Preparation for Leaving Care


Regulation 5 – Engaging with the Wider System to Ensure Children's Needs are Met

The Care Planning Standard
Regulation 14

The Children's Views, Wishes and Feelings Standard

The Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010


The Local Authority Leaving Care Team is responsible for planning support for young people as they leave care.

This chapter summarises the key terms and responsibilities in relation to Care Leavers and explains the role of staff in children's homes in supporting young people during the transition to adulthood and independent living.


In May 2024, a link was added in the Further Information section to Ofsted Guidance Children’s Homes that Provide Care and Accommodation for Adults.


  1. Definitions
  2. Role of Residential Staff
  3. Contact

    Further Information

1. Definitions

1.1 Eligible Young People

They are aged 16 or 17, have been Looked After for a period or periods totalling at least 13 weeks starting after their 14th birthday and ending at least one day after their 16th birthday, and are still in care. (This total does not include a series of pre-planned short-term placements of up to 4 weeks where the child has returned to the parent). The local authority has a duty to support these young people up to the age of 18, wherever they are living.

The local authority is required to undertake a needs assessment, prepare a Pathway Plan, keep the Pathway Plan under review and appoint a Personal Adviser (see Regulations 42, 43 and 44 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010).

1.2 Relevant Young People

They are aged 16 or 17 and are no longer Looked After, having previously been in the category of Eligible Young Person when they were Looked After. However, if after leaving the looked after service, a young person returns home for a period of 6 months or more to be cared for by a parent, they will no longer be a "relevant young person".

A young person is also "relevant" if, having been looked after for 3 months or more, they are then detained after their 16th birthday either in hospital, remand centre, young offenders' institution or secure training centre. There is a duty to support relevant young people up to the age of 18.

The local authority is required to stay in touch with the young person, undertake a needs assessment (unless this was done when the young person was 'Eligible'), prepare and keep the Pathway Plan under review, appoint a Personal Adviser (unless this was done when the young person was 'Eligible') and provide accommodation and assistance to meet their needs in relation to education, training or employment (see Regulations 4 to 9 of the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010).

1.3 Former Relevant Young People

They are aged 18 or above and have left care having been previously either "Eligible", "Relevant" or both. The local authority is under a duty to consider the need to support these young people wherever they are living.

Under Regulations 4 to 9 of the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010, there are statutory requirements for the local authority to stay in touch with the young person, keep the Pathway Plan under review, continue the appointment of a Personal Adviser and provide financial assistance near where the young person is employed or seeking employment/to enable the young person to pursue education or training.

If the Former Relevant child pursues higher education in accordance with their Care Plan, there is a duty on the local authority to pay a higher education bursary.

To the extent that the Former Relevant child's welfare requires it, 'other assistance' must be provided by the local authority which may be in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash.

These duties continue until the former relevant child reaches 21 or, where the child's pathway plan sets out a programme of education or training which extends beyond their 21st birthday, they continue for so long as the child pursues that programme.

1.3.1 Former relevant children pursuing further education or training

Specific duties are placed upon the local authority in respect of Former Relevant children who inform the local authority that they are pursuing, or intend to pursue, a programme of education or training. The local authority must:

  • Carry out an assessment of the needs of the Former Relevant child with a view to determining what assistance (if any) it would be appropriate for the local authority to provide;
  • Prepare a Pathway Plan;
  • To the extent that the Former Relevant child's educational or training needs require it, provide financial assistance by:
    • Contributing to living expenses; or
    • Making a grant to meet expenses connected with the education and training.

These duties continue up to the Former Relevant child's 25th birthday.

In each case where a care leaver requests this support for education purposes, the local authority will need to assess the appropriateness of the course and how it will help the young person to achieve their ambitions. The extent of the practical and financial assistance provided will reflect the type of course, whether full - or part-time, and the young person's existing income.

Care leavers between the ages of 21 and up to 25 who, following a discussion with their Personal Adviser, wish to continue to receive support, or those who return later during this period, will have an entitlement to resume support from a Personal Adviser previously responsible for their leaving care support. In some instances, care leavers will continue to require considerable support and need a comprehensive Pathway Plan, whilst others may require more focussed support with only the relevant sections of the Plan completed. Personal Advisers should apply professional judgement when deciding what level of needs assessment is appropriate.

1.4 Qualifying Young People

They are over aged 16 and over and under the age of 21, and are:

  • Subject to a Special Guardianship Order (or were when they reached 18) and were looked after immediately before the making of that Order;
  • At any time after 16 (but whilst still a child), were (but no longer are) looked after, accommodated or fostered;
  • Privately fostered but do not qualify as Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant.

