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4.9.2 Leaving Care and Transition


This procedure applies to young people who are, or have been, in care and are entitled to support after their 16th birthday.

There are three categories of those leaving care all of whom are entitled to support after their 16th birthday. The categories are Eligible, Relevant, and Former Relevant.

The Procedure also refers to Qualifying Young People who may receive support, advice and assistance after their 16th birthday.

This procedure is supported by Cambridgeshire‘s Guide to Leaving Care, a copy of which must be provided to all young people as part of the Pathway Planning process.


Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers (revised January 2015)

Care Leavers Charter


Staying Put Procedure


In May 2018 this chapter was substantially revised and should be re-read in full.

This chapter is currently under review.


1. Leaving Care Assessment of Need
2. Pathway Planning and Review
3. Suitability of Accommodation
4. Personal Advisers
5. Education, Training and Employment
6. Resuming Education or Training After 21
7. Qualifying Young People
8. Living in a Different Local Authority Area
9. Staying Put
10. Access to Records
  Appendix 1: Needs Assessment and Content of Pathway Plans for Relevant and Former Relevant Children



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 are still in care. (This total does not include a series of pre-planned short-term placements of up to four weeks where the child has returned to the parent). There is a duty to support these young people up to the age of 18, wherever they are living.


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 in care (ie, Looked After for a period, or periods, totalling at least 13 weeks starting after their 14th birthday and up to their 16th birthday). However if, after leaving care, a young person returns home for a period of 6 months or more to be cared for by a parent and the return home has been formally agreed as successful, he or she will no longer be a "Relevant Young Person".

A young person is also "Relevant" if, having been in care for three months or more, he or she is then detained after their 16th birthday either in a 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, wherever they are living.


Former Relevant Young People

They are aged 18 to 21 (or up to 24 if in full-time further or higher education), and have left care having been previously either "Eligible" or "Relevant" on their 18th birthday. There is a duty to consider the need to support these young people wherever they are living.

The duties of Local Authorities are extended in relation to Former Relevant Young People who inform the Local Authority of their wish to take up a programme of full time further or higher education after the age of 21 and under the age of 25. In relation to these young people, the Local authority has a duty to:

  • Appoint a Personal Adviser;
  • Carry out an assessment of the needs to determine what assistance (if any) it would be appropriate to provide;
  • Prepare a Pathway Plan;
  • Give assistance to the extent that the young person's educational or training needs require it. The kinds of assistance are: contributing to expenses incurred by the young person in living near the place where s/he is, or will be, receiving education or training; or making a grant to enable the young person to meet expenses connected with his education and training;
  • For those in full-time education, aged 16-19 access to the bursary fund which came into place in 2011 see Section 5.3, The 16-19 Bursary Fund and Higher Education Bursary.

The duties of the Local Authority subsist for as long as the young person pursues the programme of education or training in accordance with the Pathway Plan, and the Local Authority may disregard any interruption in the education/training if it is satisfied that the young person will resume it as soon as is reasonably practicable.

In each case where a care leaver requests this support, the Local Authority will need to assess the appropriateness of the course and how it will help the young person to achieve his or her 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.


Qualifying Young People

They are aged16 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;
  • Under 21 and, any time after 16 but before 18, were Looked After;
  • Accommodated for a consecutive period of at least 3 months (including even before the child was 16) by a Health Authority, CCG or Local Authority (providing education), in:
    • A care home;
    • Independent hospital;
    • National Health Service trust or Foundation Trust.
  • Privately Fostered

but do not qualify as Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant.

Where a local authority Looked After 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.

If in full-time further or higher education, this may include contributing financial assistance to living expenses relating to their education or training, or making a grant towards meeting their education/training expenses - including in relation to securing vacation accommodation up to the age of 24. (See Section 7, Qualifying Young People).

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 will occupy a key role in providing support to the young person after he or she leaves care.

The Personal Adviser role is seen as a ‘function’ rather than a specific person and the local authority should consider delegating it wholly or partially to the best person able to carry out the role out. For some young people the role will initially be undertaken by their social worker.

The Personal Adviser will be key to 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 two months.

See Section 4, Personal Adviser.


