Bath and North East Somerset


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7.7.3 Leaving Care Financial Support Policy and Guidance

AMENDMENT

This chapter has been updated in January 2015. Section 4, Living Costs has been amended to emphasise the need for young people to make benefit claims as soon as they are entitled to and in Section 5, Housing to clarify the current allowances available for young people when they make the transition to independent living. Finally in Section 6, Education there is clarification regarding the B&NES ‘savings scheme’.


Contents

  1. Legal & Practice Framework
  2. Definitions
  3. Procedures
  4. Living Costs
  5. Housing
  6. Education


1. Legal & Practice Framework

Financial support is provided to young people moving on from care within the legal framework of:

  • The Children Act 1989;
  • The Children (leaving care) Act 2000;
  • Care planning, placement and review guidance and regulations 2010;
  • Transition to adulthood for care leavers guidance and regulations 2010.

Support is provided in the context of a pathway plan based on a comprehensive assessment of needs at 16 and updated through reviews by an IRO at 16 and 17 and pathway plan reviews thereafter.

Support is provided on the principle that we should act as a good corporate parent and that good parenting does not end at 18 but provides a level of support thereafter.


2. Definitions

The Local Authority has a duty towards eligible and relevant and former relevant children:

Eligible

Are those Young People still in care aged 16 and 17 who have been looked after for (a total of) at least 13 weeks from the age of 14.

Relevant

Are Young People aged 16 or 17 who have already left care, and who were looked after for (a total of) at least 13 weeks from the age of 14, and have been looked after at some time while 16 or 17.

Former Relevant

Are Young People aged 18-21 who have been eligible and/or relevant Children In Care - Young People who are looked after by a Local Authority either through a compulsory Care Order or remanded or accommodated by voluntary agreement including accommodation under section 20 of the Children Act.

Qualifying

Are young people 16+ and under 21 and Subject to Special Guardianship order (or was up to 18) having been in care immediately before the order or was Looked After (in care), accommodated or fostered at any time after age 16 while still a child. Discretionary financial support may be provided on the basis of assessed needs, in which case a pathway plan should be drawn up and reviewed as long as support is provided. The Local Authority must consider whether young person needs help of a kind they can give such as:

  • Advise and befriend, give assistance;
  • Help with education and training costs;
  • Vacation costs.

Eligibility for support depends on age and legal status. The kinds of financial support available are summarised in this Policy.


3. Procedures

The financial support for an individual young person will be based on their assessed needs and set out in their pathway plan. Financial support will be provided within the framework set out in this policy and guidance. It is important that young people are provided with support to develop budgeting skills and that payments are made in most cases into a young person’s bank account. Financial support should be planned. The young person should have clear written information about the financial support being provided and written notice when payments change or cease (this to be included in Pathway Plan).


4. Living Costs

Maintenance

Maintenance at the current JSA rate will be paid to any eligible or relevant young person who is placed in supported or independent living, unless they are in work or in receipt of benefits. Young people who are in care placements do not receive maintenance as carers are paid allowances to look after them.

Young people who are lone parents, too ill to work or disabled can claim benefits and should be supported to do so. If a young person is entitled to benefits, or becomes entitled to benefits at 18, transitional help with living costs may be continued for up to 4 weeks to allow the benefits claim to come through.

Young people need to make a benefit claim as soon as they are entitled to and have prepared in advance the necessary documentation e.g. a College letter to confirm they are on a course when applying for Income Support. 

In order to receive financial support whilst waiting for benefits to come through, the young person will need to show each week that they have done everything necessary to progress the claim including meeting up with their worker to check the status of the claim with the DWP. Without this the financial help given to the young person will be limited or withdrawn until the claim is evidenced as progressing with the young person having done all that is required of them.

If a young person (16-17 year old) is working the maintenance allowance will reduce depending on the level of their earnings. The first £50 of a young person’s earnings will not be included in any calculation. Any travel or work costs will also be taken into account. 

Young people who choose to live with parents, relatives or friends should normally be paid maintenance on the same basis as if they were in supported living. For young people who return home from s20 care this will continue only as long as they continue to be ‘Relevant’ i.e. up to 6 months after returning to birth family.

Young people in prison/serving custodial sentences will not receive full maintenance but may be sent up to £10 per week towards the cost of phone calls and toiletries. This is available for 16 to 21 year old Care Leavers.

Maintenance is not normally paid to former relevant young people other than on a transitional basis just after 18, but will be paid during vacations for young people on an agreed Higher Education course.

Young people in staying put, supported lodgings or other board and lodging arrangements are responsible for paying the contribution to the provider from their maintenance. This is currently £13.

Regular payments can be made into a young person’s bank account. This will depend on an assessment by social worker/personal adviser, as in some circumstances payments may need to be made directly to the young person to help them manage through the week.

