Leaving Care Finance Policy
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter details the range of financial resources that may be available to a young person leaving care in a variety of situations and circumstances. Practitioners and Team Managers involved in working with young people of 15 plus years should be familiar with the resources that are available.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was reviewed in July 2018 and adjustments have been made with regard to updating the benefits available (see Section 2.3, Care Leavers 18 years and Older and Section 3.2, Setting Up Home Allowance - Care Leaver Grant).
This policy outlines the arrangements that Knowsley Council has in place to meet their duties and responsibilities for young people once they have left care and it is intended for young people, staff, carers and parents.
All allowances are based on an assessment of need and will be set out in the young person's Pathway Plan.
The support that is offered to care leavers is based on the overarching principle that care leavers deserve no less than any other child as they prepare to leave their family towards adulthood. On that basis, there may be situations where the needs of care leavers fall outside of this policy. The Pathway Plan should address any additional needs; the identified needs will be considered by the Social Work Team Manager.
2. Living Allowances
The Pathway assessment will determine the young person's financial needs; the Pathway Plan will outline the amount, timing and payment method that has been agreed. The Pathway Plan will be reviewed on a six monthly basis, the young person's financial position will be considered during the Pathway Plan review.
Social Workers and carers have a responsibility to ensure that young people are fully prepared for independence. Every opportunity should be taken to develop a young person's skills in managing their own homes. Pocket money and identified allowances for e.g. leisure and clothing can be used whilst the young person is in foster or residential care to help develop these skills. Planning for independence should be a natural progression and should start as early as possible and at the latest from the age of 15 years onwards.
During the 6 months before leaving a care setting to move to semi/independence, use of further allowances for food, mobile phones, toiletries etc. should also be encouraged.
The young person's Personal Adviser provides the practical support to a young person as they prepare to leave care. For example, a list of the essential items that a young person should have when they leave a care setting is held in the Young Person's Team. The Personal Adviser will support the young person in ensuring that their leaving care grant is used to purchase household furnishings and items.
A personal allowance will be paid to the young person, the amount is equivalent to the benefits rates for young people of £57.90 per week. All payments must be recorded on the cost tab on ICS.
Where possible, allowances will be paid into the young person's bank account. In some circumstances, particularly for those not engaged in education, training or employment, an arrangement may be made for the young person to collect their allowances at the same time as attending for a meeting with a Social Worker or Personal Adviser (PA). In some circumstances young people may require assistance with managing their money; allowances may be split to require more frequent collection. In extreme circumstances, the Social Worker or Personal Adviser may need to shop for provisions with the young person or provide allowances 'in kind' instead of providing cash.In the 6 months preceding a young person's 18th birthday, an assessment should be made as to whether allowances will be paid fortnightly into the young person's bank account in preparation for their transfer to the benefits system at 18. This will be agreed between the Social Worker and Young Person's Team Manager.
2.3 Care leavers 18 Years and Over
Financial responsibility for care leavers not in employment at age 18 rests with the Department for Work and Pensions. Care leavers are eligible for a number of means tested and welfare benefits via Job Centre Plus. This applies whether the young person has remained in foster care or is living in supported or independent accommodation. Care Leavers can claim Income Support and Housing Benefit whilst in further education from their 18th birthday until the end of the academic year in which they are 21. If not in further education, Universal Credit will apply.
The Leaving Care Service will help the young person to make their claims in a timely manner and to maximise their income from these sources whilst at the same time supporting them to seek employment or training. All Benefits can be claimed in advance prior to the young person's 18th Birthday. When such an application is required, the Personal Advisor should make the application 8 weeks in advance of the 18th birthday.
In all cases Personal Advisors should ensure that Care Leavers are considered under exceptional services to ensure that any housing benefit, element of universal credit is paid directly to the land lord as opposed as to the young person themselves.
3. Additional Allowances
All young people who are living in semi independent or independent accommodation are able to access an engagement allowance of £120 per year this will be made up as follows:Young people who make a contribution by engaging in voluntary work or contribute to service development by actively contributing to their Pathway Plan, attending Care Leavers' Forum meetings, independent living skills training and an education event are able to receive payments of up to a maximum of £10 for one occasions up to an annual maximum of £60 per young person. The remainder will be paid as Birthday and Christmas allowances. All payments must be recorded on the cost tab on ICS.
