Leaving care is a big step and we want to make sure you feel supported. Just because you are leaving care, or have already left care, we haven’t stopped caring about you. Here we explain the support and guidance available to you.
The Care Leaver Local Offer is reviewed every year with the help of The Children in Care Council and The Oxfordshire Care Leavers Association
To be eligible for support, you must have been in care for a total of at least 13 weeks which began after you turned 14 and included some time after your 16th birthday.
If you are not sure whether you qualify for support, ask your Social Worker, IRO or Personal Adviser, or check your entitlement at Am I a care leaver? - Coram Voice This should explain your basic entitlement.
However, certain categories of care leaver are more complicated, and it is important to check with your Social Worker/IRO/PA to establish your individual status and entitlements.
You are a Relevant care leaver if:
- You are no longer cared for, but you have been eligible, and;
- You are 16 or 17 years old. (Some young people aged 16 or 17 who are detained in hospital or custody may also be relevant, but may not have been eligible)
You are an Eligible care leaver if you are currently in care and have been for at least 13 weeks between the ages of 14 and 18 and including at least 24 hours aged 16 or 17.
You are a Qualifying care leaver if you have been in care for less than 13 weeks, but with at least 24 hours aged 16 or 17, and parts of the 'Local Offer' can apply, depending on an assessment of need.
If you were looked after immediately prior (no time limit) to being made subject to a Special Guardianship Order, you are deemed a Qualifying care leaver.
If you are a child looked after under Section 20 receiving planned short breaks and return to your parent, and none of these periods amount to more than 4 weeks, you are a Qualifying care leaver.
Advice and support from a personal adviser (PA)
Most young people will be supported by a social worker while in care until they are 18. By the time you are 17½, you will have been introduced to your PA who will support you between the ages of 18 and 21, and up to 25 if you choose.
They will provide advice, support, and a pathway plan. You can talk to them about anything – if you’re having problems, or are worried about something, or if you just fancy a chat. If you are under 21, they will visit or contact you at least once every 8 weeks or more frequently if needed.
The pathway plan is your document and is a continuation of your care plan and sets out the support and skills you will need when you leave care and as an adult.
If you are over 16 and under 21 years, you will have a copy of your pathway plan. Your pathway plan will reflect your input and views and will include:
- where you will live or are living
- any education or training you might want to be involved in
- money (including financial support from us)
- financial management support such as opening a bank account
- applying for a National Insurance number and identification documents
- cultural or identity needs
- your health and your lifestyle
No two people are the same, therefore any other support we can offer will be personal to you and based on your needs, plans and engagement with your pathway plan.
We are also committed to ensuring our care leavers are well-prepared for the opportunities and challenges adulthood brings to us all. Your care and pathway plans will also focus on making sure you have the necessary information and understanding and skills for adult life, and that you feel confident and supported to gradually move towards successful independence.
Other than a personal advisor what does the local authority have to provide?
As a minimum, we must help with expenses associated for an agreed programme of employment, education or training, a higher education bursary of £2,000 if you go into higher education (for the period of the course), and suitable accommodation or the means to secure this, during vacations, if you are in higher education or in residential further education.
Talk to your Social Worker or PA about the range of specific support, depending on your circumstances, that we provide to those undertaking higher education or further education courses.
We also offer a Setting Up Home Allowance if needed. The total amount is dependent on the financial year you first start to use it. Before 2023/24 the total amount to claim was £2000, from 2023/34, this has increased to £3000 and is accessible until you are 25. Talk to your PA to find out more details about how you can access it.
General finance offer for care leavers 18 year upwards
Becoming an adult and living independently can be complicated, so between the age of 18 and 21, we offer some other financial support, if assessed as needed, which can include:
- leaving care personal allowance matching current universal credit (UC) levels if unable to claim benefits or work
- for former unaccompanied care leavers unable to claim benefits, we will provide financial support subject to your immigration status and Human Rights Assessment
- we will provide with you a UC equivalent payment allowance for up to five weeks whilst you await your first UC payment, avoiding the need to apply for a UC advance
- we will help you to undertake advanced claims for benefits, applications for student finance and any other grants/bursaries that you can access
- if your first payment has not arrived within five weeks, we will consider how we can support you while you wait
- All care leavers aged 18 until their 21st birthday, who are the responsibility of Oxfordshire County Council and who are living within the Oxfordshire area, will be exempt from any Council Tax liability.