Pathway Plan

The Pathway Plan sets out the ambitions and route to the future for young people leaving care and will state how their needs will be met in their path to independence. The plan will continue to be implemented and reviewed after they leave care at least until they are 21; and up to 24 if in education.

1. Leaving Care Assessment of Need

All Young People - Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant - must have a multi-agency assessment of their needs as to the advice, assistance and support they will need to support their transition to adulthood.

The young person's social worker will be responsible for coordinating the Needs Assessment. This should be completed no more than 3 months after the young person's 16th birthday or after they become Eligible or Relevant if this is later. The timetable must take account of any forthcoming exams and avoid disrupting the young person's preparation for them.

The young person's Care Plan together with information from their most recent Assessment will form the basis of the Needs-led Assessment. The young person should be supported to engage fully with the assessment and must be invited to any meetings.

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

  • The young person;
  • The parents (where appropriate to the legal status and their level of involvement);
  • The current carer;
  • The school/college, education service and the Virtual School;
  • Any Independent Visitor or advocate;
  • Any person providing health care or treatment for the young person;
  • The Personal Adviser;
  • Any other relevant person including, in the case of a young person with special needs, a representative from Adult Services.

Any decision not to include significant people must be recorded in the young person's file. Where the young person refuses to engage in the assessment process, this should be recorded, together with any actions taken to ascertain the young person's views.

Young people with particular language or communication needs should be provided throughout the process with appropriate interpretation, translation or advocacy support.

All parties, including the social worker's manager, should sign the completed Needs-led Assessment. The young person should be provided with a copy in an accessible format within 2 weeks. The social worker must ensure that the outcome of the assessment is explained to, and understood by, the young person.

The assessment will inform the development of a Pathway Plan which will effectively supersede the young person's Care Plan.

Whilst the young person continues to be Looked After, the Placement Information Record should describe what arrangements have been made within the placement to support the Pathway Plan.

When carrying out an assessment of needs, the local authority must determine whether it would be appropriate to facilitate a ‘Staying Put’ arrangement. For situations where this is considered appropriate and the young person and the foster carer want this, see the Staying Put Procedure.

For further information see Appendix 1: Needs Assessment and Content of Pathway Plans for Relevant and Former Relevant Children.

2. Pathway Planning and Review

All young people must 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 be based on, and effectively replace, the young person's Care Plan and will be informed by their Personal Education Plan and any careers advice.

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 from being 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.

The involvement of an advocate should be considered throughout the process for all young people and those with particular language or communication needs should also be provided with appropriate interpretation and translation support.

The Pathway Plan must clearly identify the roles of each person who has a part to play in supporting the care leaver and include:

  • Education, training and employment. The Personal Education Plan (PEP) must be maintained while the young person continues to receive full or part-time education. Information within the PEP will feed directly into the Pathway Plan which should include an explicit focus on career planning, taking into account the young person’s aspirations, skills and educational potential;
  • The plan for the young person's continuing education or training when they cease to be looked after. Where they are above statutory school age, the Pathway Plan might incorporate goals and actions previously included in the PEP;
  • How those supporting the young person will assist them in obtaining employment or other purposeful activity or occupation, taking into account their aspirations, skills and educational potential;
  • The financial support to be provided to enable the young person to meet accommodation and maintenance costs;
  • The nature and level of contact and personal support to be provided to the young person, and by who;
  • Details of the accommodation the young person is to occupy (including an assessment of its suitability in the light of the young person's needs);
  • Details of arrangements to meet the young person's needs in relation to his or her identity, with particular regard to their religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background;
  • The young person’s health and development, building on the information included in their Health Care Plan;
  • Contact with the young person’s parents, wider family (including siblings) and friends and the capacity of this network to encourage them and enable them to make a positive transition to adulthood;
  • The young person’s financial capabilities and money management capacity, along with strategies to develop their skills in this area.

The Pathway Plan must identify contingency arrangements in case the planned arrangements are not realised.

Should the decision for a young person to move into semi-independent accommodation, leave care or decline leaving care services turns out to be premature, the local authority will (amongst other options), consider the possibility of a further period of accommodation (s20, Children Act 1989) before the age of eighteen.

Young people expected to require adult services support will normally be managed by the SEND 0-25 Team or the Young Adults Team (Adult Services). Planning for adulthood is undertaken using the Adult Support Plan which meets all the requirements of the Pathway Plan.

