Support for children leaving care
Eligibility, personal advisor, advocates and pathway plan
Leaving care personal advisors
We are the people you contact for support, guidance and advice. We are based in the Leaving Care Team, and provide a one-to-one service for you. We will remain your advisor possibly until your 24th birthday depending on what is happening in your life until that age.
This is what we do.
- Prepare your pathway plan with you
- Try and understand your needs
- Explore options, advise and try to provide practical support to you
- We try and find any monies that you are entitled to and sometimes make arrangements for payments to be made to you
- Put you in touch with similar services like Connexions
- Keep in touch with you
- Sometimes we might attend appointments with you
- Tell you what Children's Services can provide for you
In our service we believe that talking to you about who we give a job to, is important, so we will from time to time ask you to help us recruit new staff to our team.
Your personal advisor will endeavour to give you at least two weeks' notice, should they either leave the department or if you are to receive a new advisor.
Pathway plan - 'real choices for you'
Some of you may have had experiences of reports that have been either written about you or written on your behalf. A pathway plan is similar, but you help us to map out your future, so that you know what you can expect and understand what your pathway plan means. Together we will try to make it work for you.
Your pathway plan is a legal requirement. We have to do one, and review it regularly, preferably every six months. Your social worker will complete the initial pathway plan and pathway assessment at 15 years and nine months, and they will review this until you are 18. From your 18th birthday your personal advisor will continue to review your plan every six months until you leave our service.
What goes into the plan?
You will talk with your personal advisor and agree about your needs around:
- health and development
- education, training and employment
- family and social relationships
- practical and other skills necessary for independent living
- financial arrangements
Culture, values, beliefs and religion
Culture has nothing to do with the colour of your skin, but more to do with what influences you have around you. These influences contribute to making you the person you are.
Our staff team will respect your culture, heritage, values, beliefs and religion. Our service offers support to young people whose religious beliefs are important to them.
Who can we help?
This is who the government says we can help. They have grouped young people into different categories. We can give different help depending on the category you are in.
'Eligible' young people
You are eligible if you:
- are aged 16 or 17; and
- have been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14; and
- are still looked after (whether you are on a care order or accommodated).
'Relevant' young people
This is if you:
- are between 16 and 17; and
- have been looked after for at least 13 weeks after the age of 14; and
- have left care.
You cannot claim benefits if you are a relevant young person, even if you are not on a care order.
'Former relevant' young people
If you are aged 18-21 and have been either eligible, relevant or both, the government says you are a 'former relevant'.
If, at the age of 21, and the council is still helping you with education or training, you are still classed as a former relevant child until the end of your education or training, even if this takes you past the age of 21.
You can claim benefits at the age of 18.
'Qualifying' young people aged over 16
You are considered a 'qualifying young person' and we have some duties and responsibilities for you if:
- you are aged under 21 (under 24 if in higher education or training);
- you have been looked after or accommodated for 13 weeks or more since your 14th birthday (including some time after the age of 16 to 17 years old); and
- there is no one to offer you support and advice.
You can claim benefits from 16 years onwards if you are a young person in this category, but only if you are not at home.
What will I get?
Please read this carefully as this is ALL the help that we will provide.
Eligible (16 or 17 years old)
- A personal advisor - from the age of 15 years and six months old, Sandwell will continue to provide you with a social worker
- A pathway plan (when you are 16)
- A needs assessment (before you reach 16)
- All the provisions within the looked after system
Relevant (16 or 17 years old)
- A pathway plan
- A personal advisor - Sandwell will continue to provide you with a social worker who can also act in the role of the personal advisor
- A needs assessment
- Accommodation costs, a personal allowance (if you're not living at home)- if you are at home an allowance may be paid to carers.
- We will keep in touch with you
Former relevant (18 to 21 years old)
- We will keep in touch with you
- Help with your education and training
- Vacation accommodation for higher education or residential further education if you need it
- A pathway plan
- A needs assessment
- A personal advisor
Qualifying (16 to 21 years old)
- We will keep in touch
- A duty to assist you in a crisis (subject to an assessment of your needs)
- A duty to advise and assist you
- Assistance with education and training up to the age of 24
- Vacation accommodation for higher education courses or residential further education courses if necessary
Help with housing
The Leaving Care Service will work with you and with housing providers to identify where you want to live and the most suitable accommodation for your needs. You will be able to discuss the type of housing provisions in Sandwell and what support they can offer you during your move to independence
Your personal advisor will discuss with you the changes that take place when you move to supported accommodation, training flats or to your own tenancy.
