Transition and Leaving Care


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, Relevant, and Former Relevant.

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

Note that when a young person leaves care or transitions to another placement, suitable luggage should be used. A child's belongings should never be transported in bin-bags or other inappropriate containers. (See NYAS, My Things Matter Report).


The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers

Care leavers' charter


Staying Put (Foster Care) Policy


This chapter was amended in January 2023 to add a link to the NYAS 'My Things Matter' Report - support and respect care-experienced children and their belongings when they move. (See above)

1. Introduction

The Children and Social Work Act 2017 introduces 3 new provisions:

  1. A duty on local authorities which requires them to offer Personal Adviser support to all care leavers towards whom the local authority had duties under Section 23C of the Children Act 1989, up to age 25 - irrespective of whether they are engaged in education or training. This includes care leavers who return to the local authority at any point after the age of 21 up to age 25 and request such support. (Under previous legislation, local authorities were required to only provide care leavers with support from a Personal Adviser until they reached age 21, with that support continuing up to age 25 if a care leaver was engaged in education or training. However, this support was not available to care leavers aged over 21 who were not in education, training or employment);
  2. A duty on local authorities to consult on and then publish their 'local offer' for care leavers, which sets out both care leavers' legal entitlements and the additional discretionary support that the local authority provides; and
  3. A duty on local authorities which requires them to have regard to seven 'corporate parenting principles', that will guide the way in which the local authority provides its services to children in care and care leavers.

These are specific requirements in addition to the existing provisions relating to support for care leavers. The Children and Social Work Act does not extend all care leaver support to age 25.

The duty that extends Personal Adviser support (where requested) to all care leavers means that the local authority continues to exercise functions in respect of care leavers to age 25 and should therefore apply the corporate parenting principles when exercising those functions.

The ultimate aim of leaving care services is to support care leavers so that they can live successful independent lives. Each care leaver will reach that point at a different age and there should be no assumption that the duty means that all care leavers will require statutory support until the age of 25.

The duty therefore means that local authorities do not necessarily need to provide the same level of support to care leavers aged 21 to 25 as it does for those aged 18-20. The duty does however enable local authorities to respond positively to requests for support from care leavers aged 21-25 who may be continuing to struggle with the transition to independence and adult life.

2. Definitions

Normally the definitions relating to Keywords are found by accessing the Keywords Glossary, but a number of the terms used in this procedure are specific to it; therefore they have also been summarised below:


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.

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(that is, they have been Looked After for a period, or periods, totalling at least 13 weeks starting after their 14th birthday and up to their 16th birthday). However, if after leaving care, a young person returns home for a period of 6 months or more to be cared for by a parent and the return home has been formally agreed as successful, they will no longer be a "Relevant Young Person". However the young person will be considered as a 'qualifying' young person under the terms of the legislation.

A young person is also "Relevant" if, having been in care for three months or more, they are 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.

Former Relevant Young People

They are aged 18 or above 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.

The statutory definition and requirements to stay in touch with the young person, keep the Pathway Plan under review, continue the appointment of a Personal Adviser and provide financial assistance near where the young person is employed or seeking employment / to enable the young person to pursue education or training are covered by Regulations 4 to 9 of the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010.

If the Former Relevant child pursues higher education in accordance with their Care Plan, there is a duty to pay a higher education bursary.

To the extent that the Former Relevant child's welfare requires it, 'other assistance' must be provided which may be in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash.

These duties continue until the former relevant child reaches 21 or, where the child's pathway plan sets out a programme of education or training which extends beyond their 21st birthday, they continue for so long as the child pursues that programme.

Former Relevant Children Pursuing Further Education or Training

Specific duties are placed upon the local authority in respect of Former Relevant children who inform the local authority that they are pursuing, or intend to pursue, a programme of education or training. The local authority must:

  • Carry out an assessment of the needs of the Former Relevant child with a view to determining what assistance (if any) it would be appropriate for the local authority to provide;
  • Prepare a pathway plan;
  • To the extent that the Former Relevant child's educational or training needs require it, provide financial assistance by:
    • Contributing to living expenses; or
    • Making a grant to meet expenses connected with the education and training.

These duties continue up to the Former Relevant child's 25th birthday.

In each case where a care leaver requests this support, the Local Authority will need to assess the appropriateness of the course and how it will help the young person to achieve their ambitions. The extent of the practical and financial assistance provided will reflect the type of course, whether full - or part-time, and the young person's existing income.