On completion and approval of the Pathway Plan, all parties involved including the young person should sign it.

In addition, the Team Manager should approve and sign the Plan and the Unit/Team Coordinator made aware of any ongoing payments arrangements that are to be set up.

The young person will be provided with a copy of their Pathway Plan and the social worker must ensure that the contents are explained and understood.

The young person should have a say about with whom the Pathway Plan will be shared when. If information is to be shared with a person or agency that the young person has not consented to, they must be informed of this, with reasons, and be given the opportunity to challenge this decision and to be present when the information is shared.

Those who have a role in implementing the plan should have a copy of the Pathway Plan, at least of the part relating to their contribution. Everyone involved should normally have contact details for everyone else.

Reviewing the Pathway Plan

The Pathway Plan must be reviewed and updated at least every 6 months.

Reviews should take place more often if requested by the young person or the Personal Adviser or where there has been a significant change in the young person's circumstances. It is good practice for a review to be held within 28 days of any change in the young person’s accommodation.

The purpose of the review is to check that the goals and milestones are still appropriate and that they are being met. All levels of support should be reviewed to ensure that they are adequate and being delivered.

For an Eligible Young Person, the date of the first review of the Pathway Plan will be set to coincide with their next Looked After Review after the Pathway Plan has been completed.

For a Relevant Young Person, the date for the first review should, where possible, be set at the last Looked After Review before they cease to be looked after, and in any case within six months of them becoming a relevant young person.

For a Former Relevant Young Person, the date for the first review will take place within six months of their 18th birthday.

Whilst the young person is Eligible their Independent Reviewing Officer will chair reviews or support them to chair all or part of the meeting.

Otherwise, the Team Manager will chair the Pathway Plan reviews or support the young person to chair.

The review immediately prior to the young person's 18th birthday will agree how future reviews will be conducted, including whether they will involve face to face meetings, and this will be recorded by the Chairperson. In all cases, even when no formal review meetings are held, the Team Manager will retain a monitoring role checking the progress of the Pathway Plan at six monthly intervals.

Other participants at reviews should include the young person, Personal Adviser, the social worker (if the case is still allocated) and any other significant person.

Review meetings would normally be held at a venue agreed with the young person and, if necessary their travelling expenses would normally be met by the local authority.

If the Relevant Young Person moves to 'unregulated' accommodation (i.e. accommodation that is not regulated/inspected by OFSTED), the Local Authority must:

  • Arrange a review 28 days (or as soon as practicable thereafter) from the time the accommodation is provided; and
  • Determine at what intervals (not exceeding six months) subsequent reviews will be carried out.

Where a Relevant or Former Relevant Young Person enters custody, pathway planning must continue. The young person must be visited on a regular basis and it is good practice for the first visit to take place within ten working days. The role must not be fulfilled by a YOT worker. The Local Authority must liaise with the YOT or Probation Providers to support the young person emotionally, practically and financially while in custody. A review of the Pathway Plan should be carried out at least a month before the young person's release to give sufficient time to plan for his or her resettlement, including identifying suitable accommodation where the young person's placement had to be given up or has been lost and identifying who will collect the young person and the sources of support after his or her release.

In the event of a Relevant or Former Relevant Young Person breaking off contact and/or not engaging with the agreed support and advice being offered, persistent and creative attempts should be made to re-establish, and then maintain, contact. Reviews of the Pathway Plan must still take place, but may be undertaken by telephone, e-mail or letter, if agreed in advance with the Team Manager. In these circumstances the Personal Adviser will attempt to negotiate a revised plan that is acceptable to all. Where contact is lost, the focus of the Pathway Plan Review will be on how to re-establish contact.

A route back for the young person to seeking support in the future should be kept open and communicated, for example by sending birthday cards and appropriate festive greetings and ensuring that they receive any circulated information about services or events in which they may have an interest.

Where a Pathway Plan is amended as a result of a review, the social worker/ Personal Adviser will update the Plan. Any necessary approval to the amended financial arrangements will be sought from the Team Manager. Once the changes are approved, the Personal Adviser will send a copy of the amended Plan to the young person and the Team Manager.

