1) Everyone must be clear about your needs
From the age of 16, your council must assess your needs to decide what advice, help and support you should get now and after you have left care. This is all part of making sure you get the best help as you grow up and move into adulthood.
Your wishes and feelings must always be taken seriously when social workers and others are thinking about what you need.
2) Your Pathway Plan
A Pathway Plan will be written for you. Your social worker is responsible for doing this, in partnership with you and others who know you well.
Your Pathway Plan must state exactly what your needs are, and how these needs will be met. It must be kept up to date so it is the best plan for you. You can ask for changes to be made to your Pathway Plan at any time. Your Care Plan will be included in your Pathway Plan.
Changes can be made to your Pathway Plan during your usual care reviews, or at other times. Your independent reviewing officer will make sure these reviews happen.
Your Pathway Plan must include:
- The name of your personal adviser (see below).
- Who will support you, and how you will be supported.
- Where you will live when you are no longer in care.
- Your education and training plans once you leave care.
- How your council will help you get into employment or training.
- The support you’ll get to help you with your family relationships and friendships.
- The support you’ll get to help you live independently.
- The financial help you’ll get to cover your housing and other costs like food.
- Your health needs, and how these will be met when you are no longer in care.
- Your council’s backup plans in case parts of this Plan don’t work out for any reason.
3) Your personal adviser
You must be given a personal adviser from the age of 16. This must be a skilled and knowledgeable person who can give you advice and help about all aspects of growing up. You have the right to a personal adviser up to the age of 25.
The law does not say what kind of qualifications or background personal advisers must have. However, advice to councils from the government says personal advisers must: understand the law (including the law relating to housing); appreciate what it is like for young people in and leaving care; and know how you communicate. You should get a say over who becomes your personal adviser. Having a personal adviser does not affect your right to regular visits from your social worker.
4) Your social worker
Social workers visit children in care to check you are happy, safe and being well looked after.
The law says how often every child in care must be visited.
Your social worker must visit you:
- Within 1 week of you moving to live in a new place.
- Then at least every 6 weeks.
- Then every 6 weeks unless it has been agreed that you will live where you are until you are 18 in which case you must be visited at least once every 3 months. (If you live with the same foster family for a year or longer, and you agree to your social worker visiting less frequently, then your social worker may visit you just twice a year – though this can only happen if you agree to this).
The law says your social worker must usually speak to you in private, unless you refuse this.If your social worker finds that your welfare is not being protected, he or she should contact your independent reviewing officer and a review of your needs and care must be carried out.
5) Your independent reviewing officer
The law says independent reviewing officers must check your council is doing what it has agreed to do for you. Your independent reviewing officer must question and challenge your council if you are not getting the help you have a right to. If your council is not meeting its duties to you, your independent reviewing officer must consider contacting a separate organisation called Cafcass. Cafcass has the power to go to court to protect your rights if necessary.
This is very important:
- If you are under 18 and you are accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, and your council is talking about you leaving care but your parent or someone else with parental responsibility will not be providing you with somewhere to live, a review must be carried out before you can leave care. Your independent reviewing officer must check that the move meets your needs and is the best thing for you.
- If you are under 18 and in care, and there is talk about you moving into supported accommodation (often called semi-independent or independent living), a review must be carried out before you can move. Your independent reviewing officer must check that any move meets your needs and is the best thing for you. (Moves can be made in an emergency though, if this is necessary to protect you).
6) Your independent advocate
The law says you have the right to an independent advocate whenever you feel you need help to get your views across, including if you want to make a complaint. This right goes up to the age of 25 years for care leavers.