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5.9.7 Leaving Care Guidance


This chapter was reviewed and amended in May 2016. It emphasises that young people will draw up their Pathway Plans with the assistance of their Personal Advisers and careful consideration must be given to the young person’s finance when finding alternative accommodation and in ensuring accountability of their finance generally.


The following must be read in conjunction with Leaving Care Finance Policy.

1. Local Authority Duties
2. Eligible Relevant and Former Relevant Young People
  1. Preparation for Independence Assessment
  2. Role of the Personal Adviser
  3. Young People with Complex Needs
3. Pathway Plans
  1. Involvement of Young Person
  2. Content
  3. Life Skills
  4. Race, Culture, Language and Religion and Faith
  5. Financial Support
  6. Accommodation

1. Local Authority Duties

The local authority has a duty to act as a responsible caring parent to all Children Looked After and to young people leaving the looked after service. The authority recognises that the quality of preparation for leaving the looked after service and the care subsequently provided may profoundly affect the rest of a young person’s life. The authority aims to ensure that young people leaving the looked after service, as they enter adulthood, are not isolated and participate socially and economically as positive citizens.

The duties for the provision of services to Looked After children and young people are placed on the local authority as a corporate body. Multi-agency support and cooperation are essential in achieving successful outcomes for young people looked after and leaving the looked after service.

Services for young people must take into account the lengthy process of transition from dependence to independence. In recognition of this, the authority will:

  1. Delay the discharge of 16 and 17 year olds from the looked after service until they are prepared and ready to leave; by supporting children as looked after until they are 18 yrs;
  2. Ensure that young people receive a high standard of assessment, preparation and planning for leaving the looked after service;
  3. Provide personal support for young people after leaving the looked after service;
  4. Ensure that the financial needs of young people leaving the looked after services are appropriately supported.

An integral part of any Pathway Plan and Placement Plan should be the preparation of the young person for leaving the looked after service.

All services will be provided in a manner which accords fully with the authority’s equal opportunities policy and will positively reflect the young person’s ethnicity, culture, religion and faith and their linguistic background.

2. Eligible, Relevant And Former Relevant Young People

Preparation for Independence - 16+ Needs Assessment

It is important that all young people who are living in and preparing to leave the Looked After service are prepared and equipped to cope as individuals and receive help and support to improve their life chances. It is not reasonable to expect a young person to live independently unless they have acquired the social and personal skills to sustain such a living situation.

It is imperative that all those involved in the planning and delivery of services are ambitious for young people who are looked after. This, together with good planning will promote better outcomes for them and better preparation for when they leave the looked after service to enable them to manage and succeed independently.

It is essential that good links are established with the Education Service to ensure that a young person can take advantage of their educational opportunities.

Good assessment and planning will ensure that their developmental needs are identified and addressed from the time they are accommodated. Throughout their time in the looked after service, the plans that are made should be revised and reviewed in a timely manner.

The assessment of the young person at the latest when 16 (referred to as a 16+ Needs Assessment) will need to consider specifically his or her abilities to live independently.

The issues to be covered in the 16+ Needs Assessment will include:

  1. The young person’s physical and emotional health and developmental needs;
  2. The need for education, training and development;
  3. The support available from the young person’s family and others;
  4. His or her financial needs;
  5. The extent to which he or she possesses the skills necessary for independent living;
  6. The need for care, support and accommodation including an understanding of the young person’s level of vulnerability.

As part of their work, all staff should have the following aims and objectives for those leaving the Looked After Service:

  1. Social Workers should strive to provide stable placements, continuity of carers and the maintenance, wherever possible, of positive family links whilst young people are looked after;
  2. Young people should be looked after until they are prepared and ready to leave. Throughout the period of preparation, consideration must be given to the likely age at which living independently could be a realistic option for them;
  3. Relationships with carers and families should be maintained, where possible, after leaving the looked after service;
  4. Preparation for independence should be considered in its broadest sense to include not only physical and practical skills, but also psychological preparation such as taking responsibility for oneself, dealing with relationships and coping with the spectrum of negative emotions, which may affect a person living alone;
  5. Education, training and employment outcomes should be maximised for those leaving the looked after service, being mindful of the likely long-term and wide-ranging impact in their lives of poor educational outcomes;
  6. Young people leaving the looked after service should have access to a range of accommodation and the support and skills to maintain themselves in their accommodation;
  7. There should be a contingency provision to support them in the event of a crisis, including arrangements for respite care;
  8. Ongoing support should be arranged or facilitated e.g. the support of ex-carers, or other workers;
  9. They should receive their full financial entitlements.