3. Suitability of Accommodation

It is important that the suitability and safety of any accommodation is assessed before placement. The suitability (or otherwise) of accommodation must be recorded on ICS. Any concerns must immediately be referred to the Access to Resources Team (ART).

Statutory Guidance outlines the following things that must be considered when assessing the suitability of accommodation:

  1. In respect of the accommodation:
    • The facilities and services provided;
    • The state of repair;
    • The safety;
    • The location;
    • The support;
    • The tenancy status; and
    • The financial commitments involved for the relevant young person and their affordability.
  2. In respect of the Relevant young person, his or her:
    • Views about the accommodation;
    • Understanding of their rights and responsibilities in relation to the accommodation; and
    • Understanding of funding arrangements.

Note: The use of Bed and Breakfast is not considered ‘suitable accommodation’ other than in exceptional circumstances. Where this appears to be the only option, the social worker must obtain the agreement of the Head of Service, outlining the steps taken and why alternatives are not currently available.

If agreement is obtained:

  • The placement should normally be limited to two working days;
  • The social worker must ensure there is appropriate support and daily contact with the young person.
It is entirely inappropriate for a young person to remain in custody simply due to the absence of suitable accommodation for them to be released to.

4. Personal Advisers

The Personal Adviser acts as the young person's principal source of contact in any matter relating to the Pathway Plan and is accountable for the effective implementation of the Plan.

The Personal Adviser role is seen as a ‘function’ rather than a specific person and the local authority can delegate it wholly or partially to the best person able to carry out the role out. For some young people the role will initially be undertaken by their social worker.

The Personal Adviser will ensure the co-ordination of other agencies identified in the Pathway Plan and ensure the young person has access to appropriate services, including support to develop skills in managing their finances.

The Personal Adviser should keep in touch with the young person and to remain informed of their progress. The Personal Adviser must maintain a written record on ICS of their contacts with the young person, monitoring the effectiveness of services in preparing the young person for greater independence. When a young person moves to new accommodation, the Personal Adviser must see them at that accommodation within seven days.

On each visit, the Personal Adviser must consider whether the accommodation continues to be suitable for the young person.

The Personal Adviser will take responsibility for initiating the review of the Pathway Plan, recording the outcome on ICS and updating the plan.

Wherever possible and appropriate, the Personal Adviser should remain the same person from 18 years continuing from when the young person was an Eligible or Relevant child. Any transfer of the role should be undertaken in a planned and managed way.

When allocating a Personal Adviser to an individual young person, consideration must be given to the wishes of the young person and to issues of gender, race, religion, language, disabilities and equal opportunities. The assessment of need and a judgment as to who is most appropriate to fulfil the role of Personal Adviser will influence the choice and allocation of worker.

Care leavers under the age of 25 who wish to have further support have an entitlement to resume involvement with a Personal Adviser previously responsible for their leaving care support, or someone else if that person is no longer available.

5. Education, Training and Employment

5.1 Planning for Education, Training and Careers

Care leavers must be provided with access to high quality information, advice and guidance to inform their plans in order to progress into continuing education, training or employment. How this will be met should be included in the Pathway Plan. They should be offered work experience and other opportunities to allow them to test their career aspirations and needs. Career planning tools should be used to inform Pathway Plans.

The local authority will make every effort not to disrupt a young person’s education, particularly during their Key Stage 4 and 5 years, both in terms of education and care placements unless the circumstances clearly require this.

Placement arrangements for young people considering attending university, from their 18th birthday to the point they commence higher education courses, must be addressed and agreed well in advance of their 18th birthday. Plans need to be made for the vacation breaks and accommodation/care arrangements should remain settled/stable wherever possible.

5.2 Care Leavers Continuing in Education

Where young people are continuing with an education or training course beyond their 21st birthday, the practical and financial support being provided must be set out in their Pathway Plan.

Pathway Plans must set out accommodation arrangements, including financial arrangements during term time, short vacations and the long summer vacation.

5.3 The 16-19 Bursary Fund and Higher Education Bursary

The 16-19 Bursary Fund helps 16-19 year olds continue in further education, where they might face financial barriers to participation such as the cost of transport, food or equipment. Young people in the defined group include those in care and care leavers. See the Department for Education website - The 16-19 Bursary Fund.