An allowance of up to £1600 is available to pay towards the cost of setting up home and includes the cost of providing the first year's television licence and content's insurance.
It may be spent in stages and ideally the bulk of it will be spent for setting up in the young person's own independent accommodation. When the accommodation is being set up, consideration should be made in respect of the longevity of the stay to ensure the young person maximises on the items purchased. The Social Worker or Personal Advisor will discuss with the young person the sort of things they can spend the money on, e.g. furniture and household items, assist the young person in balancing cost, value for money and choice, and will make these purchases with the young person.
If this allowance has not been accessed by the time the young person's case is closed, a note will be made in the last Pathway Plan of the amount remaining. The allowance may be accessed at any time up to the young person's 25th birthday. This provision is available to care leavers turning 18 after the 1st April 2017.
It is expected that young people leave care with adequate clothing and footwear. Similarly for a young person starting to be looked after over the age of 16 and placed in supported accommodation, it is expected that they bring from home the same sort of basic possessions. If for any reason that is not possible, the social worker will arrange for what is necessary to be purchased from the Young Person's Team budget up to a value of £250.
Thereafter the young person will be expected to budget for replacement clothing from their allowances, benefits or earnings and only in exceptional circumstances, as agreed by the Young Person's Team Manager, will clothes/shoes be bought for a young person.
If clothing is required to support training or employment, the Young People's Team will provide the funding for the first set of clothing, footwear or equipment.
All young people should have a National Insurance Number from the age of 16, but this does not get issued automatically. At the age of fifteen and nine months, the social worker for the young person should contact the New Registrations Section of the National Insurance Number Office - HMRC to instigate the process of obtaining the National Insurance Number.
When the letter confirming the National Insurance number is received the Social Worker should record it on the young person's ICS records and place it on the young person's paper file. The young person will need to be provided with the original documentation.
To ensure young people have other documentation to prove their identity the Young Person's Team will pay for the initial purchase of the following (if not already obtained):
- Provisional driving licence;
- Copy birth certificate;
- Deed poll to change name legally, if required.
There may be a need to bridge a financial gap for young people when their primary source of funding changes e.g. when starting work, transferring to benefits or waiting for a student loan. Transitional payments will usually be made to ensure that a young person is not without income. The amount and whether it is taken from accrued deductions will depend on the circumstances and will be decided on a case by case basis by the Young Person's Team Manager. Details of what has been agreed should be recorded in the Pathway Plan and on the cost tab on ICS.
Arrangements may be made to assist in an emergency if required by any of the Young Person's Teams or Emergency Duty Team out of office hours. This could involve a small cash payment, a referral to the food bank or payment in kind. If authorised, the cause of the crisis and the details of help provided should be documented on ICS - both in casenote and on the cost tab. If a young person presents for emergency financial assistance twice in a three month period, the social worker or Personal Adviser must investigate this matter further by undertaking a review of the Pathway Plan.
The Leaving Care Service is responsible for providing accommodation until a young person is 18 years of age. A contribution from the weekly Personal Allowance is payable for food and utilities where applicable.
Responsibility for the provision or maintenance in accommodation for care leavers ends when a young person turns 18. Young people become eligible for a number of means tested benefits including Housing Benefit. The Young Person's Team will help the young person to access those benefits if necessary.
The Local Authority has a Staying Put policy, in principle, the care leaver enters into a private arrangement with the previous foster carer. The financial support offer is covered in the Staying Put Policy. Young People who choose to Stay Put can do so until they are 21 or 25 if they are in full time education.
Arrangements are set out fully in the Staying Put Policy. A written agreement should be in place before the young person is 18 years clearly stating the financial arrangements that have been agreed.
5. Education, Training and Employment
The Leaving Care Service will offer financial support for care leavers through at least one course of further or higher education of their choice until they are 21 years old, or until the end of a programme of education or training, if that has been previously detailed in the pathway plan.
The Leaving Care Service will assist young people to apply for college support funds to help with costs associated with courses.
For young people who cannot access benefits, an assessment will be carried out and, subject to the outcome of that assessment, personal allowances may be paid. Accommodation may also be provided, or the means to secure it, to a maximum of the relevant Local Housing Allowance rates.
