Care Leavers Financial Support
This chapter should be read in conjunction with Leaving Care and Transition Procedure.
This policy was added in May 2022 and will next be reviewed in May 2023.
1. Guidance Relating to Financial Support
Leaving Care Guidance states that allowances “should generally be well above the level which would have been supplied through the benefits system". In other words, no less than a young person would have received if they had been entitled to claim Universal Credit or any other form of benefit at the rates which would have applied to them and their circumstances. For most 16 and 17 year old care experienced young people this would normally be the higher rate of Personal Allowance plus any premiums due to any special circumstances.
The rates for Wiltshire have been set with reference to the above principle.
The Financial Support table (section 15) defines the type of support or entitlement for each category of care experienced young people. Information can be provided to individuals upon request.
Personal Advisers are expected to maximise, and try and ensure, the take up of benefits before making assessments for Social Care' financial support.
2. Income Maintenance
Young people by definition are 'Children in Care’ and will receive all the benefits of the looked after system. They will not receive allowances from leaving care schemes until they become Relevant.
16-17 year olds will normally receive their primary source of income maintenance and accommodation costs from the Local Authority
“Eligible and Relevant”
Young people (16/17 year-olds), in many cases, will not be entitled to claim the major means-tested benefits; responsibility for this financial support lies with the Families and Children’s Services. (Where there are exceptions to this, they will be considered on a case by case basis.)
The primary source of income for care experienced young people aged 18+ should come from training, benefits or work. The benefit entitlements of Former Relevant young people apply, as do individuals' rights to claim non means-tested benefits such as Disability Living Allowance.
Qualifying16 and 17 year old care experienced young people who do not meet the qualifying period for 'eligible' or 'relevant' young people will remain entitled to benefits from existing agencies. In addition, Families and Children’s Services may provide them with assistance, in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash to meet particular needs. The Service may also provide assistance in relation to work, education or training up to the age of 25 and must assist a care leaver in residential Further or Higher Education with vacation accommodation.
3. Accommodation Costs
Accommodation costs will be met in the same way as other children in local authority foster care, residential care or other settings.
These young people’s needs for housing – with or without support on site – Families and Children’s Services
Housing costs will be met in the following ways:
- Young people aged 18 in Further Education/ Training /Unemployed and actively seeking work/Sick/Disabled on low incomes are entitled to claim Housing Benefit and Universal Credit;
- Aged 19+ in Further Education they are entitled to claim Universal Credit and not entitled to claim Housing Benefit and may need assistance with accommodation costs either from Families and Children’s Services or via college if applicable;
- Aged 18+ in Higher Education they are entitled to claim all Education Grants plus extra funding due to their status;
- Aged 19+ in Training/Unemployed and actively seeking work/Sick/Disabled or on low incomes are entitled to claim Universal Credit.
Young people in Higher Education will be supported with accommodation needs.
4. Leaving Care and Foster Care
In some circumstances, Relevant or Former Relevant young people may remain with their foster carers, as a supported lodgings offer or through Staying Put and the enhanced Staying Put offer (which allows the continuation of the payment of fostering allowance until the young person concludes their school or college course “in the summer of their 18th year”) may apply.
However, legally after becoming 18 a young person cannot be looked after by the local authority and young people are seen as independent in their own right so their primary source of income should come from training, benefits or work like any other young person. Families and Children’s Services may top up funding received from other sources to maintain the arrangement.
When undertaking the leaving care assessment of need and developing the Pathway Plan by the 16th birthday, the Personal Advisor, child’s Social Worker (as applicable) and the Supervising Social Worker should have an initial meeting with the foster carer(s) to ascertain their views and expectations post 18.
If a young person is assessed as vulnerable or likely to require support post 18 to complete further or higher education, then the option of continuing the arrangement should be addressed within the foster carer’s annual review as well as in the young person’s leaving care assessment and Pathway Plan.If it is assessed that the young person continues to need support but is becoming increasingly independent and undertaking those responsibilities, negotiations may be made in the amount paid to the carer but clearly recorded in the Pathway Plan.
5. Implications for Foster Carers
The implications for Foster Carers offering placements after care should be discussed by the Personal Advisor, the child’s Social Worker and the Supervising Social Worker during the Pathway Planning process.
