
  • have spent at least one day in care after your 16th birthday; and
  • are at least 21, but under 25 and in education or training, or tell us you plan to go into education or training

This is an allowance that pays for things like birthday presents, clothes, holidays or things for religious festivals like Christmas presents.

This normally goes to whoever is looking after you, like a foster carer, but in some rare circumstances it may be paid to you.

This should have already been put in place for you as part of your pathway plan. If not, you need to speak to your social worker or personal adviser to get it arranged.

You are entitled to this if you:

  • are 16 or 17; and
  • are currently in care; and
  • have spent at least 13 weeks in care - either all in one go, or in total - since you were 14; and
  • have spent at least one day in care after your 16th birthday
  • support if you are in custody or on remand

Some care leavers who are in custody or on remand receive £5 per week.

You have to apply for this through your social worker or personal adviser.

You are entitled to this if you:

  • are 16 or 17; and
  • have spent at least 13 weeks in care - either all in one go, or in total - since you were 14; and
  • have spent at least one day in care after your 16th birthday
Who can use our leavers' service

If you are a young person leaving care you may want help moving into adulthood – living independently and making your own decisions.

You can use this service up to the age of 25 if we are supporting you in education or training, or if you are disabled.

We work with a charity called the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS), to give you help if you need it.

You can check what services you are entitled to and find out lots more on the NYAS website.

What you are entitled to may be slightly different if you are an asylum seeker.

If you are an asylum seeker

Young people from abroad who arrive in this country alone can use our care leaving service once they've been assessed by us.

Your rights to use the service will be the same as other young people while you're claiming asylum or if you've been given status to remain in the country. 

Your social worker and leaving care worker will talk to you about the help and support that you can get, and will work with you to put together a pathway plan.

Where to live

It's important to find a place that’s right for you, with any support you may want to make it work.

If you’ve been living with a foster carer, you might want to continue living with them. Lots of care leavers and their foster carers do this.

Care leaver forum

Please speak to your personal adviser or contact the permanence team 01925 446235 for information about the monthly drop-in session for care leavers. 

The drop-in meetings are held at Warrington Youth Café, and each month workers attend that can support you with benefits and housing.  We also have senior managers, health, employment and university representatives attending to offer advice and guidance.

It is also a forum to talk about issues that affect young people who have left care so that services can be developed and improved.

Leaving care strategy

Having a strategy for children in care is important as it sets out what needs to be done and encourages professionals to work together and put the child or young person at the centre of what they do.

We provide appropriate support to children, young people and their families, however we need to work with our partners to keep improving our services so that children in care and care leavers have the best possible opportunities.

This strategy will help them to do this.

Bus travel

You are eligible for a free bus pass to travel on local services if you are aged between 18 and 22. To get this you need to apply through your personal adviser.

Once your bus pass has been ordered, we’ll email you with some information about your bus pass which includes where you can travel and what to do if your pass is lost, stolen or damaged. The information can be found here too.

More information about services and timetables can be found on our Better By Bus webpage

6 June 2024