Introduction

  • Leaving care doesn’t mean you lose care and support. That can last until you are 25 years old.
  • The rights you have as a care leaver have built up over many years.
  • Leaving care rights help make sure you get the best start to your adult life.
  • Young people in the past didn’t always get the support they should have done.
  • Your rights mean others have duties towards you.
  • The law says every local council must publish a list of all of the advice, support and guidance available to care leavers in its area. This is called a ‘local offer for care leavers’ but we see it as your list of rights. Your council must consult “relevant persons” before publishing its local offer. This obviously includes children and young people in care and care leavers.
If you need help with your leaving care rights, please go to the People and places part of our site.
Corporate parenting principles

From 1st April 2018, the law says local councils must think about the following whenever they are making decisions or doing things which affect children and young people in care and care leavers:

  • The need to act in the best interests, and promote the physical and mental health and well-being, of children and young people.
  • The need to encourage children and young people to express their views, wishes and feelings.
  • The need to take into account the views, wishes and feelings of children and young people.
  • The need to help children and young people benefit from services.
  • The need to have high aspirations and to want the best for children and young people.
  • The need for children and young people to be safe, and to have stability in their home lives, relationships and education or work.
  • The need to prepare children and young people for adulthood and independent living.

The law splits care leavers into four different groups. The first group hasn’t left care at all – though young people this age have rights relating to leaving care. The names given to the four different groups of young people are tricky to remember. But we want you to have the facts, so here goes:

  1. Aged 16 or 17 and still in care (you may be what’s called an eligible child).
  2. Aged 16 or 17 and left care (you may be what’s called a relevant child).
  3. Aged 18 to 25 years and left care (you may be what’s called a former relevant child).
  4. Aged 16 to 21 years (you may be what’s called a qualifying care leaver).

Up to what age should young people leaving care get advice and support?

Aged 16 or 17 and still in care: your rights

If you are an eligible child

The first thing to remember is that all of the things that matter and are important to other 16 and 17 year-olds still apply to you – feeling loved and settled, being listened to, doing well in your education, having great friends and beginning to think about your future life as an adult.

  • You have the right to stay in your children’s home or other place (for example, residential school) until you are 18.
  • You may have heard that young people can stay in foster care until they are 21. This is called ‘Staying put’. It was introduced in recognition that many young adults continue to live with their families until their mid 20s, or even older! We think young people living in children’s homes should have the same right. That’s not happened yet, though some local councils are testing ways of giving similar support to young people living in children’s homes. This is called ‘Staying close’. You could ask your social worker or independent reviewing officer whether ‘Staying close’ is happening where you live.

Here are another 6 important things about your rights:

Aged 16 or 17 and no longer in care: your rights

If you are a relevant child, you have the right to lots of great help and support:

You are now an adult but were in care from the age of 14

If you are an adult but used to be an eligible child or a relevant child, you have a lot of rights to help and support – up until the age of 25.

Qualifying care leavers

This is the fourth group of care leavers whom councils have duties towards.

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