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OxfordshireChildren's Services Procedures Manual

Leaving Care and Transition


  1. Legislative Framework
  2. Eligibility and Main Provisions of the Act
  3. General Principles and Objectives
  4. Leaving Care Register
  5. Role of the Personal Adviser
  6. Pathway Planning and Reviews
  7. Statutory Visits and Review Timings
  8. Risk Indicators and Contingency Planning
  9. Financial Assistance
  10. Education, Training and Employment
  11. Accommodation
  12. Staying Put
  13. Standards of Practice
  14. Information
  15. Comments and Dealing with Disputes
  16. Young People Living out of the Local Authority

1. Legislative Framework

The government introduced the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, which came into force in October 2001 and gave Local Authorities the statutory duty to provide a significantly enhanced leaving care service, with the intention to raise the quality of our support to that of good parents.

"Care leavers should expect the same level of care and support that others would expect from a reasonable parent. The local authority responsible for their care should make sure that they are provided with the opportunities they need, which will include offering them more than one chance as they grapple with taking on the responsibilities of adulthood." Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care leavers, 1 April 2011.

The main purpose of the Leaving Care Act 2000 is to:

  • Delay young people's discharge from care until they are prepared and ready;
  • To improve the assessment, preparation and planning for leaving care;
  • To provide better personal support for young people after leaving care;
  • To improve the financial arrangements for care leavers.

2. Eligibility and Main Provisions of the Act

Eligible Children

The Children Act 1989 (sec24(1)) states that, where a child is being looked after by a local authority, it shall be the duty of that authority to advise, assist and befriend him or her with a view to promoting their welfare when they cease to be looked after.

Currently the provision for the allocation of Leaving Care Support to young people who are eligible, relevant or former relevant is undertaken by the combined Looked After & Leaving Care Teams (0 - 25years) in Central, North and South Oxfordshire.

Who is affected by the Legislation?

  • Young people in or left care aged 16 and 17, who have been looked after for 13 weeks in total for separate periods, excluding short-term placements by way of respite care;
  • 16 and 17 years old unaccompanied young people with asylum seeker status who are looked after under section 20 (applies regardless of special status);
  • 16 and 17 year olds who are looked after in custody or hospital under section 20 for the prescribed period.

Note: 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's 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.

Who is not Affected?

  • Young people who are looked after for respite care, who remain the responsibility of their parents or other carers;
  • A young person will cease to be a relevant child who has returned home and remains for at least 6 months, which will be determined at the review of the pathway plan during this period;
  • A young person who is released from an institution and returns home, who was not previously an eligible or relevant child;
  • Young people who are 16 and 17 but leave care before October 1st 2001.

The Act does not apply retrospectively and hence the enhanced duties only apply to young people who have left care aged 16 plus after October 2001.

The Act categorises care leavers/young people into four groups:

Category Entitlement
Eligible Children:
Young people who, from the 1st October 2001, are aged 16 and 17 who have been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and are still looked after.
  • All the provisions of the looked after system;
  • Personal advisor. Part II, Schedule 2, para 19C;
  • Needs assessment Part II, Schedule 2, para. 19B (4);
  • Pathway Plan and Review Part II, Schedule 2, para 19B (4) and (5).
Relevant Children:
Young people aged 16 and 17 who have been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and who leave care from the 1st October 2001 aged 16 or 17.
  • Personal advisor. Section 23B (2);
  • Needs assessment;
  • Pathway Plan and Review Section 23B (3) and (4);
  • Accommodation and Maintenance Section 23B(8);
  • Assistance to achieve goals agreed and set out in Pathway Plan Section 23B(8);
  • The responsible authority must keep in touch. Section 23B (11).
Former Relevant Children:
Young people aged 18-21 who have been either eligible or relevant children, or both. If at the age of 21 s/he is still being supported with education or training s/he remains a former relevant child during the course.
  • Personal advisor. Section 23C;
  • Pathway Plan and Review;
  • Assistance with employment Section 23C (4)(a);
  • Assistance with education Section 23C;
  • Assistance with training;
  • General assistance Section 23C (4)(c);
  • Care leavers are entitled to assistance with education and training up to the age of 25;
  • Vacation accommodation for higher education or residential further education if needed Section 23C(9);
  • The responsible authority must keep in touch.

Person Qualifying for Advice and Assistance (aged 16 to 21, and under certain circumstances under 25 years).

