Has your social worker just referred you to the care leavers' team, are you starting to think about when you leave care, are you about to leave care very soon or have you already left care?
Planning for the future
Planning for the future (Pathway Plan)
A Pathway Plan is a written document that every care leaver is required to have:
- the Pathway Plan outlines what your needs are for the next steps to independence
- the plan also includes what your goals are for the future and how or who can support you in achieving these
- your first pathway plan should be completed around the age of 16 by your social worker
- your plan will then be reviewed at least every 6 months or more frequently if required - this will be with your social worker and as you get older with your PA
- you will have a plan and reviews until the age of 21 or longer if you remain in education
- reviews are necessary to check how things are going and to add or make any changes to your plan
Remember it's your plan
In order to write your pathway plan both your social worker and later your PA will want to understand as much as possible about your circumstances and what you want to achieve:
- they can't do this if you do not tell them what your views are
- they will talk to you, your parents or carers, and other important people in your life to get an understanding of your needs and your goals
- once completed, or updated, your pathway plan will be sent out for you to agree and sign it and then return to your worker
- you, your PA and anyone else involved in the plan will then get on with doing all the things that are agreed in your plan
What's discussed in the Pathway Plan?
The below topics are all discussed in the Pathway Plan:
- practical life and independence skills
- education, training or employment
- health and wellbeing
- money and finance
- interests and participation in society
As a care leaver, you can get support from Worcestershire County Council from the age of 16 until the age of 25.
What is the Care Leavers' Service?
The Care Leavers’ Team provides a service to you, as care leavers, or young people preparing to leave care. As a care leaver, you can get support from us from the age of 16 until the age of 25.
There are currently two teams, covering North and South of Worcestershire. The Teams each consist of a Team Manager, Business Support Officer and Personal Advisors. (PA)
What can the Care Leavers' Service do for me?
You will be allocated a Personal Advisor (PA) when you are 17. Your PA will be responsible for working directly with you to ensure your views and ideas about your future are listened to and acted on. They will help you make plans by meeting with you and agreeing your Pathway Plan to help you get the support you need so you can achieve what you want for your future.
Is my PA the same as a social worker?
No, a PA has a different role to a social worker. Your PA will work with specifically on where you want to live, what you want to achieve for education or employment and in helping you gain the skills you will need to manage the responsibilities and changes of adulthood.
Your social worker will arrange for you to meet your PA at around the age of 17 and your PA will work together with you and your social worker to help you make plans for the future. Once you turn 18, or leave care if this is earlier, you will no longer have a social worker and your PA will become your main worker and continue working with you at least until the age of 21.
What can my personal advisor do for me?
Your personal Advisor is there to help you to prepare to live independently and to offer advice and support after you leave care.
This can look like:
- providing advice and support about how to manage day to day challenges and needs
- supporting you to access advice about Housing; Education, Employment or Training; Health Care or Benefits; this can include talking with other agencies and services that can help you
- actively trying to keep in touch with you and
- discussing your needs, planning for the future with you to make your Pathway Plan
As a Personal Advisor:
- I will provide different ways for you to get in touch with me and endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible
- I will try to be flexible with when we meet and ensure that the time is suitable for you
- I will tell you what you need to know, straight as adults. I will try to make sure we are both on the same level
- I will work with you to involve you in decisions and not make them for you, and provide the necessary information to help you make these decisions
- I will always try to be aware of your individual situation
- I will have a working knowledge of relevant topics for you and will be honest about whether I know something or not but do my best to find out or point you in the right direction.
Supporting you in finding somewhere suitable to live
Your Personal Advisor will discuss and help plan your housing and accommodation needs as part of your Pathway Plan. At 18 the Care Leavers’ Service are no longer responsible for providing you with accommodation - unless you are at University or in an agreed Staying Put arrangement. There are various options available to you in different settings and levels of support.
Different accommodation options include:
Staying put arrangements
- this is if you remain living with your foster carer after the age of 18. Although it is no longer a foster placement, you have more Independence and responsibility and a living together agreement is set up with you and your carer
- you will have to pay a contribution towards your 'keep' and will also be expected to pay rent (from Housing Benefit, or your income if you are working)
- once you leave your Staying Put Arrangement the agreement for Staying Put will have ended and you cannot return to another Staying Put Arrangement
- this is where staff are on site to offer support. They will also help you move-on to more independent accommodation, when you are ready
Your own accommodation - options include:
- social housing with local housing authority obtained through registering and the bidding process
- privately rented
To get your own accommodation you will need to:
- demonstrate you are suitable to hold your own tenancy
- prove you are capable of living on your own and that you also understand the responsibilities of being a good tenant/neighbour
Getting your own flat, particularly in the Private rental sector can be difficult under 21 years of age. Your PA can give you more advice about what options and support are available on all of your housing options.