In line with their own capabilities, they should lead, with appropriate support, all assessment, planning, review and decision-making arrangements for their leaving the looked after service.

They should be informed about the available services - including the provision of an accessible written guide for Care Leavers which outlines fully their entitlement and relevant contact details.

Role of the Personal Adviser

The extent to which the Personal Adviser becomes the main source of advice and support for the young person will clearly vary according to individual circumstances. Much will depend on the extent and strength of the young person’s existing network of support. For some, the Personal Adviser will be the first person to whom they turn and with whom they may develop a close, long-term relationship. For others, their Personal Adviser may be a largely peripheral figure in their lives. It should not be expected, for example where there is a well-established and trusting relationship with a carer that the young person would necessarily turn instead to the Personal Adviser for support. Even in these circumstances, however, the aim should be for the Personal Adviser to build a network of support for the young person whose needs will inevitably change over time. The Personal Adviser must maintain regular contact with the young person and provide a written record of their contacts with the young person, monitoring effectiveness or services in preparing the young person for a time when they will move to greater independence or when they cease to be Looked After.

Young People with Complex Needs

Young people with complex needs may well have particular needs over and above those of other young people who are looked after. It is essential to ensure that these needs are met when preparing young people for leaving the looked after service and subsequently, providing after-care. At the same time, it is important to ensure that they do not fail to achieve their full potential as a result of under-expectation on the part of those caring for them.

Planning should also take into account any transition from Children’s to Adult Services. Where such a transfer will take place, the young person’s social worker and Personal Adviser must ensure that adequate notice is given to Adult Services to ensure a smooth transition.

With regard to arranging the appropriate level of financial support for young people with complex needs, social workers and Personal Advisers should involve specialist advisers as appropriate to help the young person decide how to approach their future support needs.

Pathway Plans for young people with complex needs will need to include reference to specific requirements for or adaptations to, their accommodation.

3. Pathway Plans

It is vital that support available from willing and able family members, friends and current carers is fully utilised when drawing up the Pathway Plan. To neglect this resource could damage existing important relationships. Any such positive networks should be nurtured and supported, but not stretc.hed to breaking point.

Involvement of Young Person

Young people will draw up of their own Pathway plan (assisted by their Personal Adviser), setting out their own goals and identifying how the local authority will help them, including how any services being provided in respect of young person’s disability or needs arising from being in custody or as a result of entering the country as an unaccompanied asylum seeker. The local authority should work to ensure that the young person owns the plan and that the plan is able to respond to their individual changing needs and ambitions. The young person’s ownership of the plan is of paramount importance.

For young people with particular needs in relation to race, language, ethnicity or disability, active consideration must be given in involving an adult of their choice who is able to identify and help address these needs within the assessment and planning process.

The young person should be invited to participate in any group working on the development of the plan. However, it is unlikely to be helpful to the young person to attend a large group of all interested parties. The adults supporting the development of the Pathway Plan will need to communicate directly with each other as necessary. The size of the group when developing the Pathway Plan with the young person should be very small.


The Pathway Plan will set out the way in which the needs of the young person identified in the assessment will be met and the date by which, and by whom, action will be carried out.

Clarity about the nature and source of advice and support to be provided to the young person will be an essential element of the Pathway Plan and subsequent reviews. 

The Pathway Plan must be comprehensive and include how the following needs will be catered for:

  1. Health, (including general health, emotional well-being, sexual relationships and advice on drugs, tobacco and alcohol where necessary);
  2. Personal support and counselling;
  3. Planning 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;
  4. Employment - how the local authority will assist 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;
  5. Family and social relationships including contact with family and friends;
  6. Social presentation and self care including leisure and cultural needs;
  7. Accommodation and support needed to sustain it;
  8. Financial support including the level of personal allowance;
  9. Contingency plans e.g. where there may be a need for increased support;
  10. Specific needs in relation to their identity, with particular regard to their race, religious persuasion, language, ethnicity or disability;
  11. Transition to Adult Services.