  • Y/p who successfully returned home for six months (aged 16/17) and were previously eligible and /or relevant;
  • Y/p who were looked after for less than 13 weeks between the age of 14 to 18, but were looked after for at least 24 hrs aged 16 and 17;
  • Y/p aged 16, and under 21 who were looked after in a series of pre-planned short breaks;
  • Y/p aged at least 16, and under 21 who were subject to a special guardianship order and were looked after before the making of that order;
  • Y/p who were previously subject to a private fostering arrangement.
  • The same benefits as under section 24 before amendment to S24A & 24B.

In addition:

  • The responsible authority must keep in touch in order to discharge their functions under section 24A, 24B and 24(4);
  • Care leavers are entitled to assistance with education and training up to the age of 24 - section 24B (3);
  • Care leavers are entitled to vacation accommodation for Higher Education courses or Residential F.E course if necessary - Section 24B(5).

3. General Principles and Objectives

"Research and practice shows that young people who have been looked after will have the best chance of success as adults if those providing transitional care and other support take the following principles into account in talking to the young person and when making any decision:

  • Is this good enough for my own child?
  • Providing a second chance if things don't go as expected;
  • Is this tailored to their individual needs, particularly if they are more vulnerable than other young people?"

Volume 3: planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers 2011

The general principles and objectives that Oxfordshire County Councils Children Education and Families adhere to are:

  • Preparation for leaving care should reflect good child care practice generally, which may include allowing people to make mistakes;
  • In all discussions affecting the young person their welfare and rights will always be given paramount consideration;
  • Care planning should reflect the gradual transition of a young person from dependence to independence and formulated with the significant people in their lives;
  • In assessing and meeting needs, young people should be fully involved in discussions about their future;
  • A young person's self esteem and self confidence should be promoted by providing the stability and security that gives them the opportunity and freedom to explore, and the support to learn from their mistakes;
  • Young people's responsibility in managing their own finances should be developed, including ensuring that they know their full entitlement;
  • All preparation for leaving care and provision of after care must take account of the religious persuasion, racial origin, cultural and linguistic background and other needs of young people and be planned in conjunction with other agencies;
  • Young people will be encouraged to be involved and influence the standards of practice and developments within leaving care service provisions;
  • Provide stable placements, continuity of carers and the maintenance, wherever possible, of positive links whilst young people are "looked after";
  • 'Look after' young people until they are prepared and ready to leave care;
  • Prepare young people gradually to be ready to leave care, paying attention to practical self-care needs - health, budgeting, domestic skills - and personal and relationship dimensions;
  • The authority's intervention puts young people on the pathway to success as they make their transition to adulthood.

4. Leaving Care Register

The 2000 Act sets out responsibility for the Department to maintain a register of the young people for whom it is responsible. Information to be kept on the register includes:

  • Name, D.O.B, Age, Legal Status, Ethnicity, Social Worker Team, L.C.P.A, Pathway plan and review date, Type and suitability of accommodation, Support needs, Economic status, Housing Joint Protocol assessment.

This information is available for via (CE&F'S) Monitoring Episodes within Frameworki.

5. Role of the Personal Adviser

All young people who qualify for services under the Leaving Care Act 2000 will qualify for the services of a Personal Adviser. The Personal Adviser should be the one who acts on the young person's behalf to ensure plans are in place and services available, to give young people the best possible opportunities to secure their future.

Oxfordshire operates a combined Looked After Children and Leaving Care Service (0 - 25years) which enables the tailoring of allocation of the Personal Advisor based on a case by case basis. Dependant on the needs of the young person, and in consideration of the relationship developed, the Social Worker may fulfil the function of Personal Advisor post 18years.

6. Pathway Planning and Reviews

Each young person who is eligible for services under the Leaving Care Act will have a Pathway Plan which is a continuation of the Looking After Children materials. A young person in the looked after system will already have had a needs assessment in order to formulate a Care Plan, and this should form the basis for the assessment required under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000.

“The Pathway Plan should be pivotal to the process whereby young people map out their future, articulating their aspirations and identifying interim goals along the way to realising their ambitions. It will also play a critical part in making the new arrangements contained within the Act work”.

“The Authority should work to ensure that the plan is owned by the young person and is able to respond to their changing needs and ambitions. It should look ahead at least as far as the young person's 21st birthday and will be in place beyond that where the young person is in a programme of education or training which takes them past that age”.