Where a local authority looked after, accommodated or fostered a young person, and they are deemed as Qualifying for advice and assistance, the local authority has a duty to take reasonable steps to contact them with a view to advising and assisting them.

They may receive support, advice and assistance (including, in exceptional circumstances, cash or accommodation) wherever they are living.

This includes financial assistance in relation to expenses incurred in living near the place where the young person is, will be, or is seeking work or where they will be receiving education or training; or where the person is in full time further or higher education, is under the age of 25 and qualifies for advice and assistance, or would have done if he was under 21, assistance in relation to securing vacation accommodation.

Any decision to cease looking after a child aged 16 or 17 who is Looked After other than by virtue of a Care Order, must be approved by the Director of Children's Services. The Director must be satisfied that:

  • The child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
  • The child's Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted;
  • The child's relatives have been consulted, where appropriate.

1.5 Personal Adviser

A Personal Adviser is the person appointed to work in relation to the Relevant child or Former Relevant child, on the young person's 16th birthday, and has a key role in preparing the young person for independence and providing support after they cease to be looked after. They will hold a pivotal role (where applicable) in the assessment, planning and review of services as set out in the Pathway Plan, and will co-ordinate with other agencies as necessary.

Where accommodation is provided to a young person by the responsible authority under section 23B or section 24B of the Children Act 1989, the Personal Adviser must visit the Relevant child or Former Relevant child at that accommodation:

  • Within 7 days of the accommodation first being provided;
  • Subsequently, before the Pathway Plan is reviewed; and
  • At subsequent intervals of not more than 2 months.

The extent to which the Personal Adviser becomes the main source of advice and support to the young person will vary according to individual circumstances.

They should be kept up-to-date with the young person's progress and wellbeing.

1.6 Leaving Care Assessment of Need

All Young People - Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant - must receive a multi-agency assessment of their needs covering the advice, assistance and support they will need when leaving care.

The young person's social worker will be responsible for coordinating the Needs Assessment.

This assessment should be completed no more than 3 months after the young person's 16th birthday or after the young person becomes Eligible or Relevant if this is later. The young person's Care Plan together with information from other recent assessments will form the basis of the Needs Assessment.

The young person's social worker will be responsible for recording the assessment information and conclusions as well as the outcome of any meetings held. The young person must be invited to any meetings held in connection with the assessment.

The Needs Assessment should take account of the views of the following:

  1. The young person;
  2. The parents;
  3. The current carer;
  4. The school/college and the education service;
  5. Any Independent Visitor;
  6. Any person providing health care or treatment for the young person;
  7. The Personal Adviser;
  8. Any other relevant person including, in the case of a young person with special needs, a representative from Adult Services.

1.7 Pathway Plan

All young people will have a Pathway Plan in place within 3 months of becoming Eligible and, wherever possible, a Pathway Plan will be in place by the young person's 16th birthday.

The Pathway Plan will include a young person's Personal Education Plan. Each young person will be central to drawing up their own Pathway Plan setting the goals and identifying how the local authority will help meet them, including any services being provided in respect of the young person's disability or needs arising from being in custody or as a result of entering the country as an unaccompanied asylum seeker. It should be written in a way that meets the needs of the young person, capturing their aspirations and key messages. Young people with particular language or communication needs should be provided throughout the process with appropriate interpretation, translation or advocacy support.

The Pathway Plan must clearly identify the roles of each person and agency with a part to play in supporting the care leaver including the home - which will have a crucial role as the immediate carers of the young person.

Moving to Independent Living: where a young person is moving into independent living, the relevant housing authority, (either where the responsible authority is or another authority where the young person is planning to move to), should be involved jointly with the young person’s social worker in order to provide advice. However, identifying the appropriate accommodation for the young person will remain the responsibility of the Children’s Social Care department.

It should not be the practice that care leavers are treated as homeless when care placements come to an end in order to place the housing authority under an obligation to secure accommodation under the Housing Act 1996 Act.

Working Together to Safeguard Children highlights the vulnerability of young people who are homeless, or who are threatened with homelessness and emphasises the duty of public authorities to prevent this.

A joint protocol should be agreed between the housing authority and Children’s Social Care to cover arrangements for achieving planned, supportive transitions to independent living; identifying homelessness risk early and acting to prevent it, and providing a quick, safe, joined up response for care leavers who do become homeless (see also below).

1.8 Corporate Parenting

Corporate Parenting Principles for care leavers were formally set out by the Children and Social Work Act 2017. The Act established that the transition for young people should include and involve not only the local authority providing Children's Social Care services, but also District Councils (where appropriate) and partner agencies. The Principles are:

  • To act in the best interests, and promote the physical and mental health and well-being, of those children and young people;
  • To encourage those children and young people to express their views, wishes and feelings;
  • To take into account the views, wishes and feelings of those children and young people;
  • To help those children and young people gain access to, and make the best use of, services provided by the local authority and its relevant partners;
  • To promote high aspirations, and seek to secure the best outcomes, for those children and young people;
  • For those children and young people to be safe, and for stability in their home lives, relationships and education or work; and
  • To prepare those children and young people for adulthood and independent living.