Qualifying Young People

They are aged 16 and over and under the age of 21, and are:

  • Subject to a special guardianship order (or were when they reached 18) and were looked after immediately before the making of that Order;
  • At any time after 16 (but whilst still a child), were looked after, accommodated or fostered.

'Looked after accommodated or fostered' includes:

  • Looked After by a local authority;
  • Accommodated by or on behalf of a voluntary organisation;
  • Accommodated in a private children's home;
  • Accommodated for a consecutive period of at least 3 months (including even before the child was 16) by a Health Authority, ICB or Local Authority (providing education), in:
    • A care home;
    • Independent hospital;
    • National Health Service trust or Foundation Trust.

Privately Fostered - but do not qualify as Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant.

Where a local authority looked after, accommodated or fostered a young person, and they are deemed as Qualifying for advice and assistance, the local authority has a duty to take reasonable steps to contact them with a view to advising and assisting them.

If in full-time further or higher education, this may include contributing financial assistance to living expenses relating to their education or training, or making a grant towards meeting their education / training expenses - including in relation to securing vacation accommodation up to the age of 24 (see Section 11, Qualifying Young People). They may receive support, advice and assistance wherever they are living. 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.

A Young Person Discharged from Being Looked After

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.

Personal Adviser

The role and function of the Personal Adviser is to support the young person make the transition from care. In Walsall this role is carried out by the Social Worker until the child is 17 and a half. 

A Personal Advisor will be allocated to the young person on or shortly after their 17th birthday and will take over case responsibility at 18. In specific circumstances and subject to individual assessment a Personal Advisor can be allocated sooner.

The Personal will hold a key role in providing support to the young person after they transition from care to independence.

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 increase as the young person gets closer to their 18th birthday.

See Section 10, Personal Advisers.


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.

3. Expectations and Corporate Parenting

3.1 Expectations

The aim of the Leaving Care Services is to support care leavers so that they can live successful independent lives. Each care leaver will reach that point at a different age and there should be no assumption that all care leavers will require statutory support until up to age 25.

Although each young person will be different, it would be expected that support for care leavers will taper away over time, in recognition of their growing maturity and independence:

  • For care leavers aged 16 and 17, the local authority is under an absolute duty to accommodate them, which does not apply once the young person reaches age 18;
  • For care leavers aged 18 and up to 21, there is a proactive duty on the local authority to keep in touch with care leavers (Section 23C(2) of the Children Act 1989 Act), which does not apply to care leavers aged 21 or over, irrespective of whether those young people are already entitled to support because they are in education or training, or those who are covered by the new duty. Although there is no requirement to proactively keep in touch with all young people aged over 21 up to age 25 throughout the year, the duty (under the Children and Social Work Act 2017) requires local authorities to make care leavers aware that they can continue to request Personal Adviser support as soon as possible after they turn 21; and on at least an annual basis thereafter. This applies regardless of whether a care leaver may have earlier declined the offer of Personal Adviser support. This requirement recognises that care leavers' circumstances may change and confirms that all care leavers are entitled to Personal Adviser support at any time up to age 25. Sending a birthday card to care leavers, for example, presents an ideal opportunity to remind the young person of their entitlement to Personal Adviser support if they need it, through to age 25;
  • For care leavers aged 21 or over, the duties introduced through the Children and Social Work Act 2017 - to assess care leavers' needs, and develop and keep under review a Pathway Plan - apply only where the young person requests support.

3.2 Corporate Parenting

The corporate parenting principles apply only to local authorities. Directors of Children's Services and Lead Members for Children should nevertheless ensure that relevant partners understand how they can assist local authorities and apply the principles in relation to the services those partners may provide. 'Relevant partners' include local policing bodies and Chief Officers of Police, local probation boards and probation services, youth offending teams, Integrated Care Boards, NHS England, schools and educational institutions.

See also: DfE, Prevention of Homelessness and Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 Year Old Young People who may be Homeless and/or Require Accommodation.

3.2.1 Corporate Parenting Principles

The Children and Social Work Act 2017 set out seven principles for Corporate Parenting:

  • To act in the best interests, and promote the physical and mental health and well-being, of those children and young people;
  • To encourage those children and young people to express their views, wishes and feelings;
  • To take into account the views, wishes and feelings of those children and young people;
  • To help those children and young people gain access to, and make the best use of, services provided by the local authority and its relevant partners;
  • To promote high aspirations, and seek to secure the best outcomes, for those children and young people;
  • For those children and young people to be safe, and for stability in their home lives, relationships and education or work; and
  • To prepare those children and young people for adulthood and independent living.