Life Skills

The Pathway Plan will need to make direct reference to the support the young person will require in relation to:

  1. Emotional needs – loneliness and isolation, relationships, peer pressure;
  2. Dealing with bills, money worries and budgeting, managing a bank account;
  3. Obtaining and keeping safe important documents such as birth certificate and passport;
  4. Taking responsibility for themselves and visitors and the consequences of behaviour;
  5. Home security and discerning who to trust;
  6. Ability to provide for themselves adequate food and clothing;
  7. Shopping and cooking;
  8. Laundry and cleaning;
  9. Caring for their own children and dependents.

Race, Culture, Language and Religion and Faith

Specific consideration must be given to the young person’s needs in relation to their race, culture, language, religion and faith at every step of their Pathway Plan. 

It is important that young people are provided with the support to maintain positive links with their racial and cultural community to reinforce their identity and sense of self and belonging if they wish to. Information about how this can best be facilitated must be sought from the young person, their family, carers and appropriate experts including cultural, faith and community leaders.

Financial Support

Click here to view the Leaving Care Finance Policy.

This table must be read in conjunction with the Schedule of Financial Arrangements agreed by the authority, which will contain the up-to-date amounts for the various categories of financial support.

Financial arrangements for Eligible Young People who are placed in foster or residential care will not change unless their assessed need goes beyond what would normally be expected to be provided through residential or foster care allowances.

Eligible Young People who are living independently will be treated as if Relevant Young People for the purpose of financial support.

Relevant Young People will not usually be able to claim income support, job seeker’s allowance or housing benefit. The local authority will normally be their primary source of income.

Lone parents and sick or disabled young people will however be able to claim job seeker’s allowance or income support but not housing benefit. In every other respect, their financial arrangements will be the same as for other Relevant Young People.

No young person should receive a package for accommodation and maintenance, which comes to a value less than s/he would have received if they were entitled to claim benefits.

Social workers working with young people with additional needs must ensure that sources of financial support including benefits, independent living fund and charitable sources for specialist equipment have been explored fully before seeking finance from the local authority.

Accommodation costs will be paid at the agreed local housing benefit rate for the area in which the young person chooses to reside. Where additional accommodation costs are likely to be incurred, these must be detailed in the Pathway Plan and approved (in advance) by the Head of Service (Pathway Plans/Leaving Care). Accommodation costs will normally be paid directly to the accommodation provider unless alternative arrangements are specified in the Pathway Plan. Consideration should always take place when finding alternative accommodation in ensuring the young person will be financially viable when the young person reaches their own independence.

The minimum maintenance allowance payable to the young person should be as agreed from time to time by the local authority and should not fall below the young person’s benefits entitlement. All Relevant Young People who are living independently will receive maintenance allowance at the agreed rate.

Additional payments to meet the Relevant Young Person’s needs in relation to education, training, and employment will also be set out in the Pathway Plan, such other additional needs having been identified in the young person’s 16+ Needs Assessment and agreed by the Team Manager of the Young Person’s Team.

It is the responsibility of the social worker to monitor the use of finance for eligible/relevant young people. Such payments will be made for specific purposes and may be withdrawn if they not being used as agreed.

Where finance for specific purposes is to be withdrawn, this must be agreed through a review and recorded in a revised Pathway Plan. Payments may be suspended pending a review if the social worker or Personal Adviser considers this necessary.

However, the withdrawal or reduction of basic accommodation and maintenance allowances as a sanction or reward is not permitted under any circumstances.

For procedures in relation to Sanctions, please see Consequences Procedure.

Where young people are persistently failing to manage their finances or placing themselves at risk through misuse of allowances (for example as a result of drugs/alcohol or other addictive behaviour) the social worker or Personal Adviser may take full or partial control of the young person’s finances. Reasons for such action must be recorded in the Pathway Plan, and agreed by the Team Manager.

Framework for payment of allowances to young people

Young people must be encouraged and assisted to open and manage a bank account.

The social worker must ensure that the young person is given appropriate advice and help long before leaving the looked after service and Looked After Reviews should monitor this as part of preparation for independence.

In the majority of cases, payments will be made directly to the young person’s bank account.