Department of Health Guidance on the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000

Who to involve

The Pathway Plan should be developed with the young person, their family, their carers, and any other parties where appropriate. The views and wishes of the young person should be central to the decision about whose views are taken into account, especially on who to involve. Others appropriate people to think about involving should include: parents or anyone with parental responsibility, carers, a representative from school, college, an independent visitor, GP, the Personal Adviser or anyone else whom the responsible authority or the young person considers relevant. However, it should be recognised that it may not be possible to meet all their wishes.

A flexible and creative approach, which actively engages with young people themselves, will help ensure that the eventual plan is realistic and likely to be met. Practical assistance, including travel or subsistence costs, should be provided to help young people attend meetings and ensure the process is young-person friendly. Information to young people should be presented in a way that is suitable and meets any special needs they may have.

It should be an interactive process and owned by the young person. If appropriate, with guidance and discussion, they should be encouraged to complete sections of the plan. This could then form the discussion in the completion of the action planning section.

If the young person refuses to complete the Pathway Plan, the social worker and Leaving Care Personal Adviser should complete the action plan section of the Pathway Plan, as s/he should have a good insight the young person's essential support needs and action required.

A copy of the written Pathway Plan/Review should be given to the young person and all those consulted during the assessment process (with the consent of the young people involved).

Pathway Plan content

The Pathway Plan will include a detailed plan of how the following needs will be met, any requests to meet them, resources identified and the person responsible for carrying out any identified tasks, including:

  • The plan for the young person's continuing education or training when he/she ceases to be looked after - where the young person is no longer of statutory school age, the Pathway Plan may need to incorporate the goals and actions that were previously included in the PEP;
  • How the Responsible Local Authority will assist the young person in obtaining employment or other purposeful activity or occupation, taking into account his/her aspirations, skills and educational potential;
  • The financial support to be provided to holistically support the wellbeing of the young person, to enable the young person to meet accommodation and maintenance costs; taking into account his/her financial capabilities and money-management capacity, along with strategies to develop skills in this area;
  • 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 his or her identity, with particular regard to their religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background;
  • Dual or Triple planning for UASC young people in all sections to reflect options based on immigration status.

Pathway Plan Review

The Pathway Plan must be reviewed at least every 6 months by the Social Worker if Eligible, or by the Personal Advisor if Relevant or Former Relevant and no social worker exists.

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.

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.

Pathway Plans and Reviews are to be formally recorded and authorised within the relevant episode on Fwi.

7. Statutory Visits and Review Timings

Plan and Review Timings

Preparation for the completion of the plan may start sometime after the young person's 15th birthday, but must be completed within three months of the young person's 16th birthday.

Minimum requirement is that subsequent Pathway Plan Reviews are undertaken:

  1. 3 - 6 monthly;
  2. 28 days after a move into 'unregulated' accommodation (i.e. accommodation that is not regulated/inspected by OFSTED), the Local Authority must:

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 his or her 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.

Visit Timings

The Pathway Plan must set out the arrangements for care leavers and their PA to keep in touch. PA's must have face to face contact with the care leaver/young person. They may also expect regular exchanges of text messages, emails and phone conversations. Visits should often be scheduled to take place at the accommodation where the young person lives.

Regulation 8(2) of the Care Leavers Regulations requires visits:

  1. Within 7 days of a move into new accommodation;
  2. 28 days after placement move with Pathway Plan Review;
  3. 2 monthly intervals.

It is important to understand that these are minimum requirements. Where care leavers develop problems as they assume the responsibilities of adulthood they should expect, and will require, much more frequent personal contact with their PA.

Visits should often be scheduled to take place at the accommodation where the young person lives. The recording of this visit is to be undertaken in the relevant Leaving Care Statutory Visiting episode of Fwi.

On each occasion the PA must consider whether this accommodation continues to be suitable for the young person. The PA will need to observe the general state of the property and check how well the care leaver is managing in their accommodation, including that they are managing their financial commitments for rent, utilities etc10. Where a young person is living in semi-independent accommodation linked to the provision of housing related support, the PA should monitor how well the accommodation, with its related support, is meeting the young person's needs. They should liaise closely with the young person and their housing support worker to identify and resolve any problems.

What if the young person refuses contact?