See Applying Corporate Parenting Principles to Looked-after Children and Care Leavers - Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (February 2018).

4. Local Offer

All local authorities must publish up-to-date information about the services it offers for care leavers and other services which may assist care leavers in, or preparing for, adulthood and independent living. The local offer should cover health and well-being; relationships; education and training; employment; accommodation; participation in society. This information should also include how relevant services that can be accessed by its partner agencies and include District Councils where relevant.

5. Leaving Care Assessment of Need

All Young People - Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant - 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 social worker will be responsible for coordinating and completing 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 completed no more than 3 months after the young person's 16th birthday or 12 weeks after the young person becomes Eligible or Relevant if this is later. The timetable must take account of any forthcoming exams and avoid disrupting the young person's preparation for them. The young person's social worker will be responsible for recording the assessment and ensure that this is shared with the young person and their carers.

The young person's Care Plan together with information from the most recent Single Assessment will form the basis of the Needs Assessment.

The social worker is also responsible for completing the Risk Assessment for young people 3 months after their birthday or 12 weeks after the young person becomes Eligible or Relevant.

See Section 7, Risk Assessment.

The Needs Assessment should 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;
  9. A care leaver's needs in relation to their status as a victim of trafficking or an unaccompanied asylum seeking child must be considered when the local authority is preparing an assessment of needs. Also, to require that, where a child is a victim of trafficking or an unaccompanied asylum seeking child, the local authority must consider whether their related needs are being met when reviewing the child's pathway plan. (See amended Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010).

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. This should be clearly reflected in their Pathway Plan.

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 them within 2 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 becomes the young person's Care Plan as it details the arrangements for support and accommodation now and in the future.

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.

Where the young person continues to be Looked After, the Placement Plan 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 (Foster Care) Policy.

5.1 Needs Assessment for those aged 21 and up to 25

The government guidance Extending Personal Adviser Support to All Care Leavers to Age 25: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (February 2018) highlights that at this stage of their lives young adults needs will vary considerably. Some may need considerable continuing support with transition, whilst others will not take up the offer for continuing support. Therefore there should be a proportionate response, with some benefitting from a continued and full assessment of needs, whilst others who seek help for specific issues have a more focussed assessment which responds to their particular need and level of requested help.

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

6. Pathway Planning

All young people will have a Pathway Plan in place within 3 months of becoming Eligible 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 Careers advice service 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, including any services being provided in respect of the young person's disability or needs arising from being in custody or as a result of entering the country as an unaccompanied asylum seeker. Young people with particular language or communication needs should be provided throughout the process with appropriate interpretation, translation or advocacy support.

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 they cease 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 their aspirations, skills and educational potential access to the IMPACT and Information Advice and Guidance workers;
  • The financial support to be provided to enable the young person to meet accommodation and maintenance costs; taking into account their 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 their 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 post 18 this can only be with the consent of the young person;
  • 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. For young people with Special Education Needs and Disabilities their Education, Health and Care Plan annual reviews must consider the future education, training and employment provision;
  • 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. Post 18 this can only be with the consent of the young person;
  • The young person's financial capabilities and money management capacity, along with strategies to develop the young person's skills in this area;
  • Where relevant, immigration status should be included as a separate section on Pathway Plans. This will help to ensure that young people who have been granted Pre Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme apply to convert this to Settled Status at the appropriate time. Each young person’s personal deadline for converting Pre Settled into Settled Status is unique to them and contained in a digital format – it is important therefore that this is recorded and monitored by the local authority. Plans should contain clear information about what action needs to be taken by whom and when.

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.

All aspects contained with the plan require scrutiny by designated manager as the produced plan becomes the local authority commitment as the corporate parent to the young person making the transition from 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 also be provided with information about their entitlements, including financial support, so they are clear what they can expect from the Local Authority as their corporate parent.

The young person will also be provided with information as to the financial policy of the Local Authority alongside their entitlements so they are clear what they can expect from the Local Authority as their corporate parent.

The young person will be consulted on who their Pathway Plan will be shared with when they leave care. If information is to be shared with a person or agency that the young person has not consented to, they 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.

Once the young person is aged 18, any information about them will be shared with their consent. Where there are any presenting risks we are open with the young people about the information that will need to be shared. If they are not willing for any information to be shared we would then review how we are able to support them.