The 16+ Needs Assessment, Pathway Plan and Pathway Plan Reviews will have a key role in agreeing the extent to which young people are able to be responsible for their own finances. Assessed ability must be recorded in the Pathway Plan along with the method of payment to the young person.

If the Social Worker or the Personal Adviser is concerned about a young person’s ability to manage their finances, the local authority will deal with all significant matters of finance on the young person’s behalf. Reasons for this must be recorded and monitored through the Pathway Plan Review and urgent steps must be taken to train, brief or coach the young person in respect of managing their money. There should be a clear record of the monies to ensure an audit trail for each individual young person is accountable.

Where a young person lives in the area of another local authority, this authority will continue to be the source of financial support. In these circumstances, where the young person is able to manage his or her own finances, payments will be made directly to their bank account.

If there are concerns about the young person’s ability to manage finances, arrangements for payment must be agreed with the local authority in whose area the young person resides. The Personal Adviser or social worker should undertake this task in consultation with the Team Manager. If the local authority loses touch with the young person, accommodation and maintenance should still be paid through the young person’s bank account wherever possible. However, additional needs payments will not continue under such circumstances.

Setting up home /Leaving Care grant

The young person’s need for such a grant must be clearly identified. Payments should be made incrementally, according to need, up to the maximum amount agreed from time to time by the Head of Service or Assistant Director. Payments will only be agreed if detailed on the financial request form.

The Personal Adviser will accompany the young person to purchase items for setting up home. Young people must be supported in this task. Receipts must be obtained and a detailed list of all purchases must be placed on the young person’s file.

Access to health costs

Young people aged 16 to 18 and no longer in full-time education will need to obtain a NHS Charges Certificate to cover the costs of prescriptions, dental charges etc.

The social worker, in the case of Eligible Young People, and Personal Adviser for Relevant Young People, is responsible for ensuring that Form HC1 is completed on behalf of the young person. The young person will then be fast-tracked through the NHS low-income scheme.


The local authority has a duty to meet the accommodation needs of Relevant and Former Relevant Young People by supporting them through the provision of or maintaining them in suitable accommodation unless satisfied that their welfare does not require it.

Accommodation and support needs must be identified clearly in the young person’s Needs Assessment. The assessment should determine the type of accommodation, where it should be located and the degree of support required.

It is the responsibility of the young person’s social worker to ensure that the Needs Assessment identifies any risk areas or vulnerabilities that relate to the young person concerned.

Resources required to meet the young person’s accommodation and support needs must be detailed in the Pathway Plan.

Lead responsibility for securing accommodation for the young person and detailing contingency plans in the event of breakdown placement disrupting, must be agreed as part of the Pathway Plan.

The accommodation provided must be:

  • Suitable for the young person’s needs and in particular needs relating to physical disability and/or sensory impairment and/or learning difficulty;
  • Satisfactory in terms of the character and suitability of the accommodation provider;
  • So far as is practicable, in keeping with the wishes and feelings of the young person; and
  • Supportive of the young person’s education, training or employment needs.

Bed and breakfast accommodation is not regarded as suitable accommodation and should never be used.

Unless moving to independent accommodation is unavoidable, or offers clear advantages for the young person, he or she should be encouraged to remain in a settled care placement until reaching 18 years.

Where young people are in a foster placement and wish to remain with their carer(s) the allocated social worker should liaise with the Fostering Service. The possibility of converting the placement to a Staying Put arrangement should always be considered.

Knowsley remains ‘the responsible authority’ wherever an Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant Young Person chooses to live - whether within or outside the Authority.

In these circumstances, the relevant team manager will negotiate with the authority where the young person is living to ensure that the full range of services is provided. 

Where another authority is ‘the responsible authority’ for a young person seeking accommodation in Knowsley, that authority must negotiate service provision through the relevant manager.

Where young people from another authority are in need of emergency support and/or accommodation, the relevant manager will be responsible for negotiating with the young person’s local authority about all follow up action, including arrangements for recouping costs associated with the provision of accommodation and support to the young person.

Vacation accommodation

Any Relevant, Former Relevant or Qualifying Young Person in full-time further or higher education should receive assistance with accommodation during vacations.

In most cases the need for this accommodation will be agreed in the Pathway Plan or subsequent Pathway Plan reviews.

Through the Personal Adviser, the local authority must be satisfied that:
The young person needs accommodation because their term-time accommodation is not available.