Currently all payments in respect of 18+ placements are taxable. The carers will need to complete a self-assessment form and are liable to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions. A carer accommodating a young person post 18 may be able to claim a taxable allowance for each extended placement. However, they do need to declare all payments from Families and Children’s Services. Foster carers should seek advice from HMRC if required.
If a carer is claiming Housing Benefit in their own right then the young person cannot submit a Housing Benefit claim. Although the Benefits System generally treats foster carers in a reasonable way for example disregarding maintenance allowances, there are some anomalies, which may act as a disincentive to low income carers to continue post 18. Foster carers should seek advice from HMRC if required.
6. Incentives and Support in Education and Training
Apart from the income-based incentives of “relevant” young people to participate in education and training, the Local Authority has a duty to support care experienced young people in practical ways to enable them to gain academic and vocational qualifications.
Where “former relevant” young people are undertaking courses of further or higher education, this duty can remain up to the age of 24.
The educational and training needs of young people should be included in their Pathway or placement plans, and the financial arrangements for their courses checked by the relevant worker.
It should be borne in mind that most full-time students cannot claim means-tested benefits when in higher education, or in non-advanced education after the age of 19. Exceptions to this include lone parents and students with disabilities and health problems.All young people attending university should apply for full tuition fees and maintenance loan. The weekly allowance should be calculated over 52 weeks as some young people may return to accommodation in Wiltshire or may remain at the university location.
7. Special Equipment
Some courses, such as catering, hairdressing, beauty therapy etc require students to provide special equipment or clothing. Other courses require the purchase of stationery, books or other educational materials.
The Personal Advisor should itemise the cost of these items in the Pathway Plan and ensure that they are essential for the course.
Account should be taken of any grants, Educational Maintenance Allowance or other source of funding which could be accessed for this purpose before financial support from the Families and Children’s Service is agreed.
8. Other Educational Costs
In some cases, young people may need to pay an enrolment fee to join a course. They may be required to go on field or residential trips. There may also be travel costs incurred to get them to the training provider or educational establishment.
These and any other essential expenditure attaching to a course should be identified in the Pathway Plan. Relevant workers should ensure that various sources of funding have been maximised before additional expenditure from Families and Children’s Services is sought.Young people may ask for support with travel costs to university interviews.
9. Grants and Loans
Eligibility for any grants or Student Loans will be checked with the Education Department by the Personal Advisor, using the support of the Virtual School if applicable. This would include Education Maintenance Allowance and any benefits for disabled students or lone parents.Provision for any grants or Student Loans should be detailed in the Pathway Plan.
10. Vacation Support and Living Away
Where a young person has to move away to study – e.g. at university – the Pathway Plan should make provision for their living arrangements both during term time and vacations.
11. Support in Employment
Pathway Plans should detail any support to be offered to young people looking to commence employment. Those not already working or participating in Education or Training should be registered for work to qualify for assistance in their job search and to receive National Insurance credits.
12. Access to Financial Support
Payment will normally be through a bank account, wherever possible. From time to time it may be necessary to make an arrangement to pay a young person in cash.
The decisions on which elements of the financial assistance will be paid directly to the young person and which will be managed on their behalf should take account of the individual needs and abilities of the young person.In some instances, there may be concerns that financial support, over and above what is being provided to cover accommodation and maintenance costs, is not being used for the agreed purposes. In these circumstances the Plan may need to be revised or specific funding withheld. It is important to note that any sanctions applied should not reduce the package of support to less than the accommodation and maintenance allowances (equivalent to the appropriate benefit payment rates).
13. Emergency Assistance
From time to time, it may be necessary to make emergency support available, in cash or kind for a care experienced young person. This will normally be through the use of the Team budget of the relevant social work team.
14. Tenancy Agreement
Young people under 18 cannot, by law, hold a tenancy. In these cases, the Director for Children, Schools and Families is authorised to sign a tenancy agreement on behalf of the Local Authority. The Local Authority will be the tenant and will allow the young person to occupy the property subject to abiding by the rules of the agreement.
Any tenancy agreement will expire when the young person attains the age of 18 and can take up a tenancy in their own right. Three months before the young person’s 18th birthday the Social Worker or Personal Adviser will assist the young person to transfer the tenancy (if applicable).
In some situations, the local authority can act as the accommodation Guarantor for a care experienced young person. The approval of the relevant Head of Service is required.
