Advice for vulnerable groups

Care leavers

Your county council and personal adviser

The county council social services team that last looked after you as a child remains responsible for you, even if you move to a different area, until your 21st birthday, or your 25th birthday if you are still in education or training. If you are from Staffordshire, find out more on Staffordshire County Council's website. If you live/lived elsewhere, please visit your home county council's website. 

You should be provided with a pathway plan by your county council social services team before you leave care. This will set out what support you need to live independently. Find out more about pathway plans, leaving foster or local authority care.

You should also be assigned a personal adviser whose job it is to make sure that you claim everything you are entitled to and get the support you need. They can help you with application forms for housing, benefits, and education and/or training courses. They should also help you with learning life skills, like how to budget.

Your personal adviser should stay in contact with you and provide ongoing support until your 21st birthday, or your 25th birthday, if you are still studying full time. Speak to your county council social services team to find out more.

If you were not assigned a personal adviser when you left care, you may still be able to access the support of a personal adviser. Speak to your county council social services team to find out more.

Help for 16 and 17 year old care leavers

Housing support

If you have already left care, and you spent a total of at least 13 weeks in care since the age of 14, and part of that time in care was while you were 16 or 17, you will be able to get help finding somewhere to live from your county counciil's social services. It doesn't matter if those 13 weeks were not all at the same time. You have different rights if you have spent less than a total of 13 weeks in care, or you want to leave care before your 16th birthday.

If you are threatened with homelessness and are working with a social worker, make them aware and they will be able to provide relevant advice and assistance.

Any accommodation should be suitable for you. You may get a place in a hostel or a self-contained flat. In some cases, you could be offered a place in a children's home or foster care. Ask your personal adviser to help you if you have problems in your accommodation.

  • If you are a care leaver moving to a new home, you can get a setting up home allowance (also known as a leaving care grant) to help you buy essential things when moving into your own home. Speak to your personal adviser about this.

Ongoing financial support

Most 16 or 17 year old care leavers are not eligible for benefits.

The Children’s Services department of Staffordshire County Council will help you by:

  • providing housing or helping you find and keep your own place
  • supporting you financially by paying you enough for your rent, food, bills, travel costs
  • providing support for education and training, clothing, pocket money and childcare if you need it
  • giving you any other support you need, such as help with continuing your education, finding work or dealing with personal problems

You can usually only claim benefits if you are a 16 or 17 year old care leaver and you are also a single parent, or you are unable to work because of a disability or illness. Find out more about benefit rules at www.turn2us.org.uk 

Help for young adult (over 18s) care leavers

Housing support for 18 - 21 year olds

If you are aged 18 to 21 and facing homelessness, you can get help from both Staffordshire County Council’s Children’s Service and our Housing Options Team.

You are automatically classed as being in ‘priority need’ until your 21st birthday, which means that the Housing Options Team will support you to find a place to live. If you are aged 18 to 21 and spent at least one night in care when you were 16 or 17, you are automatically classed as being in priority need until your 21st birthday.

If you are under 21 and normally live in a different area to that of the county council that owes you leaving care duties, and have done for at least two years, including some time before you turned 16, you will also have a local connection in that area.

Any accommodation should be suitable for you. You may get a place in a hostel or a self-contained flat. Ask your personal adviser to help you if you have problems in your accommodation. If you are in full-time further or higher education, your county council social services must find you somewhere to live during holiday periods if you need it.

If you are a care leaver moving to a new home, you can get a setting up home allowance (also known as a leaving care grant) to help you buy essential things when moving into your own home. Speak to your personal adviser about this.

  • You may be entitled to a budgeting loan to help pay for any rent in advance, moving expenses or household items. Most people who have been on income support or jobseekers allowance for at least 26 weeks can apply. These loans are paid back through deductions from your benefits - find out more.
  • The Care Leavers Foundation can offer modest but vital grants to care leavers aged 18-29 who are in crisis, or who want to take control of their lives and develop new skills. Call 01678 540598 or visit www.thecareleaversfoundation.org

Housing support for young people over 21 years 

Some older care leavers can get accommodation from our  Housing Options Team if they are in priority need.

For example, this may be the case if you:

  • are vulnerable as a result of having been in care
  • haven't had a stable home since you left care
  • have slept on the streets in the past If you are in full-time further or higher education and you have nowhere to stay outside term time,

Any accommodation should be suitable for you. You may get a place in a hostel or a self-contained flat. Ask your personal adviser to help you if you have problems in your accommodation.

  • If you are a care leaver moving to a new home, you can get a setting up home allowance (also known as a leaving care grant) to help you buy essential things when moving into your own home. Speak to your personal adviser about this.
  • You may be entitled to a budgeting loan to help pay for any rent in advance, moving expenses or household items. Most people who have been on income support or jobseekers allowance for at least 26 weeks can apply. These loans are paid back through deductions from your benefits - find out more.
  • The Care Leavers Foundation can offer modest but vital grants to care leavers aged 18-29 who are in crisis, or who want to take control of their lives and develop new skills. Call 01678 540598 or visit www.thecareleaversfoundation.org

Other support for care leavers aged 18 to 24

As a care leaver you should continue to receive help and advice from the county council social services team who looked after you as a child, until your 21st birthday, or 25th if you are still in education or training.

Your personal advisor should still keep in touch and should go over your pathway plan with you to see how you are getting on (there is more information about personal advisers further down).

Ask your social services team to help you if you need support to continue with your education or find training or employment. They may be able to help with the cost of living near your college, training centre or workplace.

Lichfield District Council works closely with Staffordshire Leaving Care Team to help ensure care leavers' first tenancies are successful and that they can achieve independent living with the support of our Tenancy Sustainment Officer.

Ongoing financial support

When you turn 18 you are entitled to claim Universal Credit - find out more about Universal Credit.

Usually if you are aged under 35 and you rent from a private landlord, the maximum Universal Credit you can get is the same rate you would get for renting a single room in a shared house, however if you've been in care, this doesn't apply until you turn 22. You should be entitled to Universal Credit even if you have just spent one night in care. There is a maximum amount that you can be paid, which depends on the area you live in - see the local rates.

Useful organisations

Centrepoint is the UK's leading charity for homeless young people and can help 16-25 year olds into a safe place to live, provide a health assessment and plan support for their individual mental and physical health needs. Tel: 0808 800 0661 or visit centrepoint.org.uk/youth-homelessness

St Basils St Basils helps young people aged 16-25, across the West Midlands region, who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Tel: 0300 303 0099 or visit www.stbasils.org.uk

Staffordshire County Council (up to 18 years) – Families First and First Response. Email firstr@staffordshire.gov.uk or call 0800 1313 126. Out of office hours, call the emergency line on 0345 604 2886

NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Services) provide advocacy for the following groups of children and young people. The service is available for care leavers up to the age of 25. Email help@nyas.net, call 0800 808 1001 or visiit www.nyas.net

Coram Voice’s provide advocacy services to young people and children. Visit www.coramvoice.org.uk

Shelter's provide a free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444 or visit www.shelter.org.uk

The government's website also offers a range of support if you are homeless or facing homelessness - find out more