The Higher Education Bursary is for care leavers in higher education.

6. Resuming Education or Training After 21

Young people previously eligible for leaving care services resuming programmes of education or training after the age of 21 are entitled to continuing support from a Personal Adviser.

The definition of a programme of education or training must be interpreted broadly. For example, this might include options such as a basic skills course so that the young person has the numeracy and literacy skills needed to compete in the jobs market, a course of further education, a university place, a postgraduate qualification or participation in vocational training and apprenticeships.

Where a care leaver requests this support, the appropriateness of the education or training course should be assessed as to how it will help them to achieve their ambitions. The Pathway Plan should reflect the agreed educational outcomes for the young person and the type of support they will require. This assessment should draw on the information about the young person’s skills and capabilities which will have been set out in Pathway Plans up to age 21. The extent of practical and financial assistance provided will depend on the assessment of the young person’s needs and will reflect the type of course, whether it is full or part-time and the young person’s existing income.

All care leavers (including those who live out of Cambridgeshire) must be made aware of their entitlement to a Personal Adviser up to age 25 if they wish to return to education and training, including by the provision of information on how to get in touch in the future. It should be explained to them that they will be supported to overcome difficulties so that they can return to education or training up to age 25 if this is their wish. In particular, all young people who are not in education, employment, or training (NEET) should be encouraged to take up this offer of support.

This entitlement to resume the Pathway Planning process and a supportive relationship with a Personal Adviser starts from the time the young person informs the local authority of their intention to resume their education or training and ends with the completion of the course. This may include the need for continuing assistance where a young person undertakes a series of education/training opportunities. Young people do not need to have decided what education or training they would like to pursue. In such cases, the Personal Adviser should help the young person identify the options best suited to them.

Young people will need support and guidance to help them think about and plan their return to education or training, consider all aspects such as financial support and impact on housing or benefits. The re-instated Pathway Plan must have a specific focus on the support they will require to be able to meet the education or training goals agreed.

7. Qualifying Young People

Services for Qualifying Young People will be determined by an assessment of need carried out by the 14-25 Service.

The advice and assistance offered, which could, in exceptional circumstances, include financial assistance, will focus upon helping the young person to manage and cope in the community and to manage their transition to adulthood. This could include helping to acquire basic living skills and consideration of health needs and choices. Where necessary, links should be made with other services and assistance can be provided when the young person has contact with other agencies. Advice and assistance should also be offered in relation to employment, training and educational opportunities. Attempts should be made to ensure that they are able to access suitable accommodation and maintain social and family links.

In exceptional circumstances, a Qualifying Young Person may be given financial assistance to enable them to access education or training, this could continue up to the age of 24 (with management authorisation). The social worker should also help to identify, secure and pay for vacation accommodation, for those qualifying young people who have accessed higher education, or residential further education courses.

Approval for the provision of such financial support must be sought by the young person's social worker by making a written request to the Service Manager. The request should specify the type of financial support sought, the reason for the request and the total cost involved.

8. Living in a Different Local Authority Area

Where a young person resides in a different local authority area, the social worker/Personal Adviser must seek to ensure that the service provided is equivalent to the service they would receive if they had remained in Cambridgeshire.

Wherever possible, planning for a move to a different local authority area should investigate what services are available in the ‘host’ area and how these can be accessed. However, Cambridgeshire would remain responsible for any funding and service provision.  All care leavers should be advised in writing of how to access care leavers' services if they move to a different local authority area and need assistance.

9. Staying Put

A Staying Put arrangement is where a young person who has been living in foster care remains in their former foster home after the age of 18.

For a young person living in foster care, the first Looked After Review following their 16th birthday (and each subsequent Review) should consider whether a Staying Put arrangement might be a suitable option.

For further information see the Staying Put Procedure.

10. Access to Records

Current case records should be made available to each young person to view whenever they wish.

Over the course of their lifetime, people who have spent all or part of their childhood and adolescence in local authority care may want to access information about this period in their lives and may approach the authority for information.

For information on access to records by care leavers, see Access to Records Procedure.

Appendix 1: Needs Assessment and Content of Pathway Plans for Relevant and Former Relevant Children

Click here to view Appendix 1: Needs Assessment and Content of Pathway Plans for Relevant and Former Relevant Children