- For young people living in Oxfordshire, the council tax exemption is verified via the Leaving Care team providing a letter to the relevant council tax authority to confirm your eligibility for the exemption.
- If you are solely liable in your property for council tax, you will be entitled to 100% discount after all statutory discounts, exemptions and before Council Tax Support have been applied.
- If you are jointly liable for council tax, a proportionate award will be made, i.e.: if there are two occupiers, a 50% award will be made.
- For care leavers aged 21 to 25, an application to the district or city council for discretionary reduction can be made and you can request support from the Leaving Care team to do that.
- Care leavers who are living outside of Oxfordshire will be assisted to claim any local council tax exemption or council tax support available. If there is no reduction available, Oxfordshire County Council will pay the council tax until the care leaver’s 21st birthday.
- we will ensure the provision of a suitable and appropriate home up to your 18th birthday and support you to access supported accommodation or independent ‘move-on schemes’ to secure housing as it becomes available
- before you turn 18, we will ensure you have key documents such as birth certificates, passports, bank account etc and that you can access your savings
- if you choose, we will support you to learn to drive by paying for a provisional driving licence, theory and practical tests and support towards driving lessons.
- in addition to the financial support we provide, Oxfordshire County Council has designated care leavers as a priority group in its distribution of the Household Support Fund to relieve financial pressure in the current cost of living crisis
- Oxfordshire County Council are also signatory to the National Youth Advisory Service (NYAS) My Things Matter pledge and promises to make sure you have suitable personal luggage items to help you keep your belongings safe
- Here is the Leaving Care Financial Policy (pdf format, 729Kb) for 16-24 year old care leavers living in supported accommodation or independently. Please ask your social worker or Personal Adviser if you need more informations
Oxford House Project
We are proud to have our own House Project in Oxford, providing shared accommodation and indefinite support as well as membership of an exciting and dynamic national community of care leavers.
We accept referrals for children we care for, and care leavers aged 16 and 17, as well as 15-year-olds nearing the end of their GCSE courses. Ask your Social Worker or PA for more information and look here The National House Project.
Staying put/Shared lives
If you and your foster carers are happy to continue living together, we will support you to stay with them until you are 21. Planning to confirm this arrangement should start as early as possible and be completed by the time you are 17½ years old.
There is a range of supported accommodation options available to our care leavers, whether you are living in Oxfordshire or further afield. From 16 years of age, your social worker and other people who care about you, will think about this with you to work out what will meet your needs and how to achieve that at the right time for you.
If you are already living in supported housing, we will help you to remain there for as long as you need that support, up to the age of 25 if necessary, and support you to access independent move-on accommodation.
Independent move on housing
By the time you turn 17½, we will help you to understand your housing options, and what you need to do to achieve these.
If you have additional needs and are working well to achieve your goals, you may be helped to obtain an extra priority status to move into social housing when the time is right for you.
Your personal adviser will support you to take the next steps towards independent housing. This may be shared accommodation in the private rented sector or in some cases, social housing. Your personal adviser will help you to understand the amount of money you need to earn from employment or claim from benefits to be able to pay your rent and support charges if living in supported accommodation. This is especially important in case your rent or support charges increase, due to tenancy changes or housing benefit allowance changes when you turn 25.
Education, employment and training (EET)
We want you to succeed in your education, training and employment and will support you as much as we can with each of these. We will ask you how you are doing and be ready to celebrate your achievements with you.
We can offer you career information and advice, such as help to develop your CV, advice about courses, job and interviews.
Oxfordshire County Council employs a large workforce. We cover an extensive range of different roles, professions, and occupations. We are a good employer and will help you to develop your career.
Our human resources department can organise short term work experience and one-to-one guidance about applying for jobs at the council, including our apprenticeship schemes. Your personal adviser and Virtual School staff can make this contact for you. All care leavers are guaranteed an interview for Oxfordshire County Council roles for which they apply providing they meet at least the essential criteria.
We recognise there are costs to finding a job. There are various grants available to care leavers, and we can help you to access a range of funding depending on your age and circumstances.
We will help you to access all resources available to you, including those from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and charitable organisations.
Your PA will be pleased to discuss your own circumstances with you so that we help you to achieve your goals.
