Local Offer for Care Leavers: Managing your Finances

We will try to help you financially, in a similar way that parents might support their own children. When you turn 18, you are no longer considered ‘looked after’. You are, therefore, expected to support yourself financially through claiming benefits, paid work or if in further education, claim grants and loans that you may be entitled to.

However, at certain times, there will be additional financial support available to you. For example, when you move or if you are in further education. We will discuss with you what your financial needs will be to help you achieve your goals. Any financial support packages will be clearly laid out in your pathway plan.

We will also be able to support you around understanding how to manage your money effectively and offering regular advice and guidance.

For 16 and 17 year olds If you are 16 or 17 you may already be living in semi-independent accommodation. Since you will not be entitled to claim benefits yet, your Social Worker or Personal Adviser will provide you with subsistence (financial help) to cover your day to day living costs. This does not apply if you are living with foster carers or in residential school or accommodation.

  • All accommodation costs are met by the local authority
  • The subsistence rate as of April 2018 is £57.90 per week (equivalent to the current rate of income support)
  • You will receive a clothing allowance of £150 twice a year to coincide with the start of the summer and winter.

If you are in a Young Offenders Institution or in prison, you will be supported with living expenses up to £5 per week. 

Turning 18 When you turn 18 you will be supported to apply for benefits as soon as possible. There is a specialist benefits adviser that your social worker can call to ensure that you claim everything you are entitled to. If you would like more detailed information, you can use GOV.UK Benefits calculators or speak to your Social Worker or Personal Adviser.

You should already have a bank account but if you don’t your Social Worker or Personal Adviser will help you to set it up. This will be important so that if you are receiving benefits or subsistence or are working, your money can go straight into this account.

For 21 to 25 year olds It is hoped that you will have confidently developed the necessary independence skills and to have secured final stage accommodation by the time you reach 21. At his point many young people will feel that they no longer need support. Unless you are undertaking a significant further education course such as a university degree, it is unlikely that there will be any ongoing financial support available. However, there may be one off financial crisis that we can help you to resolve or some young people may want to continue their relationships they have developed with their Social Worker or Personal Advisor and to gain advice and support to help you manage any difficulties that may arise. Whether you decide to end your involvement with us or not you are able to come back and ask for assistance anytime up until 25 and if we’re not working with you we will contact you on a yearly basis to check in that things are okay.

Identification Documents (ID) Once you turn 16, you will need formal documents to access things like benefits and employment. Your Social Worker or Personal Adviser will help you to obtain proof of identity such as a passport or driving license, birth certificate and national insurance card as soon as possible. We will pay for these. 

Savings When you become looked after, your Social Worker or Personal Adviser will have made arrangements so that money can be saved for you.  You will be able to access these savings when your turn 18. Any savings you have accrued will be discussed as part of the pathway planning process so when you turn 18 you will have thought about how you might wish to spend it.

Accommodation costs Whatever type of accommodation you are living in or move into at 18, you will be expected to claim benefits to help with accommodation costs. This also applies if the plan is for you to “Stay Put ” in your foster placement (see section on accommodation). You will be responsible for your rent and accommodation costs. The decision about what type of accommodation you move into will have been discussed with you earlier on in the pathway planning process, but definitely by the time you are 17 and will be laid out clearly in your pathway plan.

However, most of the accommodation available at this stage will have some level of support attached to it and the care part of the cost will be paid for by the team supporting you, if it is not covered by benefits.

Whether or not you are working, in education or on benefits you will need to pay a service charge on your accommodation of up to £10 per week from your income.

Moving costs When you move into other accommodation, whether it is a temporary one, such as a semi-independent hostel or to your final stage accommodation, your Social Worker or Personal Adviser will help you with the costs (e.g. hiring a van).

Setting up Home Grant When you move into your long-term accommodation you will receive a setting up home grant of up to £2000. Your worker will assess your needs to identify what essential furniture and services you will need and then arrange for how these items will be paid for. You might not automatically receive the full amount of the allowance, for example, if the accommodation you move into is partially furnished but your worker will discuss with you what you need.

If you are moving into semi-independent accommodation which is temporary, and you need some items to furnish it, you may be able to access small amounts from the setting up grant earlier. You are able to access up to £300 for necessary items, but this will come out of your total allowance. You will only be able to buy items once out of this allowance and requests for the same item (e.g. cutlery), cannot be covered when you move from one accommodation to another.

Council Tax When you move into your final stage accommodation you will become responsible for all the utility bills, such as electricity and gas. Prior to this, you may have been living in semi-independent accommodation and paid a small service charge towards the general cost of utilities. Managing budgets can be very challenging for young people adjusting to living independently, so to help you manage your finances and relieve some of the financial burden you may be able to apply for an exemption on your Council Tax.

From April 2018, it was agreed that care leavers who are liable to pay their own council tax directly (rather than as part of a service charge) will receive an exemption from the Council for up to a maximum period of 3 consecutive years. The exemption does not extend beyond a care leaver’s 25th birthday. Council tax exemption will start once a care leaver moves into their final stage accommodation (social housing or privately rented) rather than when they are living in hostel accommodation. 

Discretionary payments and loans There may be times when you need extra help for things that your income won’t cover. For example, when first claiming benefits there may be a period of time before your first payment arrives where you will need more help. You should first look to see how much savings you have to draw on during this time. You might also be able to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments with housing related problems.

From time to time there may be problems that arise where you are still struggling financially. In these cases, you can ask for Discretionary Leaving Care Payment or loan from your Social Worker or Personal Adviser. If a loan is agreed, you would be expected to pay this back and you must sign an agreement that sets out the repayment arrangements. Whether it is a loan or a discretionary payment the team manager will need to approve it.  We do not hold cash in any of the offices, so for emergencies if you run short and need help with food, your Social Worker or Personal Adviser may be able to give you supermarket vouchers.

Life Chances As part of Our Pledge to looked after children and care leavers, we will support you to access essential equipment you might need to pursue your education, such as a laptop. However, we know that sometimes you may also need financial support to enable you to take up activities that you enjoy. Some support may be accessed from the Life Chances Fund like joining a gym or taking lessons in something you enjoy and which supports your education, training or overall wellbeing.

Birthday and special day allowances To mark your birthday, a small allowance of £35 for gifts or contribution towards your celebrations will be given to you up until the age of 21. If you are 16-18 this allowance only applies if you are living in semi-independent accommodation. If you are living with foster carers, your carer will buy you a present instead.

We will also contribute £35 towards Christmas or Eid celebrations once a year until you are 21.