Those who have a role in implementing the plan should have a copy of the Pathway Plan.

7. Risk Assessment

In February 2014, Walsall commissioned a diagnostic report from the National Care Advisory Service (NCAS). This section outlines the process regarding the assessment and management of risk for Looked After young people aged 16 plus and those who are over 18 and have left the care of the local authority but are still in receipt of services and support by the Transition and Leaving Care Team to support the implementation of the recommendation from NCAS:

'Young people who are at risk, leading dangerous lifestyles or making unwise choices, should have a risk assessment. There should be a clear format designed with multi agency input and regular review and updates from managers."

As a result of this we have developed a four stage process to enable workers to screen for risk, complete a risk analysis and build a safety plan.

7.1 Stage 1: Screening tool

There were a range of aspects that were important to the development of our risk management approach. Firstly a definition of what would be seen as high risk behaviour / activity and secondly that we located this assessment of risk in the domains of the pathway plan.

The screening tool expects workers in conjunction with their manager to score each domain of the pathway plan and attribute a score the area from 1 -10 dependent upon how worried they are about a particular area. This allows the worker and manager to consider each domain of the pathway plan in its own right. As well as identifying areas of concern it also allows an appreciation of which domain/s can provide protective factors for the young person. See Screening Tool.

7.2 Stage 2: Risk Analysis Tool

The risk analysis tool allows for a more detailed and reflective discussion about the specific risks to the young person or any risks that the young person presents to others. It takes the team around the child or young person on a journey through which the broader context of the young person's circumstances are considered focussing the discussion on what is happening for the young person at a given time and what factors increase the risk, or support the young person's resilience in managing any risk. Through the process the risk analysis tool allows the team to identify actions which could support the team and the young person to manage this risk. See Risk Analysis Tool.

7.3 Stage 3: Safety plan

The safety plan draws together the actions into a coordinated plan which can then be reviewed regularly. It identifies what actions are required, who will carry out the actions, when they will be completed by and what the anticipated outcomes will be. See Safety Plan.

7.4 Stage 4: Risk Register

The risk register gives an overarching view of young people for whom there are significant concerns, current levels of risk and how this is being managed. The risk register is used as a reporting tool to Walsall Safeguarding Children's Partnership, Corporate Parenting Board and Senior Managers to ensure a shared awareness of current worries and risks associated with the children and young people for whom we are corporate parents.

All young people require an initial screening of risk which should then be reviewed when there is a significant change or at every review of the Pathway Plan, whichever comes first. See Risk Register.

8. Contacts, Visits and Reviews of Pathway Plans

The Pathway Plan must be reviewed at least every 6 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.

The purpose of the review is to check that the goals and milestones are still right 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.

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

Whilst the young person is Eligible their Independent Reviewing Officer will chair reviews or support the young person to chair.

For Former Relevant or Relevant young people either the Assistant Team Managers or Team Managers in the Looked After Children's or the Leaving Care Service will chair the Pathway Plan reviews or support the young person to chair.

The review immediately prior to the young person's 18th birthday will agree how future reviews will be conducted, including whether they will involve face to face meetings, and this will be recorded by the Chairperson. In all cases, even when no formal review meetings are held, the Team Manager of the Leaving Care Service will retain a monitoring role, at six monthly intervals, to check the progress of the Pathway Plan.

Other participants at reviews should include the young person, Personal Adviser, the social worker (if the case is still allocated) and any other significant person that the young person has identified as important and who should be included.

Generally the Reviews will take place at the young person's home unless it is unsafe to do so.

If the Relevant Young Person or Former Relevant Young Person moves to 'unregulated' accommodation (i.e. accommodation that is not regulated / inspected by OFSTED), the Local Authority must:

  1. Arrange a review 28 days (or as soon as practicable thereafter) from the time the accommodation is provided; and
  2. Determine at what intervals (not exceeding 3 months) subsequent reviews will be carried out;
  3. Reviews should be brought forward where there is an assessed risk that a crisis may develop in a young person's life, for example:
    • Where a young person has been charged with an offence and there is a possibility of their being sentenced to custody, which will risk losing their accommodation;
    • Where a young person is at risk of being evicted from their accommodation or otherwise threatened with homelessness;
    • Where professionals are concerned about the parenting capacity of a 'Relevant' or 'Former Relevant' young person with there being a possibility that their own child may need to be the subject of a multi-agency safeguarding plan;
    • Where a young person requests a review.