Please remember, you cannot have your own tenancy under the age of 18.
Support for setting up your first home
Moving to your own home should be a planned move. It requires lots of organising and having help with this makes it easier to manage. Your Personal Advisor is there to help you with this.
You may need support at first with:
- arranging how rent, council tax, gas, electric, water and TV Licence will be paid
- you may need to claim benefits to help with rent and council tax payments even if you are on Universal Credit, Job Seekers allowance or Income Support or other benefits - rent does not automatically get paid unless you apply for Housing benefit
- the Care Leavers’ Service provides a 'Setting up Home Allowance' to help you buy items that you will need in your new home; this is £2000 and your Personal Advisor is there to support you with spending this; they will ensure you purchase the essential items that are needed in a new home
Saving in advance will also help you buy other things you want for your home. Your Personal Advisor will also be able to help with contacting any charities or organisations that may be able to offer some help.
Education, training and career support
Further education support
We want to encourage as many people as possible to continue with their education for as long as they wish. The Care Leavers’ Service will support you with your education in the following ways:
- we will pay an education incentive to all Care Leavers’ undertaking an agreed course of Education or Training of £60 per month, dependent on attendance
- your Pathway Plan should set out exactly what you would like to achieve educationally and how you are going to be supported to do it
- we will support you with additional costs (over £50) related to equipment, materials or clothing that are essential for your course
Higher education support
Every year, we are supporting more and more Care Leavers who have obtained places at University and are studying for Degrees/HE Courses at universities all over the Country.
The Care Leavers’ Service can support you with your agreed course of education potentially up to the age of 25. Your Pathway Plan should set out your agreed course of study and your aspirations and goals and how you will be supported with these. There are a number of different kinds of financial support available for young people applying to study in higher education.
These include loans, grants, bursaries and scholarships.
You will also receive a £2,000 Higher Education (HE) Bursary paid in instalments throughout your course.
Jobs, careers and training
There are many different courses, training schemes and employment opportunities available for young people. Your Personal Advisor will be able to help you get the advice and information that you need to choose what is right for you.
If you are starting employment or training the Care Leavers’ Service may be able to assist you with travel or living costs for the first couple of weeks, as you may have to work a period ‘in hand’ and not get paid immediately.
You can also get advice and help with education and training from:
Health, wellbeing and relationships
Below are some of the ways our care leaving team and your personal Advisor can support you to stay healthy and look after your physical and mental health. We can:
- give information on healthy living
- give information on getting help to pay for prescriptions
- support you to register or book with a GP, Dentist and Optician
- support you to move from CAMHS to adult mental health services
- give information about counselling services that are available locally
- give you help with transports costs when attending health appointments
- if you are a young parent, take an interest in your children and support you to do the best for them. We will help you arrange childcare, if this is what you want
- give you information about health drop-in centres
- work with you to make a ‘health passport’ containing key information from your childhood (for example, when and if you have had immunisations) and your current health needs
- provide information about local activities and events
As well as support from a Personal Advisor, we may be able to offer you additional practical and emotional support, such as:
- linking you in with a Peer Mentor who can help you get more involved in events and service development so you can change things for other Care Leavers
- where appropriate, continuing to support contact with the ‘Independent Visitor’ you had while you were in care
- help to maintain or regain contact with people special to you or who cared for you in the past, like former foster carers or social workers
Advice and guidance: Relationships and Sexuality from the Family Hub
Interests and participation in society
We want our care leavers to be active members of society, and to have all the chances in life that other young adults have.
A big part of staying healthy is enjoying hobbies and interests
We can help you participate in society in the following ways:
- providing information on groups and clubs you may wish to join
- informing you about relevant awards, schemes and competitions you can enter, in line with your talents and interests
- encouraging and helping you to enrol on the Electoral Register, so you can vote in elections
- supporting you to find relevant work experience
- informing you about voluntary work that we think you may be interested in
- informing and possibly helping with the cost of leisure activities
- giving you advice and helping you to challenge any discrimination you face as a care leaver.
- if you do not live near Worcestershire, we can make an agreement through your Pathway Plan about how we can support you to get involved in sporting activities or other leisure activities near where you live
Money and finances
There have been many changes to the Benefits System. This can be confusing, overwhelming, and frustrating. Your Personal Advisor can give you some basic information relating to benefits but it is best for you to seek specialist advice from the Job Centre on any benefits you are entitled to claim. Your PA can help you to do this and can also speak to the Job Centre on your behalf if you give them consent to do this.
Your Personal Advisor can help you with initial benefit claims process when you turn 18 years old. This can be done up to 4 weeks before you are 18 to prevent delay in payments.
To make a claim you will need:
- valid I.D
- National Insurance Number
- a bank account for payments to be paid into
- you must keep all your appointments with the Job Centre, if you don’t they will sanction you (stop your benefit payments) this can be for weeks or even up to a maximum of 3 years!