Examples of what you might need financial support for to secure employment, education or training include:
- suitable interview/work/ college clothes
- a haircut for interview
- equipment for work
- equipment/ trips/ uniform for college
- contribution towards stationery for the start of an education course
- contribution towards, or purchase of, a school/ college/ work bag
- additional EET related activity e.g., tickets to end-of-year celebrations or excursions dependent on attendance
- travel support for appointments/interviews, either a bus pass or bicycle package for those in low-paid work
- full-time work ‘bridging grant’ of Universal Credit equivalent per week, for a maximum of five weeks, while waiting for the first salary payment
- support to access childcare costs through Care to Learn fund, DWP or childcare vouchers
We believe the more you do, the better off you will be in the long term therefore to maximise your income we will offer you:
- as a minimum, an EET incentive to the equivalent of the 16 – 19 bursary for learning, working and/or volunteering that does not already attract a bursary or maintenance grant. This can include financial support to top up low-paid apprenticeships. The grant will be provided if the activity is deemed full time i.e., at least 12 hours of contact time or direct work
- your PA will also support you to apply for Universal Credit which is still available for those in low-paid employment, training or apprenticeship
- we will work with the Department of Work and Pensions to ensure you are getting your full entitlement. Your PA will check your eligibility for UC when you provide the level of rent and take-home salary/wage
Studying, learning and career progression takes time, hard work and commitment. To recognise this and to give you encouragement, we also offer:
- a grant of £1000 on successful completion of a university or apprenticeship level 5-6
- a grant of £750 for successful completion of a level 3 - 4 HE/ FE/ apprenticeship
- a grant of up to £500 for level 2 FE/ apprenticeship completion for specific support to take the next step into employment e.g., tools, uniforms, travel expenses
- a graduation/course completion celebration meal
Support if you go to university
If you are considering going to university, our Virtual School can provide you with specialist career advice to help you make the best choices to achieve your goals. We will financially support you with the following:
- Local Authority bursary (£250 per payment to make a total of £2000 over the duration of your course
- A setting up home allowance, if needed. The total amount is dependent on the financial year you first start to use it. Before 2023/24 the total amount to claim was £2000, from 2023/34, this has increased to £3000. This is accessible until you are 25.
- moving to university grant of up to £300 at the start of the course
- one off £500 contribution to a computer
- funding for up to 6 return journeys each year, using public transport and booked in advance. Funding is also available to cover visiting universities during the application process, and moving costs
- additional travel grants can be applied for from care leaver charities and UCAS
- a term-time bus pass if needed and if not provided by the university/ HEI and/or a bicycle package worth up to £300 to include a bike, a helmet, lights, jacket, and padlock
- essential books/equipment and educational visits
- vacation accommodation costs, as agreed with your personal adviser
- up to £35 per month to access university leisure facilities
- graduation grant of up to £250 for photos, gown hire, contribution to ball ticket and celebratory meal with PA
- £1000-degree course completion grant
- consideration will be given to providing financial support for essential overseas vocational course placement costs and travel
Open University courses
- Any agreed programme of study via the Open University will be supported with the £2000 LA bursary (made up of eight £250 payments) and £1000 completion grant. To mirror an undergraduate degree, 360 points will need to be achieved to be paid the £1000 completion grant. 40 points will need to be achieved to receive each of £250 payments
- Courses must begin before you are 25. Support will be given to access other grants to aid study needs. As these courses are online, it is expected students will be employed to supplement their income
All our care leaver allowances are subject to an assessment of your needs and with the agreement of your PA and/or their managers.
Health and wellbeing
We want to help you to look after your health and get any support you need to stay healthy. To do this we will support you to access support for your health needs and identify specialist referrals where required.
- a ‘16+ Health Summary’
- signposting to where you can get help to pay for prescription costs, if needed, and help to complete HC1 Health forms
- support to register at health services when you move home
- support to move from CAMHS to adult services, if required
- public transport costs when attending hospital or doctors’ appointments.
