Understanding your rights and entitlements as a Care Leaver

The law in the UK is designed to make sure that Care Leavers have the support they need as they enter adult life. As you leave care, Swindon Borough Council (SBC) will continue to be there to help you make decisions about what is best for you. SBC will also make decisions about what specific support they will offer you. This means there will be professionals, like Social Workers and Pathway Advisors (PA), who will offer advice, discuss your options with you, and seek your views.

SBC has a Voice and Influence Panel (VIP) for Care Leavers where you can discuss your rights and entitlements and share your views on your care experience. 

Contents:

What rights and entitlements do all Care Leavers have?

  • You have the right to be involved in any decision that affects you.
  • All Care Leavers have the right to have an independent advocate.
  • SBC must make sure that you are living somewhere that is suitable for you and you’re receiving the support you need.
  • To make sure you will have the right support, SBC have to assess your needs within three months after your 16th birthday and make the Pathway Plan as soon as possible after that.
  • To ensure you have access to the Care Leaver Local Offer.

SBC must by law:

  • Listen to your wishes and feelings.
  • Keep in touch with you.
  • Visit you regularly.
  • Provide a named Pathway Advisor.
  • Review your Pathway Plan every 6 months as a minimum but more often if this is what you need.

I’m 16-17, what are my rights and entitlements?

SBC will:

  • Find you somewhere suitable to live
  • Pay for your accommodation.
  • Pay for your subsistence.

What financial support is available for 16–17-year-olds?

You cannot claim benefits unless you are:

  • A lone parent.
  • A young person with disabilities or ill-health.

If you are on a care order living in a secure setting because you were given a custodial sentence, you have the same rights to support from SBC as if you were living in the community.

SBC do not have to pay for everything. However, they must:

  • Pay for your basic living needs.
  • Pay for the things that are in your Pathway Plan.
  • Have a policy which shows the type of additional things that they will pay for, such as clothing, leisure activities, contact with family and friends, childcare, etc.

SBC must never give you less money than what you would have got if you were able to claim benefits.

For more information, speak to your PA and the Positive Futures Team or see our Financial support for Care Leavers aged 16-17 page.

I’m 18+, what are my rights and entitlements?

SBC must by law:

  • Discuss future support wishes and needs with you prior to your 21st birthday and confirm whether you still wish to receive support beyond your 21st birthday.
  • Give you information about your rights and entitlements up to age 25
  • Complete an assessment to identify what support you need and what they can do to help.
  • Provide you with a Personal Adviser and provide support for as long as that issue remains and address any new issues if this is what you want.
  • Prepare a full or partial Pathway Plan and review if appropriate.
  • Support you up to age 25 if you have needs as assessed by SBC and can be helped by them.
  • Provide or pay for accommodation during college or university holidays if you are studying away from home.
  • Provide you with other support by buying the items you need directly or, in exceptional circumstances, by giving you cash, that your welfare and education needs require.
  • Give you a £2,000 grant if you are in higher education.

What are the housing and financial rights of 18+ year olds?

You are in ‘priority need’ for housing until you turn 21 and may still be in ‘priority need’ up to 25, which means that the Housing Department should give you somewhere to live if you need housing.

SBC has a duty to provide accommodation to Care Leavers aged 16+ even after the age of 18 if this needs to be done to safeguard your welfare and if you cannot access suitable accommodation any other way.

SBC do not have to pay for your ordinary living expenses if you can get employment, benefits, or a student loan.

You can claim benefits like any other person who is over 18 but SBC may continue to pay for extra things that are set out in your Pathway Plan.

If you are studying in higher education you will have to apply for a student loan and grant, just like any other young person. Some courses may also have special grants to help you pay for your expenses. Some universities may have grants for Care Leavers. You should seek information from your university and get your Pathway Advisor to give you some help. Or you can visit the Propel website.

SBC must make sure that you get the funding that you need in order to do as well as you can at college or university. SBC must pay the costs towards your education and training, such as special equipment you need and travel. This lasts until the age of 25.

If you cannot access a student loan when you go to university, for example because of your immigration status, SBC cannot tell you that you cannot attend university and you have to drop out of education. A court ruling has made it clear that SBC must provide you with whatever support you need to continue studying, including university fees.

For more information speak to your PA and the Positive Futures Team or see our Financial Support for 18–21-year-olds and our Support for Care Leavers attending university pages.

I’m 25+, what are my rights and entitlements?

If you stopped working with SBC prior to your 25th birthday but you find yourself needing support, you can ask SBC to help. It used to be that after age 21, you would need to be in education to access support however this has changed. It doesn’t matter if you had previously said you didn’t need help. You can now contact your previous Personal advisor or contact the duty team to ask for their help.

SBC must complete a needs assessment, and talk to you about the level of support you need. This could be for one issue you may be struggling with, or many. Your support should only be closed when you feel ready to live independently again.

I’m a young refugee, asylum seeker, migrants or am without British citizenship, what are my right and entitlements?

Young refugees, young asylum seekers and young people without British citizenship who are Care Leavers maintain their status as Care Leavers no matter what is happening with their immigration status. Your immigration status and rights to be in the UK are an important need that SBC should look at when making your care and Pathway Plans with you.

You should take advice from an advocate or a solicitor if you are told that you are losing your leaving care support.