If the young person has responded by saying that they have no desire to supply us with information and do not want to be contacted again this is still counted as being in touch if the communication took place within three months before or one month after their 19th birthday.

Contact through a third party is acceptable if you are satisfied that this represents a genuine exchange of information between the care leaver and ourselves. Contact through a third party who is working with the care leaver in a professional capacity is classified as in touch.

If contact with a young person is lost, reasonable steps should be taken to re-establish contact, especially with those who are within the definition of Relevant Young People. It is important that a young person's wishes are respected and that attempts to maintain or re-establish contact is not perceived as harassment, but to convey an interest in their well being. Where it is not possible to establish such an understanding the Personal Adviser will have to balance the risk of alienating the young person with the need to maintain contact. The Personal Adviser should persevere with six monthly attempts to contact even if the young person remains unresponsive, while respecting the young person's right to be unresponsive. Any requests for case closure prior to 21years need to be agreed by Senior Area Managers who will need to be convinced that necessary attempts to contact and record the young person's wishes have been made.

Missing person's procedures should be undertaken for any young person that we believe to be missing. See Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, Joint Protocol for Safeguarding Children Missing from Home or Care in Oxfordshire.

8. Risk Indicators and Contingency Planning

Any possible risks in reaching agreed goals should be discussed with the young person and contingency arrangements should be in place. These should identify risk indicators and potential difficulties young people may face and include the appropriate support. Contingency planning should be flexible and sensitive to any problems and acknowledge the right of young people to return for support. The risk assessment should be placed on the young person's file and discussed with line managers. See Multi Agency Risk Assessment Policy.

Many of the indicators of child sexual exploitation are also part of normal teenage behaviours and it is the presence of higher risk factors, or multiple other factors which may be indications of child sexual exploitation. The CSE screening tool should help to focus on the specific indicators and determine whether further investigations are needed. The tool could be used in supervision, in discussions with parents and carers, with other professionals and with the child. Professionals should use this tool within Fwi episodes and read the guidance on the OSCB website.

9. Financial Assistance

The amount of financial assistance offered to a young person should depend upon the needs of the individual and be subject of assessment.

Financial assessment must be agreed as part of the Pathway Plan and be reviewed regularly.

Maximum use should be made of Social Security benefits, Department of Works and Pensions benefits, college funds and other sources of income. Any assistance provided by Social Care Services under Sections 23, 24, 24A and 24B is disregarded in calculating entitlement for welfare. Where ever possible payments will be made directly to the young person. See Financial Policy for ERFR in Independent Living Procedure.

10. Education, Training and Employment

CE&F's have a duty to provide assistance with these until at least 21years of age and in some circumstances this assistance will extend until 25years of age. Previous Former Relevant care leavers may also approach the local authority for assistance to reengage in Education, Employment or Training. This assistance should be planned for within the pathway plan where y/p aspirations are identified and plans are made to support y/p to achieve their goals. Young people shall be supported in applications for college and work, including funding applications. Care Leavers and Young People in care currently have the support of the Virtual School and RAISE project. Specialist provision is also provided for UASC young people via the Orientation Program.

See also: Care Leavers Higher Education Policy

Care Leavers 21-25 Years Returning to Employment, Education or Training Procedure

11. Accommodation

Planning for a young person to leave care will include helping young people to secure appropriate accommodation. CE&F's are committed to working with accommodation providers and District Councils to prevent homelessness and to help y/p to Move On into permanent social tenancy's where appropriate, private sector rentals or supported housing.

Barking and Dagenham judgement 2010 states that under S23C (4)(c) of the Childrens Act 1989 places a duty on local authorities to provide or arrange suitable accommodation where it is necessary for a young person's welfare. This could range from a specialist placement, continuing foster care, arranging a tenancy or paying a deposit. This duty not only applies from the outset, when the young person turns 18years, but could also apply if the young person has accessed accommodation but then loses it whilst still a former relevant children (e.g. through being evicted).

CE&F's can act as a rent guarantor on behalf of a young person, where there is no family member willing/able to do so. There should be a clear contract establishing the maximum guarantee plus deposit terms and conditions which must be authorised by LAC/LCT Team Manager. Where a deposit scheme exists, the young person should apply for the scheme e.g. Oxford Lord Mayors Deposit Scheme. Social Worker or the Personal Advisor will undertake a Suitable Housing Checklist in order to determine suitability of accommodation (as required under Schedule 2 to the Care Leavers Regulations 2010 and Schedule 6 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010).