- free or subsidised access to the local authority’s leisure centres
- support towards costs of essential dental work. If you are not in receipt of benefits, we will pay for an annual dental check
- a £60 annual contribution to prescription glasses/contact lenses
- a double appointment with your Oxfordshire GP if/when you let them know you are a care leaver
- support to download the NHS app and help so you can access online health services and your health history information
- if you are a smoker and would like to stop, you can get free patches and gum and an advisor who is trained to help you stop smoking. You are four times more likely to quit with this support than if you do it on your own. For more information visit the Smokefreelife Oxfordshire website
- you can get online access to your medical record held by your doctor, if your doctor is in Oxfordshire
- if you are worried about being overweight and would like some advice or access to a free weight loss programme contact Achieve Healthy Weight Loss Oxfordshire
- if you have diabetes there is extra help to get you moving more, which can help manage your diabetes. For more information visit the Go Active website
- support and advice if drugs or alcohol are causing a problem in your life. Contact Turning Point if you are 18 or over or Cranstoun Here4YOUth if you are under 18 years
- access to free self-sampling sexual health testing kits and condoms can be found on Sexual Health Service Oxfordshire website. You can also get advice on contraception like the pill or the morning-after pill (up to 72 hours) from local clinics across Oxfordshire
Care leaver rights, independent advocacy, mentoring and lifelong links
We work closely with our partners the National Youth Advocacy Service to provide you with the opportunity for independent advocacy to help you resolve specific issues, or for you to be linked with an Independent Visitor while you are still in care. Independent Visitors are adult volunteers who you can trust and rely on while you are still in care. You will spend time together doing fun activities of your choice, creating special memories.
If you feel you’re not being heard, want to know more about your rights, or would like to speak to someone independent, NYAS advocates can listen and help you communicate the problem you want to resolve. You can call the helpline, what’s app them, email, refer yourself or ask your Social Worker or PA for help.
A NYAS “Side by Side” mentor pilot project will also be launched for Oxfordshire care leavers in 2023 to provide additional support and reduce social isolation.
The children we care for, and our care leavers can also use Mind of My Own digital advocacy apps to keep in touch, and share their views, wishes and feelings with the team of professionals supporting them. To find out more about how you can participate fully in your care and pathway planning, go to the Mind Of My Own website or ask your Social Worker, Independent Reviewing Officer or PA.
We are proud to support and collaborate with the Oxfordshire Care Leaver Association which provides a range of projects to support care leavers including mentoring Our Projects.
Our Lifelong Links programme provides opportunities for young people in care to explore the possibility of re-connecting with any significant family member or friends who have had a positive involvement in their lives to date. The intention is for this re-connection to endure beyond your time in care, to adulthood and beyond. Ask your Social Worker, IRO or PA for more information about this so we can support you to maintain and develop the relationships which are most important to your future.
Accessing your care records
Whether you are still in contact with us or not, you have the right to access information we hold about you, including the circumstances that brought you into care, the decisions that were made and contact you've had with us.
This can be a positive experience for you, but we recommend you ask your Social Worker, IRO or PA to talk the process through with you, so you are fully informed, supported and prepared as it can also be an emotional experience. If you are no longer in touch with us, our duty PAs can signpost you as needed and may direct you to support from charitable organisations such as the Rees Foundation.
Oxfordshire County Council and partner agencies recognise and value the additional strengths that care-experienced parents often have. We take a ‘Think Family’ approach as corporate parents and grandparents and will work with you to ensure your contact with any of our services provides a joined up supportive approach.
We will make sure you are supported to be the best parent you can by preparing you well for adulthood, helping you plan and prepare for parenthood and accessing all universal and early help services available to you.
This will include making sure you access the £500 Sure Start grant and healthy start vouchers and are linked in with a range of parenting support options available from all partner agencies such as ante and post-natal parenting groups.
We will also offer you support to access any specialist parenting resources you may need such as the Family Nurse Partnership or to access a NYAS independent parent advocate if there are safeguarding concerns for your child.