1.9 Local Offer

All local authorities must publish up-to-date information about the services it offers for care leavers and other services that may assist care leavers in, or preparing for, adulthood and independent living. Particularly: health and well-being; relationships; education and training; employment; accommodation; participation in society. This information should also include relevant services that can be accessed by its partner agencies.

2. Role of Residential Staff

Staff in the home must assist in the pathway planning process, and help the young person prepare for transition by developing the self help skills needed for independent living.

As the home will have a sound day to day understanding of young people's capabilities and needs, children's homes staff will be key partners to the pathway planning process. They should actively seek to make the fullest contribution, identifying and working with other partners and professionals who are part of the 'corporate parent' partnership and with other relevant persons.

It is possible, that there will be young people living in the Home who are not from the local authority in which the Home is located, i.e. they have been placed 'out of area', or in a Placement at a Distance. It will be important for these young peoples to think about, and discuss, where they wish to transition to in terms of location, that is, either to move out of the home but continue to live in the area of the home, or, to return back to their home local authority, or some other option.

The young person will be entitled to the same support wherever they live as a 'care leaver'. These discussions should be undertaken with the young person's social worker, and the Children's Home staff should work with the young person and the social worker to ensure a smooth and safe transition that supports the young person's Plan.

The decision as to where the young person will transition to will be discussed and agreed at the young person's Looked After Review.

Staff should make sure they are aware of the 'Local Offer' in whichever the area the young person is moving to and promote the take up of services and resources.

Staff must help each child to prepare for any moves from the home, whether they are returning home, moving to another placement or adult care, or to live independently. This includes supporting the child to develop emotional and mental resilience to cope without the home's support and, where the child is moving to live independently, practical skills such as cooking, housework, budgeting and personal self-care.

Practical examples of how the home can help young people prepare for the transition to adulthood include:

  • Using pocket money, leisure and clothing allowances to help children develop money management and finance skills;
  • Supporting young people to set up a 'bottom drawer' of items that can be saved and used when the young person sets up their home;
  • Food preparation and meal planning;
  • Discussing with the young person any careers advice and further education and training that has been offered and what they need to do to progress this.

Or, where required, supporting the young person where there is a disparity between their aspirations any advice they have received - perhaps helping them to consider alternatives and supporting them to explore the steps they need to take to pursue them where appropriate.

As the young person moves into independence, the transition process will be a stressful and a difficult time for them. Even with good support, the young person is likely to benefit from someone who knows them well and/or they trust. This may well be their key worker or other member of staff at the home.

The home should seek to offer the possibility of 'outreach' type support (similar to a 'Staying Close' scheme) to both directly assist the young person and to help them develop positive relationships with the new professionals who will take role in their lives. As with all plans and arrangements, these will be reviewed.

Where the young person has chosen to live away from their home area, this out-reach support may well be a key aspect of support for the young person, especially during the first period of independence.

In such circumstances, the home should be aware of and promote their local authority's Local Offer (see Section 1.9, Local Offer) and also of the relevant types of accommodation available to care leavers and the joint local protocols developed by the Children’s Social Care and Housing Authority to support care leavers.

See: Joint Housing Protocols for Care Leavers: good practice advice (DfE and MHCLG).

If a young person is concerned that the accommodation being offered to them by the local authority is not suitable, staff in the home should support them to make an appeal.

3. Contact

Young people who have left our care may want to stay in touch with key trusted adults.

Residential staff can do this in a range of ways such as welcoming young people when they come back to visit the children's home they lived in or seeing them in their new home or community. Sometimes this is undertaken on a formal basis, such as time limited outreach support, and at other times more informally.

This contact needs to be undertaken safely and so should be agreed and recorded by the line manager of the staff concerned, and, depending on the age of the young person concerned:

  • Agreed with the social worker and/or leaving care worker;
  • Set out in the young person's Placement Plan/ Pathway Plan.

Further Information

Legislation, Statutory Guidance and Government Non-Statutory Guidance

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers

The Care Leaver's Charter

DfE, Applying corporate parenting principles to looked-after children and care leavers (2017)

Extending Personal Adviser Support to All Care Leavers to Age 25: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (February 2018)

Local Offer Guidance: Guidance for Local Authorities

Joint Housing Protocols for Care Leavers: good practice advice (DfE and MHCLG)

Children's Homes That Provide Care and Accommodation for Adults (Ofsted)