Matters to which the Local Authority is to have regard in determining suitability of accommodation (under Schedule 2 to the Care Leavers Regulations 2010 and Schedule 6 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010):

  1. In respect of the accommodation:
    1. The facilities and services provided;
    2. The state of repair;
    3. The safety;
    4. The location;
    5. The support;
    6. The tenancy status; and
    7. The financial commitments involved for the relevant young person and their affordability.
  2. In respect of the Relevant young person:
    1. Their views about the accommodation;
    2. Their understanding of their rights and responsibilities in relation to the accommodation; and
    3. Their understanding of funding arrangements.

See also Placements in Other Arrangements Procedure.

Where a Relevant or Former Relevant Young Person enters custody, pathway planning must continue. The young person must be visited on a regular basis and it is good practice for the first visit to take place within ten working days. The role must not be fulfilled by a YOT worker. The Local Authority must liaise with the YOT or Probation Provider to support the young person emotionally, practically and financially while in custody. A review of the Pathway Plan should be carried out at least a month before the young person's release to give sufficient time to plan for their resettlement, including identifying suitable accommodation where the young person's placement had to be given up or has been lost and identifying who will collect the young person and the sources of support after their release.

There should be a joint housing protocol which maps out how the local housing authority will work with children's social care; the youth secure estate; prisons; the National Probation Service; Youth Offending Services and other interested agencies that may be involved with a young person, to support the release of children from custody and secure accommodation and ensure that adequate pre-release planning is in place and that suitable accommodation forms a central part of this. This should include details such as identifying who will collect the young person and the sources of support after their release.

See: Joint Housing Protocols for Care Leavers: good practice advice, Section 2.6 Care leavers leaving custody (DfE and MHCLG).

In the event of a Relevant or Former Relevant Young Person breaking off contact and/or not engaging with the agreed support and advice being offered, a review of the Pathway Plan may take place by telephone, e-mail or letter, if agreed in advance. In these circumstances the Personal Adviser will attempt to negotiate a revised plan that is acceptable to all parties.

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 Pathway Plan Review will record how attempts will be made to re-establish contact and these efforts will be reviewed within the established system.

A route back for the young person to seek support in the future should be kept open and communicated, for example by sending birthday cards and appropriate festive greetings, and ensuring that the young person receives any circulated information about services or events in which they may have an interest.

Where a Pathway Plan is amended as a result of a review, the Personal Adviser will amend the Plan. Any necessary approval to the amended financial arrangements will be sought from the Designated Manager (Leaving Care). Once the changes are approved, the Personal Adviser will send a copy of the amended Plan to the young person and any other person the young person has identified.

9. Joint Housing Protocols for Care Leavers

See: Joint Housing Protocols for Care Leavers: good practice advice (DfE and MHCLG).

This joint housing protocol sets out the commitments, as corporate parents, local authorities should develop to commission and maintain accommodation for care leavers and how these, through their joint protocols, should be delivered in practice. The Guidance acknowledges the range of help and support care leavers require through a variety of circumstances, together with the duty local authorities have to prevent homelessness. The Guidance also reflects the importance of including the young person's views and feelings together with those who are involved with them.

Local authorities should develop protocols as to how a degree of flexibility and choice could be provided within residency criteria for housing authority allocation schemes. This could include providing looked after care leavers and care leavers:

  • Are able to register for social housing with the housing authority of their choice in a two-tier area;
  • Are able to register from out of area placements should they wish to return; landlords are engaged and supported to offer accommodation to care leavers;
  • Can be registered for social housing in an area where they have been placed and have lived for some time.

Where private tenancies are offered, facilities should be considered where: there is access rent in advance / deposit schemes managed by housing authorities or commissioned providers; there are arrangements for ensuring accommodation is suitable for the young person, as set out in DfE and MHCLG guidance, (where placed under homelessness duties); the local authority will mitigate against the impact of a change in benefit entitlement once a young person reaches the age of 22 [1]; landlords are engaged, trained and supported to offer accommodation to care leavers, etc. (see Joint Housing Protocols for Care Leavers: good practice advice, Section 2.9 Move on accommodation (DfE and MHCLG)).

For care leavers aged 21 or over the duty to assess needs, and develop and keep under review a pathway plan - apply only where the young person requests support. It is therefore important that joint housing protocols cover the support available from a local authority area to care leavers up to the age of 25.