Young People in Care and Care leavers are eligible to receive a £1,200 16-19 Bursary. Details about the Bursary can be seen at the Department for Education website. Bursary awards are managed by the colleges and are targeted towards the costs of transport, meals, books and equipment. The colleges may use their discretion to make awards to young people in the way that they feel best fits the needs and circumstances of their students. Therefore arrangements vary from college to college and the Young Person's Team can provide further information about a specific college. Receipt of a bursary is conditional on the student meeting agreed standards set by the college for example, relating to attendance and/or standards of behaviour. Awards to students undertaking courses lasting less than 30 weeks are made on a pro-rata basis.
Further information can also be found about the Bursary Fund on the Department for Education website.
In addition Local Authorities are obliged to pay a bursary of £2,000 to young people in Higher Education. The Leaving Care Worker will arrange for this to be paid in instalments over the length of the course. The first instalment should be paid within six weeks at the start of the course.
Young people will also be paid £100 per week towards accommodation and living costs if living in student accommodation or own tenancy.
Young people will be supported to apply for Student Finance loans to cover course fees and living allowance costs by their personal advisor.
For young people who get or qualify for Income Support or Housing Benefit they may get the Special Support Grant instead of the Maintenance Grant. The amount is the same as that available through the Maintenance Grant. People are likely to qualify for the Special Support Grant if:
- They are a single parent;
- Their partner is also a student;
- They have certain disabilities.
Eligibility for the Special Support Grant does not affect how much can be accessed through the Maintenance Loan. It will also not be counted as income when working out entitlement to income-related benefits or tax credits.
This grant is non-repayable.
Repayable Student Loans for fees and living costs are also available. Both may be applied for at the same time through the Student Loans Company.
Some Universities and Colleges also pay Institutional Bursaries and extra bursaries for students who have been in care.
The Young Person's Team will assist in applying for all these and also to charitable organisations for any additional funding.
Incentives for those engaged on a non-employed training course will be paid at the same rate as those in further education but must be agreed on a case by case basis by the Young Person's Team Manager.
Young people previously eligible for leaving care services, resuming programmes of education or training after the age of 21 are entitled to support from the Young Person's Team. They will have been told this when their involvement with the Young Person's Team ended. See Knowsley Care Leavers Local Offer.
Support can be available for as long as the young person continues with the agreed education or training programme even if this goes beyond their 25th birthday.
Programmes might include: 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 will be carried out by the Young Person's Team/Personal Advisor of the appropriateness of the education or training course for them given their level of ability, the purpose of undertaking the course and how it will help them to find employment in the future. The assessment will draw on information about the young person's skills and capabilities, previous support given, and the extent to which the young person made use of that, 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 young person's needs and will reflect the type of course, whether it is full or part time and an assessment of the young person's existing income will also be carried out. Advice will be given on sources of funding available from bursaries, grants and charitable organisations.
The maximum payable will be maintenance at the equivalent of the personal allowance and accommodation costs at the relevant Housing Allowance rate. No other payments available to care leavers will apply.
If financial support is given, it will be dependent on attendance and the Personal Advisor will need to check on this with a contact at the university or college.
6. Health & Well-being
Care leavers under the age of 19 and in full time education will generally be exempt from the majority of National Health Service health charges. For others they may claim assistance via the National Health Service Low Income Scheme. The young person will need to complete forms HC1 (SC) and HC1.
Lone Parents and Sick and Disabled young people in receipt of Income Support or Employment & Support Allowance will be exempt from National Health Service prescription, dental charges and sight tests charges by virtue of their Income Support or Employment & Support Allowance claim.
Full details of the help available is in leaflet HC11 'Help with health costs?' which is available from main post offices, Jobcentre Plus offices, National Health Service hospitals and some National Health Service practitioners.
Forms can be obtained from Jobcentre Plus offices, National Health Service hospitals and from some doctors, dentists and opticians or by contacting the National Health Service Forms order line on 0845 610 1112 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information is available from the Health Cost advice line on 0300 330 1343 or 0191 279 0565.
For young people under the age of 18 a referral should be made to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.
For those over 18, the young person would need to be referred to their GP. Counselling may be available via the GP, usually consisting of 6 sessions.