They can also listen to any worries you may have about where you live now, and help you move your tenancy if you want or need to.
If you are 18 or over and homeless you should go to the council's homeless person's unit. They have a duty to give you help and advice. Priority eligibility is given to you if you are:
- a care leaver aged 18, 19 or 20 (except those of you that social services have a duty to)
- legally responsible for a child or children
- homeless because of a disaster, such as a fire or flood
- leaving or have recently left the armed services or young offenders' institute.
Tenancy or licence?
The main difference between a licence and a tenancy is that a licence gives you less protection from eviction and a tenancy gives you legal rights to live in a certain property.
Verbal agreements made by landlords count as legal agreements IF you have paid rent to them.
When you enter into a written agreement make very sure it includes all of these before you sign anything.
- The address/room you are renting
- The name/address of the landlord
- How much the rent will be
- The name of the tenant (you)
- How long the agreement is for
- What deposit, if any, you will have to pay and what it covers
- What furniture will be provided for you
- Who is responsible for the repairs
- Whether you can have lodgers
- Whether you can sublet
- Whether you can pass the tenancy on to anyone else
- Any other rules about pets, guests or smoking
Sandwell Homes Community Care Unit
This service aims to provide Tenancy Support Officers whose job it is to help you with things like settling rent arrears, setting up tenancies and day-to-day problems with a tenancy. Their aim is to help you maintain your tenancy and continue to live independently.
You will need to fall into the following categories:
- Be a new or current tenant
- Teenage parent
- Have drug/alcohol problems
- Have mental health problems
- Have learning disabilities
- Leaving prison
- Vulnerable young person/left care
Below is a list of types of housing that can be offered to you:
- Bed and Breakfast hotels
- Women's refuges
- Supported lodging schemes (by the end of 2006)
- Private rented accommodation
- Council housing association tenancies
- Floating support scheme
- Training flats
- Housing associations
Handy tips before moving in
Write down the furniture and other items you may need.
- Get a folder and keep all your paperwork in it.
- Buy some rubber gloves.
- What is the maximum rent you can afford?
- Buy a fire alarm pack.
- You may want to buy taster pots of paint to check out what colours you would like your accommodation painted in.
Viewing a property
- What is the rent?
- How do you pay rent?
- Is a card or key better for paying your bills?
- Do you need carpets?
- Will you need curtains?
Your personal advisor will make plans with you for moving in and buying fixtures and furnishings you may need. Please ask them for a copy of 'The free guide to Renting Private Property'.
Gas, water, electricity
Once you start living in your own accommodation you will be responsible to pay for the use of gas, water and electricity. You will also be required to have a TV licence and pay a contribution to council tax, which helps towards services provided by the council such as bin collections.
These are known as utility bills. You must pay these on time. If you do not the suppliers may cut off the service.
Whatever income you are getting, make sure you budget for these bills. There are many ways to pay for these bills; monthly, weekly and quarterly. Speak with your supplier about the best payment method for you.
Your personal advisor will help you if you need some help to arrange to get these services turned on.
If you are unlucky enough to be burgled that's bad enough, but if you've got no way of paying to replace your items it could be a disaster.
It is always best to make sure you have insurance for household contents. We can help you find insurance. If you have any funds left in your leaving care grant you may be able to use this towards the initial set-up costs, and you will be required to continue the payments.
Could you be evicted?
You could be evicted from your home if:
- you owe rent
- you play your music loudly
- you behave anti-socially
- you take part in illegal activities, such as drug use
- you damage the property
- you break the terms of your tenancy agreement
- your tenancy runs out
- the landlord wants to sell the property
- the landlord wants the property back for himself or a family member.
Talk to your personal advisor if you owe money for bills and other items, or are worried that you will not be able to pay on time.
It is not always easy to get out of debt quickly, but organisations such as Citizens Advice may be able to help you.