‘Extras’

Young persons who are independent or semi-independent i.e. not in Foster or Residential care at 16-17 years old, and all former relevant young people up to their 21st birthday will receive the following extras:

  • Clothing allowance (per annum) £300 between 16-17, £200 between 18-19, £150 between 19-21, £100 between 20-21. This is payable when a young person is in need of new clothes and should not be paid out in one lump sum;
  • The cost of obtaining a passport (new or renewal) and provisional driving licence (new - first time). If the driving licence is lost or the young person disqualified from driving, we will not pay for its replacement;
  • Birthday and Christmas/other festival gift up to £50 each gift up to and including 21st birthday;
  • Help with glasses and dental treatment - these are normally free for young people, but where there are necessary additional costs, help may be provided;
  • Cost of maintaining contact with families - additional help may be provided towards the cost of maintaining contact with families if these costs are exceptional and on the basis of assessed need and evidenced in Pathway Plans and Reviews.


5. Housing

Housing Costs

Rent and deposits if necessary will be paid for eligible or relevant young people to live in agreed supported or independent living.

Over 18 young people will be responsible for their own housing costs, but the deposit and first month’s rent may be provided (this is usually for private rented). Young people will normally be eligible for housing benefit. Support should be provided to make claims in good time and transitional help with rent may be provided on the basis that a claim has been made, in which case the worker must chase the claim and reimbursement of the transitional support. Housing Benefit will normally back pay once the necessary evidence is provided. This sum will return to Children’s Services. 

For any young person aged 16 to 21 moving into independent accommodation, an additional ‘one off’ sum of £150, may be provided towards the cost of utility bills for the first year of tenancy. Social / Support Worker to determine the best way of paying this with the young person over the year. Young person will not be given the £150 all at once. 

Housing Costs for Higher Education and Further Education

Further Education (FE) is usually taught in the sixth-form colleges, part of a school or in independent FE colleges, as well as in other work-based places. Further Education is usually up to Level 3, which is equivalent to an Advanced Apprenticeship or A Levels and can help develop a person’s skills to progress on to Higher Education.

Higher Education (HE) is usually based in a University and includes programmes of advanced study, such as Higher National Diploma, Foundation Degree and Honours Degree level leading to Masters and Doctorates.

Young people over 18 in FE will normally be eligible for housing benefit but if they are not, help may be provided with housing costs if the FE course is agreed as part of the pathway plan and as long as the young person sustains attendance. Second Chance learning has enabled Care leavers 19+ to 21 to have continued financial support through the benefits agency in terms of Income Support.  Housing Benefits is means tested and if a young person is receiving Income Support they will be able to access Housing Benefit as well. For a Care leaver in full-time residential FE, we need to ensure they have suitable accommodation if they need it during a vacation.

The local authority must be satisfied that the young person needs accommodation because their term-time accommodation is not available. This assistance may take the form of either providing the young person with suitable accommodation, or by paying them enough to secure suitable accommodation themselves.

For young people 18-21 in Higher Education, vacation accommodation costs will be paid, and this will continue for any agreed HE course that continues beyond 21.

We will agree to be a guarantor for young people in higher education if needed on the conditions:

  1. Your landlord contacts us directly in writing/email with the details of the tenancy to say they require a guarantor;
  2. You agree we can keep in contact with the landlord as necessary;
  3. The landlord agrees to contact us directly if there any difficulties so any issues can be resolved speedily;
  4. Any other young people who you share with also have guarantors, and that there will be shared responsibility for any costs incurred in any communal areas pro rota;
  5. Guarantor will be only for a year in the first instance and whilst you are in Higher Education. Any future agreement to be a guarantor after this year, will depend on how you have managed this tenancy;
  6. You are responsible for paying rent and if you don't and we incur costs, we may recover the costs from other payments we make to you. The landlord will be sent the above information.

Setting up Home Allowance - Leaving Care Grant

An allowance of £1,500 is available for young people when moving into independent living. The purpose of the allowance is to buy essential items for setting up home. The grant is a one off allowance, if the young people move home they will not receive another grant. Additionally there is a further £500 for them in reserve to help with unexpected costs or special items.

If a young person has been in Higher Education over 21 and have not used the allowance, they can access it up to the age of 25 if they are moving into independence and needing essential items to set up home.

Council Tax Payment

For 2013/2014 Bath and North East Somerset Council will pay some of the Council Tax bill for a young person on benefits:

  1. Care leaver shows their worker their council tax bill;
  2. We will ask Finance to write a cheque for the amount on the bill to a maximum of £150. 

    The cheque is to be made payable to Bath and North East Somerset Council with the Council Tax Number written on the back of the cheque (this number is shown on the front of the bill);
  1. Care leaver takes cheque to the council tax (OSS) to pay it.

The idea is that the YP understands they have a bill to pay, are active in getting it paid and pay the difference if the £150 doesn’t cover the whole cost. 

This will be a trial for a year and will review.


6. Education

Support with Education, Training & Starting Work

Young people in FE up to 19 will normally be eligible for a bursary which is intended to cover the costs of attending college including travel, equipment etc. Where the cost of travel is more than half of the bursary, additional help may be given towards travel costs. Young people over 19 who continue in an agreed FE course when the bursary stops, will be provided with a bursary at the same level (currently £1200) from Children’s Services.