For young people with needs arising from mental health difficulties Community Care services may provide support. Eligibility for adult social care provision is governed by the Department of Health and Social Care Guidance on Eligibility Criteria for Adult Social Care (2010)18.
There may be instances where a young person is receiving therapeutic support that has been commissioned by the Local Authority or clinical commissioning group. Additional support should be set out in the young person's Pathway Plan and any funding requests beyond 18 years should be agreed by the appropriate manager in the commissioning authority.
7. Specific Groups of Care Leavers and Those with Additional or Specific Needs
A pregnant 16/17 year old young woman will continue to receive their personal allowance until her baby is born. Thereafter she, if she is a lone parent, she is entitled to Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit, although not Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance. This applies regardless of the young person's care status, i.e. on a Care Order, subject to Section 20 or discharged from Section 20. The Leaving Care service will assist in making these claims at the appropriate time with the Under 18s Benefits Advisor. Benefits received will replace the Leaving Care Personal allowance.
Care Leavers on benefits or a low income may be entitled to a Sure Start grant of £500 to purchase what is needed for their baby. This can be accessed via their community midwife and claimed from before the birth until the baby is 3 months old. It may not be payable until after the baby is born, in which case the Leaving Care service may arrange an advance. This grant is non repayable and does not affect other benefits or tax credits. It is possible for the Leaving Care Service to offer a repayable loan to assist if there is a delay in this grant being awarded. Further information is available from Benefits Agency. See GOV.UK website.
There is help available towards the costs of childcare. If the young person is under 20 at the start of the course, Care to Learn could pay up to £160 per child per week towards the young person's childcare and travel costs while the parent is learning.
If aged 19 or over, on a further education course and facing financial hardship,the young person can apply for Discretionary Learner Support (DLS).
The young person should apply to the learning provider (e.g. your college) for DLS. How much depends on the young person's circumstances.
The money can help pay for things like:
- Accommodation and travel;
- Course materials and equipment
- Childcare - if you qualify.
In cold weather, help towards the cost of heating for each qualifying week is available from the Benefits Agency for parents of children under 5 years who are in receipt of:
- Income Support;
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance; or
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance;
- Universal credit.
The parent needs to notify the Benefits Agency if they have a child under 5 years old living with them. Thereafter the payments are made automatically.
16/17 year old sick and disabled care leavers who meet the criteria may be able to claim Income Support or Employment & Support Allowance and some other benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP). However they cannot claim Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance. Claiming Income Support is a pre-requisite for a number of other benefits and services so should be applied for where possible. The Leaving Care Service will assist the young person in making the relevant claims.
For 16 and 17 year olds, the full costs of supported accommodation will be paid for, and the support element of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) awarded will not be taken into account. The young person will be encouraged to use the money to aid their life opportunities or to save towards future needs. The mobility part of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) however will be taken into account when awarding travel payments/tickets.Where a young person is over 18 and is in supported accommodation, the support element of which is not funded by Community Services or adult social care, the young person will be expected to contribute to the support element of their care from the support element of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Similarly, the mobility part of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is taken into account when awarding travel payments/tickets.
Young people in custodial settings will not receive full personal allowances but will generally be paid £20 per month. This is because they will not have the usual expenses of living in the community and there are usually opportunities for the young person to earn some money. If this is not the case, exceptions can be made with the agreement of the Young Person's Team Manager. Transport from custody will be arranged or paid for and any immediate needs on release considered.
16 and 17 year old Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking young people living in supported accommodation will receive funding from the Leaving Care service as for all other care leavers.
From the age of 18 years, former Relevant Young People who have been granted leave to remain in the UK can claim means tested benefits and they have rights to access public housing. This includes cases where the person's leave to remain has expired but he/she has applied for an extension of leave to remain (provided the application was made before the previous period of leave expired) and that application is still under consideration, or an appeal against refusal of the extension has been made. It is especially important, therefore, that the person is advised that he/she has the opportunity to apply for an extension of leave before the earlier period of leave to remain that was granted expires.
UASC who do not have Refugee Status/Indefinite Leave to Remain are not eligible to claim an Education Bursary but may be able to make use of the 'Care to Learn Fund'.
Where young people have limited leave to remain (usually Discretionary Leave), or are appealing an adverse decision, the leaving care service will consider funding education courses that finish in the academic year prior to their status expiring. This will enable young people to complete courses and gain qualifications which they can use on returning to their country of origin.