15. Wiltshire’s Allowances
The table below describes Wiltshire Council’s Families and Children’s Service allowances:
Standard Grants, Income Maintenance and Accommodation Rates
|Up to the age of 18|
Sanctions if young person delays in application
|Starter Independence Pack
(Suggested list of items can be provided)
|Up to £150.00||Guideline|
|TV Licence||one year only|
|10 hours of Driving Lessons||Theory Test
Practical Driving Test
|Provisional driving licence to be purchased by young person:
|Passport||Once only||1 adult passport upon leaving care after 12months+ in care|
|Home Office Travel Documents||Once only||Unaccompanied young people|
|Birth Certificate||Once only|
|Change of name (Deed Poll)??||Once only||Needs assessed, no automatic financial support|
|British Citizenship Applications?? Under 18 & Post 18||Once only||Needs assessed, no automatic financial support|
|Winter/Summer Clothing Allowance||Emergency payment of up to £100 Check with Sandra||Applies to Unaccompanied young people and care experienced young people under 18.
|University Top up for Maintenance Loan||Up to £65
Accommodation cost may be up to £100
|Needs assessed, no automatic financial support Manager’s discretion.|
|Local council 16 to 19 bursary fund.||£1,200 per year||Granted by Virtual School Office|
|Post 18 young people up to the age of 25.|
|18th Birthday allowance||
|Faith based payments
(ie Christmas & Eid etc)
|Post 18 young people up to the age of 25|
|Leaving Care Grant
(phased payment for ages 16-21)
|Up to £2000 max||Manager’s discretion around grant being accessible up to age of 25 based on a pathway needs assessment.|
The Wiltshire Local Offer (up to 25 years)
Where assessed as required and appropriate:
Support with internet access to maximum £25 monthly plus a one off set up fee.
Support with travel to and from work and/or education
Council Tax exemption regardless of the local authority lived in – 100% if sole tenant. If living with a partner/friend 50% exemption or pro rata.
Wiltshire Leisure Services – free access to county leisure facilities. Wiltshire will financially support out of county memberships based on need and appropriateness
Act as accommodation Guarantor
There are accommodation providers who have been assessed, approved and trained to provide supported lodgings for care experienced young people.
Supported lodgings providers will receive an allowance of £204.20 per week made up of care, board and lodgings.
The young person will contribute £10.00 per week
Staying Put (18-21)
Staying Put providers will receive an allowance of up to £190.00 per week (Refer to Staying Put Calculator)
The young person will contribute a minimum £20.00 per week
Housing benefit will be deductible from the Staying Put rate if applicable
In house/IFA Enhanced Staying Put scheme:
Where applicable and agreed, a young person who is completing school or college can remain in a Staying Put arrangements and the foster carer receive the fostering allowance for a period until the completion of the academic year post 18. This is to help prevent young people moving within year. The young person will still be expected to make a financial contribution. The foster carer will also be paid the festival allowance if the festival falls in the period of placement.
All based upon assessment of need
Private rental – Deposit and first month’s rent (Leaving care grant)
Local authority rental – first month’s rent (Leaving care grant)
Travel costs for education, training, employment and interviews and where assessed as appropriate and based upon needs
Cost associated with specific appointments and health needs: assessed on a case by case basis and according to need.
Clothing (ie interview, workwear, weather proof clothing, footwear, underwear)
Contact with family or other significant relationships
Cultural or religious needs
(* All figures will be subject to periodic review).
Children in Care Team Manager (£1000,000) and Assistant Team Manager (£500 max), within overall delegated authority.
Aspiring Managers approve within overall delegated authority.
Authorisation Forms: What are they and what do they cover?
Financial Authorisation Form (FAF)
- Payment of personal allowance will be made to a Bank/Building Society account of the young person's choice (no overdraft facility must be a stipulation);
- Payment of the rent to the Landlord direct whilst Wiltshire Council are the Tenant;
- Payments to young people's bank accounts will be made weekly in advance by BACS. The cash will be available for withdrawal on Tuesday of each week; in certain circumstances payments may be made from petty cash;
- Payments to Landlords direct will be made in line with the Landlord's requirement, but in no cases more than 4 weeks in advance without the permission of the Team Manager;
- Birthday payment will be made as close to the birthday date as possible;
- Festival payments will be made early in the month that they falls;
- Payment responsibility transfers to the Benefits Agency (Personal Allowance) and Housing Authority (housing) upon the young person's 18th birthday once Universal Credit/Job Seekers Allowance is in place.