Practical life and independence skills
Living independently for the first time is a big challenge. Your PA is there for you to talk to about this. They will also work with you to help develop your skills and knowledge so you are prepared for when you are living more independently.
Your Pathway Plan has a section to help identify your skills as well as areas that you may need to work on or require support with.
Some of the independence skills needed to enable you to live a happy, safe and healthy life-style includes:
- looking after yourself and staying safe
- keeping your home clean and tidy, how to do laundry and other household tasks
cooking and shopping for healthy nutritious food
- managing your money and paying bills
- having valid I.D and a bank account
- contacting Housing the Job Centre or utility providers
- making your own health appointments
- attending meetings/appointments on time
- reporting repairs or resolving issues with your accommodation
- knowing how to access local facilities and act as a responsible member of the community
- asking for support when needed
Accessing your care records
The UK GDPR gives you the right to obtain a copy of your personal data via a Subject Access Request (SAR). You do not have to give a reason why you want to view your files and can’t be denied access if you don’t want to disclose your reason. Although you are likely to be offered guidance from a Social Worker or Personal Advisor about accessing your records, you do not have to meet with them .
However it can be helpful to have someone available to provide emotional support and help to explain things that may be difficult to understand in the records.
A SAR will only give you a copy of records and these may be heavily redacted (have information blacked out), there will be no explanation except that to explain any codes. The only information you will receive will be about you, other peoples names and personal data will be redacted.
They will advise you how to apply and what identification you will need. Once your request is accepted the timescale is one calendar month, which can be extended to three calendar months for complex or volumes requests, for the Local Authority to respond to your written request.
Equality and Diversity
The Care Leavers team is here to support all Care Leavers regardless of their gender, sexuality, race or religion. Care Leavers can often face stigma and discrimination and we will advocate on your behalf and help you challenge any prejudice you encounter. We want you to celebrate the festivals that are important to you and feel comfortable expressing your true identity. We want to help you celebrate your differences and similarities so we can all learn from each other and respect individuality.
Young people who have travelled to the country as Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers face additional difficulties adjusting to a new culture and language but PAs can help with triple planning for all eventualities.
We are keen to develop our support and service to Care Leavers from marginalised groups. If you would like to become more involved and help us build a more inclusive and supportive community, please get in touch.
Worcestershire Care Leavers are a talented and diverse bunch and we like to showcase your abilities, perhaps inspiring others to have a go at getting creative.
See below some of the previous items that we have featured in our newsletter.
Download: Care Leavers Newsletters
If you would like to share a poem, some artwork, photography or a piece of writing, please get in touch!
We will soon be launching a competition to help design a new website and logo for the Care Leavers’ service. Any artists or budding graphic designers please take note!
Tell us your views
Worcestershire County Council wants to hear your views or suggestions for improving the Care Leavers' service. There are several ways you can do this:
- you could get involved in organising activities for young people
- taking part in interviews to recruit social workers and personal advisors for Worcestershire
- meeting with Councillors and Children's Services managers to share your ideas on the sorts of things that need to change; you can do this through becoming a member of Worcestershire's Care Leavers' Council: Speak Out
If you do not live in Worcestershire you can still give us your feedback by asking your PA for a feedback form so you can send us your views.
The Care Leavers' Service can help with negotiating solutions or signposting you to other agencies/services that can help you.
Your Personal Advisor can provide you with advice and guidance on many day to day issues. They are there to help you deal with difficulties or problems and have lots of connections with other services/organisations that can offer you the help you may need.
Please take the time to talk to your PA if you have a problem or just want some general advice or information because dealing with things early can help prevent issues turning into bigger problems.
As well as talking to your PA there are lots of other places you can go for help as a Care Leaver:
NYAS is a UK charity providing information, advice, advocacy and legal representation to children young people and vulnerable adults through a network of dedicated paid workers and volunteers throughout England and Wales.
From 1 October 2023, NYAS provide the national advocacy helpline service. You can contact the service via the following methods:
- website and online chat: https://www.nyas.net/safetynet/
- freephone: 0808 808 1001
- email: email@example.com
- WhatsApp: 07494788875
- text: text NYAS to 85258
Catch22’s wide ranging provision delivers holistic support to looked after children and care leavers whilst in care and once they have left care to improve their life chances
Offers advocacy support to care leavers and children in care, including a national helpline.
They have produced a range of resources for professional and young people.
Small grants scheme for care leavers aged up to 29.
National Charity run by care leavers offering support and advice.
Registered charity who creates networks and opportunities for
people with care experiences including financial support.
Coram advocacy services provide children with a professional adult who will listen to them, establish their wishes, opinions and fears, and ensure their voice is heard. Help them to navigate the system, challenge decisions and make certain their rights and wellbeing are prioritised.
A directory of groups and activities for young people living in Worcestershire