For young people who are "unlawfully present in the UK" - which includes those who have been refused asylum and have either not applied for an extension of further Discretionary Leave to remain or have applied for an extension but that application and any appeal has been rejected, they can generally only be supported to the extent necessary to avoid a breach of their human rights (under the European Convention of Human Rights).
Therefore, a Human Rights Assessment should be arranged with Adult Care Services to ascertain if leaving care support should continue. As a general rule, the person will not usually be able to show that support should continue solely because they have no other means of assistance and be made destitute if it is stopped because they could avoid that by leaving the United Kingdom.
Examples that could demonstrate that support should continue for human rights reasons might be:
- The person is taking all reasonable steps to leave the UK but is unable to do so immediately e.g. because they are waiting for the required travel documents from the national embassy;
- The person is temporarily unable to leave the UK because they are too sick to travel;
- The person is awaiting the outcome of judicial review proceedings in the higher courts in relation to his/her asylum claim.
On returning home, the young person's parent/s are able to claim all benefits and tax credits if the child is under statutory school leaving age or, if over that age, undertaking full time education or training. The parent will be expected to make the relevant claims and provide financial support for their son/daughter from that. Also, parents who are in work and earning over the tax credit limit will be expected to support the young person.
However, if the parents cannot access benefits/tax credits, and can produce evidence of an application that has been refused, and the young person is under statutory school leaving age, the Social Worker and relevant manager will decide whether or not to offer any financial assistance.
For those over statutory school age, similarly all benefits should be claimed and if they cannot be accessed a Personal Allowance may be paid to the young person. However, the remainder of the range of Leaving Care allowances and setting up home allowance, will not be available with the exception of essential requirements in relation to Education Training or Employment. For those who continue to be looked after on a Care Order the allowance to the young person could continue until they are 18. The amount payable will be decided on a case by case basis and recorded in the Pathway Plan.
If a return home is unsuccessful and the young person reverts to eligible or relevant status they would be treated financially as any other care leaver.
7.6 Young People Who Live with an Extended Family Member, Other Person Known to Them - A Connected Person
There will be circumstances where the most appropriate place for a young person to live is with a person connected to them but who does not have Parental Responsibility. If the young person is still looked after i.e. either on a Care Order or accommodated under Section 20, the connected person will need to be assessed in accordance with the Fostering Regulations. The person may be approved as either a foster carer or a supported lodgings provider specifically for that young person. If the need for a placement with a Connected Person is immediate, Regulation 24 of the Fostering Regulations applies and, subject to an assessment being completed, the Agency Decision Maker is able to approve the carers as foster carers as long as a full assessment is presented to the Fostering Panel within 16 weeks of approval.
If the young person is over statutory school leaving age, no longer accommodated or on a care order, the connected person may be approved as a supported lodgings provider. Once agreed, benefits may be payable and advice should be sought in the first instance from the under 18's Benefits Advisor. If this is not applicable, a payment at a set rate may be made to the provider and the young person paid the Leaving Care personal allowance. They will be expected in that circumstance to contribute to the provider for utilities and food.Details about how decisions are made about which is the most appropriate option in each situation and approval of the connected person is contained in the Leaving Care; Transition to Adulthood Policy, Procedures and Guidance.
Young people will be assisted to seek independent financial advice regarding the use of their award and how, for example, by establishing a Discretionary Trust Fund, they may retain entitlement to means tested benefits. A Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority payment is disregarded in calculating means tested benefit entitlement for the first 52 weeks after receipt of the award.
If a young person is in regular receipt of an income (for example, from parents/relatives, interest on an inheritance), the first £15 of this will not be taken into account for the purposes of payments from the Leaving Care Service.
For care leavers who qualify for advice and assistance under Section 24(2), the primary financial support role for those not in employment lies with the Department for Work and Pensions; however, local authorities may also give financial assistance which may be in kind or, in some circumstances, in cash to these young people on account of their particular needs over and above those of other young people until they reach the age of 21, or 25 where the young person is engaged in education or training. This needs to be assessed on a case by case basis by the Young Person's Team.
The Young Person's Team will contact all qualifying young people on a 3 monthly basis to establish whether they may be in need of assistance.