If a young person is on an FE course agreed as part of their pathway plan and is not eligible for a bursary, financial help towards the costs of attending college may be provided on the basis of assessed need.

Similarly young people over 18 in FE will normally be eligible for benefits to help with living and housing costs, but if for any reason they are not, it may be agreed as part of their pathway plan to provide help with rent and maintenance.

Young people aged 16-20 starting work may be provided with additional financial help towards the costs of starting work including attendance at interviews, help towards the cost of any essential clothing or equipment and transitional help with living costs until the first wages or salary are received.

Transitional help on the basis of assessed needs may be provided to any young person aged 16-20 who is between jobs, courses, benefit claims etc. as long as all necessary claims are made while awaiting benefits or wages/salary.

All support with education, training or starting work/changing jobs is dependent on attendance and active participation. This will be monitored and financial support will stop if full participation in the course or job is not sustained.

Higher Education

A bursary of £2000 per year will be paid for any young person aged 18-20 on an HE course agreed as part of their pathway plan. This may be paid termly, monthly or weekly/fortnightly by agreement with the young person about the best way to support their budgeting. This will continue over 21 for any agreed HE course started before then.

Young people should be given support to claim any bursaries, grants or student loans that may be available depending on the course and the institution.

Young people in HE will also be paid rent and maintenance for their vacations plus travel costs to HE at the beginning and end of term. Vacation dates will be the HE term dates.

Young People returning to FE or HE between 21 and 25

Financial support for young people who request our help and advice, between their 21st and 25th birthday is discretionary. We have a duty to carry out a needs assessment and pathway plan.

We will provide support to young people who want to return to FE and HE to obtain any bursaries, grants or loans that may be available to provide them with financial assistance.

Financial support for returning to FE or HE may be considered:

  • If it is agreed that the proposed FE or HE course is one that the young person has a reasonable prospect of completing successfully and is likely to significantly improve their employability;
  • If the young person has had no previous support from us with FE or HE;
  • If other sources of bursaries, grants and loans have been thoroughly explored and it has not proved possible to obtain a sufficient level of support to enable the young person to undertake the course;
  • Young person’s existing income will be taken into account.

If discretionary support is agreed, the level will be based on assessed need on a case by case basis.

For young people entering Higher Education aged between 21 to 25 returners, where there is an agreed pathway plan, they will be able to access the B&NES financial package for HE i.e. £2000 a year bursary, rent and maintenance in the vacation and travel to and from university at the beginning and end of term. This support, once agreed, will be for duration of the course and could go beyond 25. The young person will need to agree that their worker maintains contact with them and their university to check they are supported and attending.

Young People who Qualify Under s24

In most cases no financial support will be provided under s24. However on the basis of assessed need in exceptional cases, discretionary financial support may be provided.

This might be considered for example in cases where a young person has been looked after under s20 and then admitted to hospital or sentenced to custody age 16 or 17 before they have reached the 13 weeks necessary to become eligible but where the plan otherwise was for them to remain in care long enough to be eligible. This example is intended simply as illustrative of the sort of circumstances when it may be considered right to provide some financial support under s24.

Emergency and Exceptional Payments

Additional help may be provided to young people in emergency on the basis of assessed need. This may take the form of food vouchers, food bank vouchers or supervised spending for energy costs: help in emergencies will not usually be provided as cash. Young people who require emergency payments, especially if this is more than once, should be given additional support to help them with budgeting to avoid future emergencies.

We will not pay towards fines or make loans to young people. Help may be given with budgeting including more frequent smaller payments, deduction at source and direct payments such as contributions to carers, utility bills etc.

Role of Birth Family, Inheritance and Compensation

If young people go home or to live with other members of their extended family, while in principle the young person remains eligible for financial support as set out in this policy and guidance, their family may be able and willing to play a role in financially supporting them. Young people may welcome this.

This should be assessed, and any additional financial support from us provided on the basis of assessed need. This should be regularly and sensitively reviewed with a view to promoting a positive relationship between the young person and their family while ensuring fairness between young people leaving our care.

Any inheritance available to a young person should also be taken into account depending on the circumstances and any restrictions on access to it.

Compensation payments to young people on the other hand should not be taken into account in assessing the need for financial support, nor should any money provided through the ‘savings’ scheme or any Child Trust Fund or Junior ISA.

‘Savings’ Scheme

Bath and North East Somerset has a savings scheme for young people to access after they are 18. Their worker will help them plan how to use the money. We have agreed in the past to pay for driving lessons, (this can be agreed at 17), gap year travel and equipment for a course, career/hobby or leisure interest. Any requests need to be agreed by the Team Manager. If a young person has any savings left when our service to them is ending this will be given to them. Some Care leavers will be in an old savings scheme so may access a different amount. The young person can ask their worker for the amount they may be due.

End