If you are a young person leaving care, your local council has a duty to help and support you until you turn 21, or for longer if you continue with your education or training.
Emergency housing options for care leavers
Get advice immediately if you become homeless or you are in unsuitable housing.
If your personal adviser cannot help you, use our advice services directory to find an advice centre in your area. They can explain your rights and give you an idea of what help social services should be giving you.
Care leavers under the age of 16
If you are under 16 and are thinking of leaving care, your rights are very different because you are still considered to be a child.
Contact Childline on 0800 1111 if you feel you want to leave straight away, if you are having serious problems where you are living or are experiencing violence, abuse or bullying.
Childline advisers can help with lots of different problems, not just housing, and are available 24 hours a day.
Young people leaving care
Your local council has a legal duty to help you make the move from care to independent living. It is usually the council's social services department who helps you with this.
By the time you turn 16, the council must help you make a pathway plan. You use this to tell the council your plans for training or further education and what help and support you need after you leave care, including financial support.
Your pathway plan should say what accommodation you need and how your needs will be met and who will meet these needs. It should look at what you are likely to need in the near future and how those needs will be met.
When you leave care, a personal adviser from the council should keep in touch (at least until you turn 21, or for longer if you are still at university) and should regularly go over and update your pathway plan with you.
Young care leavers and personal advisers
The council gives you a personal adviser whose job it is to coordinate all the advice and help you are entitled to. This could include:
- helping you find and keep somewhere to live
- asking the housing department of the council to help you
- helping you apply for a grant or loan to help cover your housing costs
- putting you in contact with specialist agencies that help young people
- making sure you can live independently, including managing your money and cooking your own meals
Financial support for care leavers aged 16 and 17
The council should give you help and advice with education, accommodation and any benefits you might be entitled to.
The council is responsible for supporting you financially if you are still under the age of 18. This means that it must make sure that you have enough money for the things you need, including clothes, food and cash for travel expenses
With few exceptions, the social services department of the council is also responsible for providing you with somewhere to live.
Financial support for care leavers over 18
You may be entitled to some benefits if you are over the age of 18 when you leave care .
In some cases, you can get housing benefit to help with rent even if you are working. As a care leaver, the shared accommodation rate for a private rented place won't apply until your 22nd birthday.
You will be entitled to the same benefits as other young people if you are not in education or training .
Ask your personal adviser for help in claiming benefits, or ask the JobCentre for further information.
Young care leavers' finances
If you claim benefits or have only just started a job, you may find it difficult to manage your money at first. Try to set aside some savings for emergencies, for example unexpected bills. Borrowing money isn't usually a good idea as it could leave you with debts that are difficult to pay off.
Young care leavers finding and paying for accommodation
Your housing options will depend on how much money you have. Ask your personal adviser if they can help you find somewhere to live which is within your budget. They may also be able to help you find a place with extra support if you need it.
You will need to work out a budget to see what you can realistically afford. Think about how much it might cost to run your own home and how you will pay for it. Your personal adviser should help you with this.
Things to think about include the following:
- If you rent from a private landlord, before you move in you normally have to pay one month's rent in advance and one month's rent as a deposit (which should be returned at the end of your tenancy)
- If you are going to claim housing benefit, you can find out how much of the rent you can claim for by checking local housing allowance (LHA) rates in your area. (Young people under the age of 35 can only claim rent for a room in a shared flat or house, however young care leavers are exempt from this rule until they turn 22.)
- You have to pay for gas, electricity, water and a phone – you may have to pay to have these services connected and you may have to pay a deposit for these services.
- You need money for food, clothing and travel expenses
- You may need furniture and other household items
Some councils provide additional support for young care leavers when they move into their first homes.
Ask your personal adviser for further information, or contact a local advice centre.
Making a complaint about the council
The council should take your wishes into account. If you are not offered the kind of accommodation or services you need or if what you are offered is not right for you, you can make a complaint.
Ask an adviser at a local advice centre to help you write a letter complaining to the council or its social services department.
Use our advice services directory to find an advice centre in your area.