Living in the community
We want you to be an active member of society with good connections with your local community We can help in the following ways:
- providing information on groups and clubs you may wish to join. We run fun and exciting activities programmes for our care leavers to reduce isolation and build positive relationships
- informing you about awards, schemes, and competitions you can enter, in line with your talents and interests
- helping you to enrol on the electoral register, so you can vote in elections
- informing you about voluntary work that we think you may be interested in
- helping with some costs of leisure activities e.g. free access to leisure centres for care leavers in West Oxfordshire
- offering you advice and helping you to challenge any discrimination
Unaccompanied asylum-seeking young adults
Oxfordshire is proud to welcome and care for unaccompanied children into inclusive and caring communities. Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) who turn 18 can continue to access support from the county council if they are:
- former unaccompanied children, 18+ care leavers who have received a positive immigration decision, are awaiting a decision, or have submitted fresh applications. You will be supported based on your needs assessment within the pathway planning process and supported under the former relevant finance policy
- lone parents: paid at the standard adult universal credit rate with healthy start vouchers. The equivalent of healthy start vouchers will also be paid while awaiting a determination. This is to be spent on milk, plain fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables (fruit and vegetables with nothing added), or infant formula milk
- former unaccompanied pregnant women receive the equivalent of one Healthy Start voucher a week
- babies under the age of one receive the equivalent of two vouchers a week
- children aged over one and under four receive the equivalent of one voucher
Former unaccompanied children and young adults who become appeal rights exhausted (ARE):
- young people who become ARE and are human rights assessed as having a barrier to return to their country of origin will receive support. This support can be granted while an assisted/voluntary return package is arranged, until the barrier to return is removed, until 21 years or until returned to their country of origin, whichever comes first
- we will provide an allowance matched to NASS S4 levels for all appeal rights exhausted asylum seekers where determined needed by Human Rights Assessment. This money pays for essential toiletries, food and entertainment and some clothing
- former unaccompanied pregnant mothers will receive an extra payment of £3 per week and we will match the Sure start Maternity grant of £500 available from eight weeks before the ‘due date’
- former unaccompanied parents with child(ren) under three years will receive an extra £5 per week
- leisure: ARE (Appeal rights exhausted) young people are encouraged to attend leisure activities that are provided by Asylum Welcome and other free community activities
Support for care leavers aged 21 to 25 years of age
Our door is open for advice and assistance up until the age of 25, even if you have not had contact with us for a while. You can use our duty telephone lines* to contact us. This assistance is different to the package you would receive under 18 or 21 years of age as you are a more independent adult.
We can give you advice, help you access other services and apply for grants and bursaries if available to you. You don’t normally need a full pathway plan; however, we may undertake a formal needs assessment and action plan to help work out what we are working on together. We will host drop-in sessions with EET advice workers, benefits workers, and health workers.
If you are a former unaccompanied young person and still awaiting a decision from the UKBA we can support you to apply for Section 95 support which will help with accommodation and allowance. Our door will remain open for advice and guidance until the age of 25.
Continuing education, employment and training over the age of 21
Any assistance we agree to help you with for employment, education or training over the age of 21 will be determined with you during your pathway planning. You will have a pathway plan mapping out your goals and our support and regular contact with your leaving care personal advisor. Your pathway plan will help you know exactly what help you can get from us and others while you study. We will be in contact with you at least twice a month. However, we also know our goals and aspirations can change as we grow so you can always come back and talk to us about new ideas and possibilities to do with employment, education and training until you are 25, so we can help you to decide the best option for you.
Who else could offer you support?
- Your social worker or personal adviser
- firstname.lastname@example.org 01865 323222
- Former unaccompanied care leavers email@example.com 01865 897818
- For useful local information and contact details for other services that can help with support or assistance check our OXME website.
- For support and help to get your views across: NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service)
For help with your health:
Other places you can go for help
- Housing advice
- South & Vale - 01235 422452
- West Oxford - 01993 861000
- Oxford City - 01865 249811
- Cherwell - 01295 227001
- Shelter – housing advice.
- Citizens Advice
- Turn2Us may be able to help with benefits and grants availability.
- Crisis Skylight – general courses and housing tenancy sustainment courses. Drop in 2pm each day.
- The City of Oxfordshire Charity may be able to help towards educational costs, sickness help and general housing grant help.
- Rees Foundation
- The Rees Foundation - Access to care records
- Support available for care leavers accessing their records
- Oxford Baby Bank for clothing and baby equipment – referral by your social worker or LCPA
- Support for Care Leavers - NYAS
- NYAS Portal
- Advocate Helpline - NYAS
Emergency food provision
Contact your personal adviser if you feel you are really struggling with basics such as food. As a short-term safety net, there are food banks across the county.
- West Oxfordshire Food Bank 07557 979 384
- North Oxfordshire Community Food Bank 07929721172
- Community Emergency Food bank (C.E.F oxford city) 01993 810 622
- Banbury Food Bank 01295 661 304
- Bicester Food Bank 01869 357 181