Setting Up Home Allowance

Care leavers can approach the local authority for assistance (up to £2000) to set up home until 25years (including those closed at 21years) to allow for changing needs and circumstances over time e.g. uni, lease ending, post 18years foster placements, prison stays and "2nd chances" due to previous mistakes made or chaotic periods.

To find you a home - Charter for Care Leavers 2013

We will work alongside you to prepare you for your move into independent living only when you are ready. We will help you think about the choices available and to find accommodation that is right for you. We will do everything we can to ensure you are happy and feel safe when you move to independent living. We recognise that at different times you may need to take a step back and start over again. We will do our best to support you until you are settled in your independent life; we will not judge you for your mistakes or refuse to advise you because you did not listen to us before. We will work proactively with other agencies to help you sustain your home.

Items are purchased for or with the young person as far as possible as needs arrive. OCC are exploring the use of top up cards for procurement of items. Combinations of corporate credit cards and invoicing to procure items in the interim is required.

Lump sum payments are not made for any unspent monies on the understanding that the young person would have accessed the appropriate items needed to address their housing set up needs whilst working with them.

The Allowance can be used to pay for damages and deposits (where other schemes are not available) in order to support y/p to progress to secure stable accommodation.

See Leaving Care and Transition Procedure.

12. Staying Put

Transition to adulthood is often a turbulent time for young people. The average age of leaving home is rising and the transition to adulthood is more complex and elongated. Recently published guidance from the Department of Education, "Staying Put: arrangements for care leavers aged 18 and above to stay on with their former foster carers" (May 2013) recognises the importance of supporting young people leaving care through this transition. It sets out expectations that local authorities will enable young people to remain with their former foster carers until they are prepared for adulthood, can experience a transition akin to their peers, avoid social exclusion and be more likely to avert a subsequent housing and tenancy breakdown. Under Staying Put arrangements the expectation is that young people could remain with foster carers until they are 21. Please see Staying Put Procedure and Staying Put Post 18 Years Financial Policy.

13. Standards of Practice

CE&F's is committed to involving young people, their carers and other agencies in Quality Assurance Systems, which monitor and review the service to meet the ever-changing needs of young people, enabling them to influence practice and be involved in all decision making.

Currently Oxfordshire County Council is an active member of the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum and National Care Advisory Service which are forums for consultation, peer practice sharing/benchmarking and national policy updating. This forum also enables Oxfordshire County Council to send young care leavers to the National Young Peoples Benchmarking events to participate in policy and practice development on a national level. Oxfordshire County Council also actively encourages participation in the Children and Care Council which plays a key role in helping policy development and recruitment.

14. Information

The Directorate has a responsibility to ensure that there is sufficient information available to young people, their carers and other relevant agencies to allow them to access our services. The Directorate also has a responsibility to its own staff working with this group so that they can be sufficiently informed about the support available in the preparation, planning and service delivery for these young people.

Staff and other professionals have a responsibility to appraise themselves of this information and promote access by young people, their carers and/or family and friends.

15. Comments and Dealing with Disputes

If the young person or other significant people have concerns about the services they receive they should:

  • Be reminded of the independent advocacy service;
  • Initially discuss this with their Social Worker/Personal Adviser;
  • If there are still concerns the young person should have the opportunity to discuss concerns with the SW/PA managers and have access to an independent advocacy service;
  • If an acceptable solution is not reached in an informal resolution within 14 days the full complaints procedure should be activated.

16. Young People Living out of the Local Authority

The Directorate will keep responsibility for eligible, relevant and former relevant young people who move out of the local authority area.

As care leavers living out of area turn 18, responsibility for provision of services may change. The responsible local authority will need to ensure that continued leaving care support is provided under the provision in the 1989 Act requiring responsible authorities to continue to support care leavers. However, any adult social care provision will be the responsibility of the local authority where the child is ordinarily resident within the meaning of the National Assistance Act 1948. Where the young person's disability was the primary reason for their placement outside the area of the responsible authority, the same authority may remain responsible for the provision of adult social care services even if the young person remains living in another area. Depending on the circumstances of the individual, there may be situations in which the young person's ordinary residence will have become the local authority in which they were placed and where they have been living and settled for some years17. This will primarily be affected by the young person's 'mental capacity' to make a choice regarding the area in which they live.