If you are under 18, you have exactly the same rights as any other looked after child approaching leaving care.

If you are over 18 and you have leave to remain in the UK (for example, you have been granted Limited Leave to Remain, Indefinite Leave to Remain, Humanitarian Protection or Refugee Status) you are entitled to receive full leaving care support.

If you have been granted leave to remain on the basis that you are an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child (UASC) then this will most likely expire at 17½ years of age and you will need to make a new application before the expiry of your leave. If you make an in-time, valid application for further leave to remain, your leave will continue until a decision is made or you become appeal rights exhausted.

If you do not have leave and you are over 18, your circumstances may be one of the following:

  • You are still awaiting a decision on your asylum claim.
  • You have made a fresh claim for asylum and you are waiting for a decision.
  • You are appeal rights exhausted, which means your asylum claim has not been accepted and you have either appealed unsuccessfully, or the deadline to make the appeal has passed.
  • You have an immigration application pending (this will normally be based on your private or family life).
  • You have no status.

In these situations, SBC may try to end your support, but they will need to conduct a Human Rights Act assessment before they do so. This means that they will look at your circumstances, whether it would breach your human rights to remove support (in most cases leaving you homeless/unsupported would breach your rights) and whether there are any barriers to you leaving the UK, such as lack of documentation, medical issues or an outstanding immigration application.

However, in some circumstances, SBC may try to refer you to the Home Office for asylum accommodation and support, or they may only say they will support you to return. If SBC tell you they are planning to do either, or they have told you they will no longer support you, then you should seek immediate advice and support from an advocacy organisation and a solicitor.

Immigration is a complex area so if you need more information you can speak to the Positive Futures Team, an advocate, contact the Migrant Children’s Project advice service on mcpadvice@coramclc.org.uk, or get some legal advice from an immigration solicitor.

Rights and entitlements of Care Leavers with learning difficulties and/or disabilities

If you have a learning difficulty and/or disability, you should be receiving services as a Care Leaver no matter which team is responsible for your case. As with any other Care Leaver, Children’s Services need to plan for your adulthood. Your disabilities are just one particular need to be considered when making plans for you. Even if you are looked after by the Children with Disabilities Team or referred to Adult Disability or Mental Health Services, you keep all your rights as a Care Leaver.

Unfortunately not all local authorities offer Care Leavers with disabilities the same support as other Care Leavers. They may try to say that because you have a Social Worker or assessment with an adult social care team, you don’t also need a Personal Adviser or Pathway Plan as well. This is against the law: If you are a care leaver the law says you are entitled to the support explained in the previous sections and having a disability does not make a difference to this.

If you need support at school or college, you may also have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. The professionals around you should be talking to you about the changes that will happen in your life and the services that will support you when you become an adult: this is called your 'transition'. Planning must start for your transition when you are in Year 9, so during the review after your 14th birthday. The planning for transition should be done in parallel with Pathway Planning when you approach the age of 16.

In addition to Care Leaver support, you may need help from adult’s social care because of your disability or health needs. Social care support for adults with disabilities is provided under a law called the Care Act. The Care Act says that if you are likely to need support from adult social services when you reach 18, then your council should do a 'transition assessment' before you become an adult. This is to help them find out in advance what help you will need. They should not leave this to the last minute and they should not let there be any gaps in the support you receive.

Young people with disabilities do not automatically receive services from Adult Services when they become 18. If you are already 18 and you don’t have the support you need, you can ask for a Care Act assessment. Decisions made by Adult Services are made on a different basis than Children’s Services, so they may decide you should not receive their help. If you are refused support from Adult Services, this may be challengeable, and you may want an advocate to help you with this.

Matters related with planning and funding of services can be complicated when there is more than one team involved, or if the council in the area where you now live is different to the council that looked after you. Everyone working with you should work together to make sure that all the support you need is in place. Services should not be stopped or delayed because of disagreements between teams regarding funding.

If you are unhappy about the support you are receiving you should ask for help from an advocate.

Access to records

You have the right to access your records of being in care.

Children’s Services must keep written records of their work with you, including assessments of needs, Pathway Plans and their reviews. These records should be kept for 75 years.

You can ask to access your records yourself or through other people, such as a solicitor or an advocate, although Children’s Services may ask that they prove that they are acting on your behalf.

You need to ask to access your records in writing.

Children’s Services must give you access to your records within 40 working days.

Although you have a right to be given information Children’s Services have about you, there is some information that they may not give you. This may be the case if:

  • The information on a file identifies other people (called third parties) this information should be removed (called redacted) or given in a way that does not identify these people. The information must be given to you if the third parties have agreed for the information to be passed on to you.
  • Giving you the information would seriously harm your physical or mental health or that of any other person.

Children’s Services should not charge you a fee to access your records.

Reading your care file can be difficult for many reasons so it is a good idea to get someone you trust to help you, for example your Pathway Advisor or someone from the Positive Futures Team.

Our Access to your Care Leaver records page has more information on how to request access to your records.

Advice and support

For more information or advice, please contact the Positive Futures Team on 01793 466715 or email pfduty@swindon.gov.uk

You can also contact these organisations if you need an advocate or information about your rights contact:

For legal advice and information contact:

For immigration advice contact:

For housing and homelessness advice contact:

For care leavers with disabilities contact:

Other advice and support services for care leavers: