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6.7.4 Financial Arrangements for Care Leavers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure outlines the Council's financial support to care leavers but is not exhaustive. There will be requests to consider financial support for things not explicitly referred to in this guidance. These can be considered on a needs led basis in line with the Council's Scheme of Delegation and within the allocated budget. All financial arrangements covered below should be set out in the Pathway Plan as applicable.

This chapter was added to the manual in April 2017.


Contents

1. Introduction
2. Eligibility Criteria
3. Entitlement
  3.1 Eligible Care Leavers
  3.2 Relevant Care Leavers
  3.3 Former Relevant Care Leavers
  3.4 Qualifying Care Leavers


1. Introduction

This guidance comes into force as of April 2016, replacing the previous version (2015).

Worcestershire County Council has a responsibility to ensure that Care Leavers receive the support, advice and financial assistance they are entitled to help them make a successful transition to adulthood, in line with:

  • Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000;
  • The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers;
  • Care Leavers Charter; and
  • Council’s own role as corporate parent.

This document outlines the Council's financial support to care leavers but is not exhaustive. There will be requests to consider financial support for things not explicitly referred to in this guidance. These can be considered on a needs led basis in line with the Council's Scheme of Delegation and within the allocated budget.  

All financial arrangements covered below should be set out in the Pathway Plan as applicable.

The Council’s value for money and procurement principles must apply to all expenditure. Financial decisions, Purchase Orders and other financial transactions must be made or recorded through Framework-I in accordance with the Scheme of Delegation and Framework-I Guidance. The following principles apply:

  • Separate, accurate and up-to-date accounts and records of the receipt and payment of all transactions, including up to date records on Framework-I, in relation to Care Leavers related expenses;
  • All reasonable endeavours must be taken to obtain at a competitive price any item or service purchased with money provided;
  • All financial transactions must be made according to assessed needs and means.


2. Eligibility Criteria

Care Leavers are afforded differing levels of support and financial assistance in line with their Care Leaver status.  

'Entitlement' and 'eligibility' are defined by the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 and The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers.  

There are four categories of young people who are entitled to support.

2.1 Eligible

An ‘Eligible child’ is a young person that is:

  • Still looked after;
  • Aged 16 or 17;
  • Has been looked after by a local authority for a period of 13 weeks, or periods amounting in total to 13 weeks, which began after he reached 14 and ended after he reached 16.

2.2 Relevant

A ‘Relevant child’ is a young person who is:

  • Not looked after;
  • Aged 16 or 17;
  • Was, before he last ceased to be looked after, an 'Eligible child'.

A young person is also a 'Relevant child' if they are:

  • Not looked after;
  • Aged 16 or 17;
  • At the time he attained the age of 16 was detained.

     (i.e. detained in a remand centre, a young offenders institution or a secure training centre, or any other centre pursuant to a Court order), or in a hospital, and immediately before he was detained or in hospital he had been looked after by a local authority for a period or periods amounting in all to at least 13 weeks which began after he reached the age of 14.

Regulation 3 of the Care Leavers Regulations also provides that a child who has lived for a continuous period of six months or more with:

  • His parent;
  • Someone who is not his parent but who has parental responsibility for him;
  • Where he is in care and there was a Residence Order in force immediately before the Care Order was made, a person in whose favour the Residence Order was made then that child is not a 'Relevant child' despite falling within section 23A(2). Where those living arrangements break down and the child ceases to live with the person concerned, the child is to be treated as a 'Relevant child'.

2.3 Former Relevant

A ‘Former Relevant child’ is a young person aged 18-21, who has left care, having been on their 18th birthday either 'Eligible' or 'Relevant'.

'Former Relevant child' status remains for those Care Leavers who, at the age of 21 or any time post 21 up to the age of 25, wish to continue with or take up a programme of education or training.

2.4 Qualifying

A 'Qualifying' young person is aged 16 to 21, and under certain circumstances aged up to 25 who:

  • Is aged at least 16 but under 21, who was subject to a Special Guardianship Order and was Looked After before the making of that Order;
  • Who successfully returned home (aged 16 / 17) for 6 months and was previously an 'Eligible' and/or 'Relevant' child;
  • At any time after reaching the age of 16 but whilst he was still a child was, but is no longer, Looked After, accommodated or fostered.


3. Entitlement

All Care Leavers:

Care Leavers who have high level needs may require continued support from Adult Social Care or Health post 18 due to their complex health needs or disability. Young people who meet the criteria for Continuing Health Care must be referred to appropriate services by the Social Worker, before transfer to Care Leavers Service at least by their 17th birthday, in order for the appropriate Adult Services, education or specialist health services to assess how their needs will be met post 18. 

Care Leavers eligible for Continuing Care Services will be funded through Adult Services, education and/or health resources.


3.1 Eligible Care Leavers

Eligible young people are under 18 and remain Looked After Children and therefore their financial and other needs are the responsibility of the Social Work Team.

  • The Social Worker must ensure that the Pathway Plan addresses the young person’s accommodation needs for when they cease to be looked after at 18 and must ensure that young people have been referred to the Leaving Care Multi-Agency Housing Panel at 17 if social housing will be required at 18;
  • A referral to The Care Leavers Team for allocation of a PA at the age of 18 must be made at age 17.


3.2 Relevant Care Leavers

Worcestershire County Council has a duty to financially support 'Relevant' young people if they are living independently or have returned to the Service to access support as a 'Relevant Care Leaver' until their 18th birthday. Financial support does not apply to 'Relevant' young people who have returned to the care of their parent or someone who has Parental Responsibility for them. 

Relevant young people are not eligible for Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance or Housing Benefit.

3.2.1 Personal Allowance

'Relevant' young people who are in paid employment or Apprenticeships will not continue to receive a Personal Allowance. However, for those who are low paid and will be worse off by undertaking employment or an Apprenticeship, an incentive payment may be paid at the discretion of the Team Manager on a needs led basis to bring them up to £20 per week above the Personal Allowance rate. A needs assessment will need to be documented and approved by the Manager.

3.2.2 Accommodation

The accommodation needs of relevant young people should be addressed in their pathway plan, and are the responsibility of WCC.

  • All rent and support costs are the responsibility of WCC if the young person is not in employment.

Care Leavers in transition to adulthood will need suitable accommodation in accordance with their needs. Housing options must be considered in accordance with the Joint Housing Protocol and Housing Options Guidance, Guide for Young People in Higher Education and Staying Put Arrangements.

3.2.3 Accommodation Costs

The cost of accommodation will become the responsibility of the Lead Organisation on the date of transfer from the Local Authority case holding Social Care team.

'Relevant' young people who are in low paid employment may be unable to cover accommodation costs. In such cases, a financial breakdown of the young person's wages, rent and bills must be completed and recorded by the Social Worker or Personal Advisor in conjunction with the young person. An element of these costs may be subsidised in accordance with the Scheme of Delegation to ensure that the young person is not worse off as a result of working.

3.2.4 Setting up Home Allowance

Care Leavers are supported with a Setting up Home Allowance, which is up to £1500.00. £1500.00 limit applies to Care Leavers who are 18 after 1st April 2016.

Setting up Home Allowance is for the sole purpose of furnishing the Care Leavers own home and cannot be used for any other purpose like funding holidays, debts or any other costs.

The Allowance is prioritised to ensure that once the young person secures their own accommodation, essential household items i.e. white goods (including installation), bed, sofa, furniture, carpets, curtains, TV, and any other items required to meet their basic daily living needs, can be obtained before money can be spent on other non-essential items, i.e. home entertainment.

There are various Charities that can be utilised for donations or assistance with furniture, and the Personal Advisor should support the young person with accessing these.

Any request to access the Setting up Home Allowance for a 'Relevant' young person should be in discussion with the Personal Advisor and made in writing to the Care Leavers Team Manager.

Evidence will be required to confirm how the above essential items will be provided, if any of the allowance is used prior to 18.

3.2.5 Support with Education / Training and Employment

Where a 'Relevant' young person is in full time education, the Personal Advisor must ensure that they provide a supporting letter to enable the young person to claim 16-19 Bursary payment.

This is to be used to assist with, lunches at college, stationery, equipment etc.

If essential equipment or uniform over the value of £50.00 is required for a college/training course:

  • A request must be made in accordance with the Scheme of Delegation;
  • A decision to fund or contribute to the required items will then be made;
  • Evidence of good attendance and commitment to the course will be required.

If public transport is required to access education or training the cost of a monthly bus pass during term time may be provided if there is no bursary or other fund the student can utilise. If a student 16-19 travel pass is available this should be the chosen option. Payments for travel require confirmation of attendance from college/training provider on a regular basis (6 weekly).

3.2.6 Additional Needs

'Relevant' young people who have a disability or a long term illness, and those who are lone parents may be able to claim Income Support/and/or other benefits such as PIP/DLA). In such circumstances the Personal Advisor must support them in making a claim as soon as possible.

Where the benefits received equal or exceed the amount of the Personal Allowance, this allowance will cease. Where it is less than the Personal Allowance, they will receive payment up to the value of the Personal Allowance.

3.2.7 Support while in Custody

'Relevant' young people who are in custody will, subject to prison rules, be paid a Personal Allowance sufficient to meet needs that are not met by the institution, and to assist with maintaining telephone contact with family. This will be up to a maximum of £5 per week paid via Postal Order (plus the cost of the postal order).

3.2.8 Birthday and Festival Allowance

A £20 Birthday Allowance for the young person's 17th& 18th birthday will be paid.

One Festival Payment of a £10 gift-voucher will be paid per year in line with the young person's religious and cultural beliefs.

3.2.9 Identification Documents

All 'Relevant' Care Leavers should have photo I.D in place before transferring to the Care Leavers Service, as identified in the Transfer Protocol.

If I.D is lost or damaged, 'Relevant' young people can be funded to obtain suitable identity documentation:

  • Cost of replacement birth certificate;
  • Provisional driving license.

Payment for new/replacement/lost passports, unless it is to enable a young person to take part in an overseas trip essential for their college or other training course will not be funded.


3.3 Former Relevant Care Leavers

Primary financial responsibility for 'Former Relevant' Care Leavers who are not in employment transfers to the Department for Work and Pensions at age 18.

3.3.1 Personal Allowance

These young people are not entitled for a Personal Allowance. They should be supported to claim all relevant Department of Work and Pensions benefits if not in employment.

Claims for JSA/Income Support must be made 4 weeks prior to the young person's 18th birthday to prevent delay in benefit payments being made at age 18.

The Personal Advisor should support the young person to make their claim, to ensure the claim is made in a timely manner and consent is obtained to enable liaison with Department of Work and Pensions to track the claim.

A subsistence payment may be made, if needed, if there is a delay in benefits payments being paid. This is usually for a maximum of 2 weeks post 18, and is at the discretion of Care Leavers Team Manager.

This will only be considered, if a benefit claim is made on time and all necessary appointments with the Job Centre have been kept by the young person.

 If there is a delay due to appointments not being kept, assistance may not be considered and the Discretionary Welfare Assistance Schemes may need to be utilised for any financial support available to the young person.

When a young person has a financial crisis that requires financial resolution the Personal Advisor must work with the young person to explore all avenues of welfare assistance available to resolve the crisis. They should promote young people taking accountability and also that young people can make and learn from mistakes.

Public financial resources are limited, and there is a requirement to work in partnership with other agencies to provide Care Leavers with the right support and assistance to deliver help where it is most needed.

If all other avenues have been exhausted a full or part Personal Allowance payment may be made. This is at the discretion of the Care Leavers' Team Manager in accordance with the Scheme of Delegation.

3.3.2 Accommodation

At 18 the primary responsibility for accommodation passes to the Local Housing Authority (District Councils). There is no duty to provide accommodation for 'Former Relevant' young people unless related to education, or agreed under the Staying Put Policy 2015.

Young people should be referred to the Leaving Care Multi-Agency Housing Panel at 17 if Social Housing will be required at 18, in accordance with the Housing Options Guidance.

The young person's Pathway Plan must identify suitable housing options and any additional support needed so the necessary arrangements for accommodation are in place at 18.

Young people should be supported by their Personal Advisor to access suitable housing or accommodation identified in their Pathway Plan, which meets their needs and should allow for a planned transition/move on at 18.

3.3.3 Accommodation Costs

'Former Relevant' young people are over 18 and usually responsible for their own accommodation costs. They are eligible for a number of means tested benefits, including Housing benefit, to cover/contribute to their accommodation costs, if not in employment or on a low income. Their Personal Advisor must support them in making a claim for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit if appropriate.

WCC will be responsible for:

  • Staying Put costs as agreed in the Staying Put Policy;
  • Rent/accommodation fees for students in Higher Education in an agreed programme of education or training, as identified in their Pathway Plan (these will be up to the amount, equivalent to the young person's chosen University standard Halls of Residence fees);
  • Care Leavers who are in a residential educational provision at Further Education level, who require accommodation during academic holidays will be provided with accommodation or will be paid sufficient money to secure accommodation during academic holidays.

3.3.4 Setting up Home Allowance

Care Leavers will require assistance with the costs of setting up their own homes.

There are various Discretionary Welfare Assistance schemes across the County that should be accessed in the first instance to request assistance to provide household items for Care Leavers. Particularly for white goods. There are also Charities that can be utilised for donations or assistance with furniture. 

WCC will support Care Leavers with a Setting up Home Allowance up to £1500.00 £1500.00 limit applies to Care Leavers who are 18 after 1st April 2016:

  • Setting up Home Allowance is for the sole purpose of furnishing the Care Leavers own home and cannot be used for any other purpose like funding holidays, debts or any other costs.

This Allowance is administered by the Personal Advisor, in agreement with Care Leavers Team Manager. It is not payable as a cash lump sum to the young person.

The Allowance is prioritised to ensure that once the young person secures their own accommodation, essential household items i.e. white goods (including installation), bed, sofa, furniture, carpets, curtains, TV, and any other items required to meet their basic daily living needs, are obtained before money can be spent on other non-essential items, i.e. home entertainment, soft furnishings etc.

As Corporate Parents it is expected that there will be some level of common sense parenting used by Personal Advisors to ensure in the first instance the accommodation is furnished appropriately and is suitable to meet the young person's basic needs. This parenting approach needs to be shared with the young person to set up a comfortable, suitable home whilst making the most of their budget.

3.3.5 Support with Education / Training and Employment

The setting up home allowance is available up to the young person's 25th birthday or later if they remain in education, and will be available until the end of their agreed course.

If the young person has not accessed their allowance at point of closure to the Care Leavers Team, a record of the amount still available will be recorded on the Setting up Home Grant episode on Framework-i for future reference.

When a request is made after case closure to access the remaining allowance, this will only be paid:

  • With the proof of valid receipts (re-imbursement to the young person); or
  • Supervised spend with PA; or
  • Items required can be purchased by Procurement Card by PA for delivery directly to the young person.

The Care Leavers Service will maintain an up to date and accurate record of expenditure against the allowance, and VAT receipts will be obtained.

Where a 'Former Relevant' young person is in full time education, the Personal Advisor must ensure that they:

  • Provide a letter confirming their Care Leaver status to the relevant College/Education provider;
  • Support them in claiming 16 – 19 Educational Bursaries. This is to be used to fund lunches at College, stationery, books or small items of equipment up to £50.00.

If essential equipment or uniform over the value of £50.00 is required for a College/training course:

  • A request to the Care Leavers Team Manager can be made;
  • A decision to fund or contribute to the required items will then be made, based on individual circumstances;
  • Evidence of good attendance and commitment to the course will be required.

If public transport is required to access education or training:

  • Cost of a monthly bus pass during term time will be provided if no other bursary or fund can be found to cover this cost;
  • If a student travel pass (16-19 travel pass) is available this should be the chosen option.

Payments for travel require confirmation of attendance from College/training provider on a regular basis (6 weekly).

Higher Education Support

Care Leavers considering going to University will be provided with advice from their Personal Advisors and information relating to what support they can expect. Care Leavers, like the majority of their peers, will need to apply for Student Loans. Care Leavers will be eligible for student financial support as unsupported young people and will therefore not be eligible to receive a Personal Allowance.

The Personal Advisor must support them in making the appropriate applications through Student Finance and ensure they have claimed all bursaries/grants they are entitled to as Care Leavers.

A £2000 Higher Education Bursary paid in instalments over 3 years for those who start Higher Education before the age of 21 will also be payable.