Although 'unintentional homelessness' is a cornerstone for housing authorities with regard to the prevention and relief of homelessness, the Homelessness code of guidance (section 22.17) states that local authorities should do all they can to avoid the impact of intentionally homeless decisions on care leavers; and through joint working between housing and children's services, give full consideration to the needs and vulnerabilities of the young person. This would include taking into account the young person's emotional and mental well-being, maturity and general ability to understand the impact of their actions. A young person should have a 'Personalised Housing Plan' [2], (which could be included into their Pathway Plan), if there is a threat of, or actual homelessness, which sets out the steps the local authority and applicant will take to prevent, or relieve, a homeless situation.

It is particularly important to have strong contingency plans in place for care leavers who are identified as being at risk of homelessness. This would include care leavers with a history of placement breakdown, and/or those with additional needs such as mental health issues, learning disability, attachment disorder, substance misuse and experience of offending behaviour.

Protocols should also set out the process to be followed in order to:

  • Enable an appeal where a care leaver is not satisfied that the accommodation being provided is suitable;
  • Establish ways of resolving disputes, both within and between authorities.

[1] The Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) limits the level of housing costs available to care leavers through housing benefit or universal credit to the cost of a room in a shared house. Care leavers are exempt from SAR until they reach the age of 22. From October 2023, the SAR exemption for care leavers will be extended to 25 years as announced in the Budget of February 2020 (from Joint Housing Protocols for Care Leavers: good practice advice, Section 2.9 Move on accommodation (DfE and MHCLG)).
[2] The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

10. 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 after the young person's 18th birthday. The social worker retains responsibility for the pathway plan up to the young person's18th birthday.

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.

When a care leaver moves to new accommodation, and the accommodation is unregulated / comes under Section 23B and 24B of the Children Act 1989, the Personal Adviser must see them at that accommodation:

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

The Personal Adviser must maintain a written record of their contacts with the young person, monitoring the effectiveness of services in preparing the young person for a time when they will move to greater independence or when they cease to be looked after.

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.

11. Education, Training and Employment

11.1 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 can 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.

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.

11.2 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.

11.3 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.

11.4 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 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. It will also be based on the entitlements the LA has agreed for young people alongside the LA Financial Policy for the young people.

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.

12. Qualifying Young People

Services for Qualifying Young People will be determined by an assessment of need carried out by the Leaving Care Team.

The support offered 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. Any additional financial support will be considered in line with the LA Entitlements Policy and Financial Policy.

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 they have to have contact with other agencies. Advice and support should also be offered in relation to employment, training and educational opportunities.

Local authorities should also set out what assistance can be provided to young people who are 'Qualifying' as a result of being looked after immediately prior to becoming subject to a Special Guardianship Order or subject to a private fostering arrangement. Local authorities will need to be clear about which local authority is responsible for the provision of services to qualifying young people.

Where a Qualifying Young Person accesses education, or training, financial assistance, this will be possible to the age of 24. This will ensure that they are 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.

13. Where Care Leavers Live or Move to a Different Local Authority Area

In some instances, it may be beneficial for care leavers to move to, or remain in, another authority’s area:

  • They are already living in a foster or residential placement out of the area and being settled there;
  • They have been assessed as, or presenting risk if accommodated in the local area;
  • They are requiring university vacation accommodation outside the authority area;
  • They are wanting to live nearer to a family member or former carer;
  • They are moving away to take up employment or training.

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 they would receive if they had remained resident in the area.

A protocol should set out what options may be available for care leavers to settle in another area where they chose to do so. This should include the Personal Adviser contacting the local authority where the young person resides to explore what accommodation options may be available in advance of them leaving care. 

Where a young person lives in another area the responsible local authority may wish to contact the authority in which they now reside, with the consent of the young person. This can assist with joint planning for the future accommodation needs of the young person in particular where they may be in need of support from adult social care or mental health services. 

Should a young person be found accommodation under any homelessness duty the placing housing authority has a statutory duty (section 208 of the Housing Act 1996) to notify the local housing authority for the area where the young person is placed. 

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 if the young person agrees.

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.

14. 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 their 16th birthday should consider whether a Staying Put arrangement should be an option.

Under the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010 and Planning Transition into Adulthood for Care Leavers Guidance, the Local Authority must provide information about extending placements post-18 - see Staying Put (Foster Care) Policy.

15. 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.

Young people who wish to access their records are able to apply directly to the service or seek support in making this request from their Personal Advisor.

16. Complaints

All those eligible for support under these procedures and qualifying young people over the age of 16 have access to the Representations and Complaints Procedure.