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Children (Leaving Care) Act

The Leaving Care Act has two main aims:

  • To ensure that young people do not leave care until they are ready.
  • To ensure that they receive more effective support once they have left.

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This act amends the previous provisions for care leavers in The Children Act 1989.

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A Summary of The Leaving Care Act

The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 (the Leaving Care Act) came into effect on the 1 Oct 2001.

The Act amends the previous provisions for care leavers in the Children Act 1989.

The Act applies in England and Wales only.

The Act does not apply to Young People who have left Care before 1.10.2001

The act aims to ensure that a Local Authority will provide help until a Young Person reaches the age of 21 and in some cases 24.

The Leaving Care Act has two main aims:

  • To ensure that Young People do not leave care until they are ready.
  • To ensure that they receive more effective support once they have left.

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

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.
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.
Local Authorities new duties under the Leaving Care Act

Aged 16-18

  • Duty to ensure pathway plan is in place by 16th birthday
  • Duty to make assessment and meet needs
  • Duty to provide financial support
  • Duty to provide Personal Adviser
  • Duty to ensure accommodation

Aged 18-21

  • Duty to maintain contact and to provide support through Personal Adviser
  • Duty to assist with costs of education, employment and training

Aged 21 and over

  • Duty to 18-21 year olds continues if still in education or training
  • Duty to ensure vacation accommodation for higher education

The last Local Authority to look after the Young Person is the Local Authority responsible for meeting duties under the Leaving Care Act wherever the Young Person may be living in England or Wales.


Social Services must carry out an assessment of each eligible and relevant child.

The Young Person must be involved in the preparation and review of this assessment.

Pathway Plan

Social Services must prepare a pathway plan.

This plan should look at the young person's need for support and assistance as identified in the assessment and how these needs will be met until the age of 21 (or longer when the Young Person is in education or training).

Areas covered will include:

  • Accommodation
  • Practical life skills
  • Education and training
  • Employment
  • Financial support
  • Specific support needs
  • Contingency plans for support if independent living breaks down

Both the assessment and pathway plan must be recorded in writing.

Social Services must review the pathway plan:

  • if the Young Person requests it or
  • a Personal Adviser considers it necessary or
  • at intervals of not more than 6 months.
Personal Adviser

Each young person covered by the act will have a personal adviser.

The Personal Adviser:

  • Does not have to be a Social Worker.
  • Will not be a budget holder.
  • Will have close links with Connexions

The Personal Adviser will be involved in:

  • Providing advice and support
  • Drawing up the pathway plan and ensuring it addresses any changing needs
  • Keeping in touch with the young person
  • Co-ordinating services, linking in with other agencies

When a looked after Young Person who has a Connexions advisor reaches 16 a decision will be made whether the Connexions advisor will continue as Leaving Care Personal Adviser.

The young person's wishes as to who will be his/her Personal Adviser should be respected as far as possible and issues such as ethnic origin, gender and race should be borne in mind.

If a Young Person is unhappy about any aspect of this process he/she can use the complaints procedure (see next section).


The act introduces an informal resolution stage for all complaints. A fortnight is allowed for the Young Person and the Local Authority to reach a satisfactory conclusion before starting the formal complaints procedure under section 26 of the Children Act 1989.

Financial support and claiming benefits

Most 16/17 year old care leavers will not be able to claim benefits.Therefore, for as long as a Young Person is a relevant child the responsible Local Authority will be his/her primary source of income.

Financial support provided will include the cost of:

  • Accommodation
  • Food and domestic bills
  • Pocket money
  • Transport costs for education and training
  • Clothing
  • Childcare costs

The support will be co-ordinated by the Personal Adviser.

Weekly allowances will be calculated by each Local Authority according to the Young Persons individual needs, but should not be less than the amount the Young Person would receive if entitled to claim benefits.

Lone parents or those unable to work because of illness or disability can still claim Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance but not Housing Benefit, this applies whether they are still in care or have left care.

The Personal Adviser should ensure that those who leave care at 18 and are entitled to claim benefits receive their full entitlement.

If a care leaver moves to or from Scotland they will be able to claim benefits.

Keeping in touch

If a Local Authority loses touch with a care leaver it must without delay take reasonable steps to re-establish contact and continue to do so until it succeeds.

If a care leaver applies for assistance from another Local Authority funding can be transferred to that Local Authority, but the original Local Authority retains its responsibility.

If a relevant or eligible child turns up in another Local Authority area, the second Local Authority should provide short-term assistance under section 17 of the Children Act 1989.

The two Local Authorities should then agree upon how the young person should continue to be assisted.

The responsibility remains with the last Local Authority to look after the young person.

The Personal Adviser will be the link for co-ordinating support and resources.

Where a young person's relationship with his/her responsible Local Authority breaks down the responsible Local Authority can discharge its duty through another Local Authority.

Accommodation for care leavers

The leaving care act requires that 16/17 year old relevant children are provided with or maintained in suitable accommodation (unless the Local Authority is satisfied that their welfare doesn't require it).

Where possible, housing needs should be addressed before the Young Person leaves care as part of the pathway plan.

It is important that both housing and Social Services play a full role in providing support.

Accommodation must be reasonably practicable for the Young Person given his/her needs.

The Local Authority must be satisfied about the suitability of any landlord.

It is not appropriate for 16/17 year olds to be given the responsibility of sustaining their own tenancy without relevant support.

Bed and breakfast is not be appropriate except as an emergency measure.

There is no duty for Social Services to provide accommodation to a care leaver once he/she reaches 18, unless the Young Person is in full time higher or residential further education. In this case Social Services must provide accommodation during the vacations or pay the Young Person enough to secure accommodation for him/herself if the term time accommodation is not available.

This duty remains until the care leavers 24th birthday

Education training and employment

Social Services and other caring agencies will need to liase closely with schools.

Connexions will help to fulfil the liaison role between school and Social Services.

Local Authorities now have a duty to assist former relevant children with the expenses associated with education and training.

This duty runs until the Young Person has completed the programme of education and training agreed with the responsible Local Authority and set out in the pathway plan.

Councils also have a duty to provide assistance to former relevant children with the expenses associated with employment.

This provision covers contributions towards the cost of accommodation, which enables the Young Person to live near the place where he/she is employed or seeking employment.

this document contains excerpts from an article in Adviser magazine by T. Benjamin entitled 'Leaving care' (Nov-Dec 2001)

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