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A. A Care Order automatically ends when you reach 18 years of age. You will not have to return to the court for this to happen. However, Social Services have to continue to offer you help, for example with finding somewhere to live, until you are 21 years old.
A. New rules came into force in October 2001 about the help you are entitled to get when you leave care. The new rules are complicated, and apply to four different sets of young people (see next question). These rules aim to:
provide you with stable placements, the same carers, and help
you keep in touch with people who can help you while you are being looked
When you are 16 Social Services have to appoint a "Personal Advisor" for you who will keep in touch with you and make sure you have the help you will need. What help you will have will depend on what your own wishes are for the future and how much has been planned with you in your review and other meetings. You should have had lots of discussions with your Social Worker, your Personal Advisor, and your teachers and also your parents if they are still involved in your life, so that plans can be made with you well ahead of your sixteenth birthday.
You and your Social Worker and/or Personal Advisor will prepare a "Pathway Plan" which will take over when your Care Plan ends. Your Pathway Plan will cover things like your accomodation, education (school or collage), financial support etc. If you are 16 now, your social worker and/or Personal advisor must start preparing your Pathway Plan if they haven't already prepared it. It must be completed within 3 months of your 16th birthday at the latest.
A. They apply to four different categories of young people: eligible children, relevant children, former relevant children and qualifying young people. To find out what you are entitled to receive, you need to figure out which category you belong to.
Former relevant children
Qualifying children and young people over 16
If you are not sure which category applies to you, ask your social worker or carer to help you work it out. If you come into one of the groups above, you are likely to be entitled to get help even if you have lost touch with your social worker. It is important to make contact with the Social Services department as soon as possible.
A. An assessment of your needs. In theory your care plan should already be an assessment of your needs which will form the basis of the assessment required under the new law. Your social worker must prepare a written statement setting out how the assessment will be carried out and give a copy to you. You should be consulted and all 'reasonable steps' should be taken to enable you to attend and take part in meetings. The assessment must be completed within no more than 3 months after your 16th birthday. It will cover health, education, financial needs, family or other support, skills for independent living, accommodation and care.
A Pathway Plan. This will be added to and be part of your Care Plan. It must be in writing, and a copy must be given to you. It will cover the plans to your 21st birthday and cover all the areas set out above including plans if things go wrong. Your personal advisor is a very important part of your plan and has a central linking role. The Plan can be reviewed or changed if you want, or if your personal advisor thinks it needs to be, but anyway the plan should be looked at every 6 months. The idea is that the plan will change as you get older and make decisions about your future.
A Personal Advisor. This will be someone 'committed
to your well being and development on a long term basis'. Their job is
to advise you, to take part in the assessment and preparation of the Pathway
Plan, to take part in reviews, to make sure your plan is put into practice,
to co-ordinate services and make sure you use them, to keep informed of
your progress and well-being, and to keep written records of their contact
A. This will depend on what you want, what is in your Care Plan or Pathway Plan and how much help your Social Worker and/or Personal Advisor thinks you will need until you are twenty one years old. You may wish to move to a flat or a house with some help nearby, say a live-in job or a young person's hostel. However, you may feel that you would like to share a house with some friends or even look for your own flat. Depending on the area you live in, you may be able to get some council owned housing. This will be an important part of your Pathway Plan. You need to talk to your Personal Advisor about what you want.
A. Your Social Worker and/or Personal Advisor should be able to help in finding you somewhere to live. Most local Councils have supported housing schemes for young people that you can link into. Your Social Worker and/or Personal Advisor can help you with agreements with Landlords, provide you with references and in some cases help you with the initial rent and deposit.
Some Social Services Departments have workers who specialise in supporting young people obtaining work. They usually work together with the young person and their Social Worker and/or Personal Advisor, helping with application forms, practising interviews and getting references. You may also be able to obtain advice on budgeting and daily skills such as cooking and managing your own affairs.
A. If you are an eligible or relevant young person then the local authority have a duty to maintain you and you will not be able to claim either Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Community Care Grant or Housing Benefit. The only exceptions to this are lone parents or disabled young people. So if you are disabled or a lone parent then you will be able to claim Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support and any other benefits due to you because of your disability or parental status. However, you will still not be able to claim Housing Benefit.
These exceptions may seem strange to you but there is a reason behind them. The Government want young people who are in the care of the local authority to be subject to the same benefit rules as young people who are living at home with parents who are supporting them. So if you were living at home with your parent you would not be able to claim benefit unless you were sick or a parent yourself and even then you would not be able to claim Housing Benefit because you would be living in your parent's house.
It is very likely that the local authority will base the weekly amount they give you on Income Support rates. The local authority are not allowed to give you any less than the Income Support rate for young people living independently (from April 1st 2002 - £42.70 per week). However, they may give you more, for instance some local authorities will provide you with a weekly financial incentive of perhaps £10 to take up an education or training course. The Government have told Social Services that they should consider giving you money to help you with travel, equipment or other things you need for school or college, costs to do with any speical needs you may have, childcare, clothing, contact with family and friends, cultural or religious needs, counselling and hobbies or holidays.
Your Social Services department should have a list of the things they will consider giving you financial support for. This does not mean that you are automatically entitled to help with these things and there may be things that you want help with that aren't on the list but that they will consider funding. If you are unsure about what financial support may be available to you then talk to your Personal Advisor. Additional financial support agreed between you and your Personal Advisor should be set out in your Pathway Plan.
Once you are 18 and a former relevant young person then you are able to claim benefit. The same reasoning underlies this - 18 year olds who are living at home can claim benefit. Although you can now claim benefits Social Services should still continue to help you financially with anything they have agreed to fund in your Pathway Plan.
If you are 16 or 17 and are a qualifying young person rather than eligible or relevant then you remain entitled to benefits, including Housing Benefit and Community Care Grant. This is because the local authority do not have a duty to maintain you. Because most young people who have been in care can't now claim benefit and bacause it is complicated as to who can and who can't, you may find that if you go to make a claim the Benefit Office will tell you that you are not entitled. If this happens then you need to ask for a letter from your Social Services department or leaving care project which explains to the benefit office that you are entitled to claim. If you are not sure which benefits you are entitled to then again your Personel advisor or social worker will be able to help you get all that you are entitled to. Although you can claim benefits Social Services may help you financially especially if the need has arisen as a result of education, training or employment. So if you are struggling with buying books for college, or bus fares to your training course for instance then you should talk to social services about whether or not they can offer you any assistance.
A. This is possible, but they would have to agree this with their own social worker, (called a Link Worker). Your Social Worker and/or Personal Advisor would also have to sort out how they would be paid, as they would no longer get a fostering allowance for your essential needs. You would also have to talk through what your role would be in the house and how much freedom you would get as a semi-independent person, rather than as a foster child.
A. When you are no longer in the care of Social Services, you can return to live with your parents or other family members if you wish and by agreement with them. You will need to think very carefully about this and prepare for it very carefully. It is worth talking to your Social Worker and/or Personal Advisor or an adult who has supported you before making this decision. Sometimes it is not always the best idea to move back in with your family, as things may not go as well as you would like. If things go badly, and you are entitled to leaving care support, you can go back to your local authority and ask for help. It is important to keep in touch with your Personal Advisor in case this happens.
A. Some young people leaving care go to college and may go to University. Others may repeat some of the school work they have missed so that they can re-take their GCSEs or take "A" Levels. The Social Services must support you both with housing (if you need it) and money if you want to go into full time education. This help can last until you are 24 years old and should be in your Pathway Plan.
A. You are entitled to see your file after you have left care and are over the age of 18 years. (See section on Care Orders - your file).
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