Further Guidance for Care Leavers in Higher Education is available (see document) and must be followed.

Expenses related to the young person's graduation ceremony will be funded, these include:

  • Travel;
  • Gown hire;
  • Purchase of a basic set of photographs.

A gift to the value of £30 in celebration of the young person's achievements will also be paid.

If a young person begins an agreed course of Higher Education prior to their 21st Birthday and this extends past their 21st birthday, they remain a 'Former Relevant' young person and will continue to receive support until the end of their agreed course of study.

Care Leavers returning to education over the age of 21

These young people are not entitled to HE Bursary payment or a Setting up Home Allowance. 

Young people who were previously entitled to support as Care Leavers who wish to return to a programme of education, between the age of 21 and up to the age of 25, can receive support from the Care Leavers Service.

When support is requested for a return to education, an assessment of the appropriateness of the course, and how it will help the young person to achieve their ambitions will be carried out by a Social Worker. The assessment will also draw on the information set out in the young person's previous Pathway Plan. 

A new Pathway Plan will be formulated, with assistance from a Care Leavers Personal Advisor (ideally the Personal Advisor who previously worked with the young person if available).The Plan will focus on the support that can be provided to assist the young person in meeting their agreed education related goals. The allocated Personal Advisor will continue to review the Pathway Plan every 6 months, until the end of the agreed programme of education. 

Employment Related Support

When a young person obtains their first job, assistance may be provided to prevent financial hardship if there is a gap in payment due to working a period 'in hand'. This may be a week or a month depending on how the young person is paid. If benefits cease before wages are paid, a contribution towards living and/or accommodation costs may be made.

  • This will be up to the value of weekly subsistence allowance (up to a maximum of 4 weeks);
  • Consideration for assistance with travel costs to work and return for this period will also be considered.

A needs and means assessment must be submitted to the Team Manager for consideration.

3.3.6 Additional Needs

'Former Relevant' young people who have a disability or a long term illness, may be able to claim other benefits such as PIP/DLA. In such circumstances the Personal Advisor must support them in making a claim for any relevant benefit entitlement.

3.3.7 Support while in Custody

'Former Relevant' young people who are in custody will, subject to prison rules, and based on need, be paid a Personal Allowance sufficient to meet needs that are not met by the institution. This may also assist with maintaining telephone contact with family. This will be up to a maximum of £5 per week paid via Postal Order (plus the cost of the postal order).

3.3.8 Birthday and Festival Allowance

£20 will be paid for the young person's 18th birthday. Birthday allowances will cease after the young person's 18th birthday.

One Festival Payment of a £10 gift-voucher will be paid per year in line with the young person's religious and cultural beliefs.

3.3.9 Identification Documentation

All Former Relevant Care Leavers should have photo I.D in place before transferring to the Care Leavers Team, as identified in the Transfer Protocol.

If I.D is lost or damaged, and is required for education or benefit claims, young people may be funded to obtain suitable identity documentation:

  • Cost of replacement birth certificate;
  • Provisional driving license.

Payment for new/replacement/lost passports, unless it is to enable a young person to take part in an overseas trip essential for their college or other training course will not be funded.


3.4 Qualifying Care Leavers

Primary financial responsibility for 'Qualifying' young people who are not in employment is the responsibility of Department for Work and Pensions.

3.4.1 Personal Allowance

These young people are not entitled to a Personal Allowance. They should be supported to claim all relevant Department for Work and Pensions benefits if not in employment.

3.4.2 Accommodation

There is no eligibility for providing accommodation or financial support for accommodation to 'Qualifying' young people. Except for those who are between the ages of 16 and 25, in Higher Education or in residential further education only, and require vacation accommodation, or the finances to secure it.

3.4.3 Setting up Home Allowance

There is no entitlement to a Setting up Home Allowance.

3.4.4 Support with Education / Training

'Qualifying' young people in Higher Education or residential Further Education can be supported with obtaining and/or the cost of academic holiday accommodation (up to the value of £100 per week).

3.4.5 Other Support

Any other assistance or support provided will be in line with duties in Care Leaver legislation and depending on the needs of the young person in-conjunction with their Pathway Plan, agreed by the Care Leavers Team Manager.

End