A care leaver is a young person who’s aged between 16-25 years, has been ‘looked after’ at some point since they were 14 years old and have been in care on or after their 16th birthday.
The leaving care age in England is 18 years, although some young people choose to leave care aged 16 or 17. A care leaver is entitled to ongoing support from Children’s Services after they leave care – although there are various categories of care leavers which depend on when they were in care, how long for and their age. A care leaver may also be entitled to a leaving care service if they were placed with a friend or relative under a Special Guardianship Order.
For young people who have been in the care system, leaving home and starting a life for themselves can be especially daunting. They’re likely to feel extra pressure and stress not having the family support that their peers who have not been in the foster care system might have.
That’s why care leavers who exit the care system are not left alone to fend for themselves. Foster parents may want to remain in contact with the care leaver after they age out of the system, but also, care leavers will maintain contact with and receive support from Children’s Services.
Children’s Services begin support planning for the foster child’s future from the child is 15 years old – also known as the Pathway Plan. This plan details how the local authority will provide the assistance required for high education, accommodation and finding employment. A personal adviser is assigned to the Pathway Plan to ensure that it’s followed, reviewed at least once every six months and updated accordingly.
The support the Children’s Services provide to the care leaver is duty bound until they are aged 21, and if the carer is in full time education, training or has a disability – allowing them time to complete their education. However, there are different categories of care leavers, which depends on their age, how long the leaver was in care for and when. As a care leaver, you may also be entitled to a leaving care service if you were placed with a relative or friend under a Special Guardianship Order.
As well as receiving the support from the Children’s Services, there may also be grants or charities for which the care leavers could be eligible. These options should be discussed with the care leaver’s adviser. However, the Staying Put program is another option which is designed to support care leavers who may benefit from an extended stay with their former foster family. This could be due to financial instability, delayed maturity or vulnerability, or the care leaver may need extra time to complete their education.
For more information about what a care leaver is, the Pathway Plan or the Staying Put program, get in touch with a member of our helpful team. Alternatively, visit the Capstone Care Leavers Trust site for additional information about care leavers.