Care leavers local offer
What support and guidance is available to you if you've left or about to leave care.
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Leaving care is a big step and we want to make sure that you feel supported and know where and who to come to for advice and help. Our guide below explains the services you can continue to access locally if you have been in our care.
The Care Leaver Local Offer is reviewed every year with the help of The Children in Care Council and The Oxfordshire Care Leavers Association
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.
To be eligible for support, you must have been in care for a total of at least 13 weeks which began after age 14 and included some time after your 16th birthday. If you are not sure whether you qualify for support, ask your social worker or personal adviser.
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. Between the age of 18 and 25, you can receive support from a personal advisor.
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 twice a month.
Your pathway plan is a continuation of your care plan and looks at 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 pathway plan. Your pathway plan will include:
- where you will live
- 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.
Other than a personal advisor what does the local authority have to provide?
As a minimum, we must provide:
- assistance with expenses associated for an agreed program of employment, education or training.a higher education bursary of £2,000 if you go into higher education.suitable accommodation during vacations if you are in higher education or in residential further education.
Other support we offer our care leavers aged 18-21 in Oxfordshire Accommodation
- If you and your foster carers are happy to we will support you to stay in your foster placement until you are 21.If you are living in supported housing, we will help you to remain there for as long as you need, up to the age of 25. There are a range of accommodation types that offer support according to what is needed.
Helping you to move on:
- At 17 ½ you will be invited to a housing options meeting to help understand your housing options once you turn 18 and what you need to do.
- 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.
- Your personal advisor 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. This is especially important in case your rent increases due to tenancy changes or housing benefit allowance changes when you turn 22.
Help in your home:
- As part of turning 18, your social worker or leaving care personal advisor will undertake a ‘transition checklist’ with you, looking at key documents and helping you to understand your budgeting and bills and that you are familiar with the place and area where you are living.
- We will help with the expenses of moving into independence such as moving costs, along with £25 to help with food and essential items in your first week.
- You will also receive up to £2000 setting up home allowance to help towards furnishing your new home with essential items.
- Your personal advisor or housing support worker will give you advice about maintaining a tenancy, paying bills and managing your visitors.
- We will help you to access rent deposit schemes (if these aren’t available, we will cover your first rent deposit). This deposit can be kept for the next time it is needed.
- We will help you apply for council tax exemptions.
- We can also request help from other professionals and support services to assist you in adjusting to your new surroundings if you would find this helpful.
- We recognise life has its ups and downs and sometimes there are tricky decisions to be made. We will talk to you about what your goals are, the steps to achieve them and further opportunities for education, employment and training, housing and careers. Your pathway plan will help us action plan together.
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.
As a large employer, 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 advisor 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 cover an extensive range of different roles, professions, and occupations. We are a good employer and will help you to develop your career.
We recognise there are costs to finding a job and there are various grants available to care leavers, we can help you to access. Examples of what grants can be spent on include:
- Two sets of interview/work/college clothes
- A haircut for interview
- Equipment for work
- Equipment/trips/uniform for college
- £20 towards stationery for the start of an education course
- £15 towards a school/college/work bag
- Additional EET related activity e.g. tickets to end of year celebrations and or excursion dependent on attendance
- Travel for appointments/ interviews.
- Travel for those earning under £150 per week on the days they need to attend learning, volunteering or working. This can either be:
- a bus pass (applications for pass via educational institutions to be made where possible) or;
- a bicycle package including a bike, a helmet, lights and padlock. This would be supplemented by a bus pass in January and February.
- Full-time work bridging grant of UC equivalent per week for a maximum of four weeks while waiting for first salary payment.
- Support for childcare costs to access EET and/or engagement with support services.
- 75 per cent contribution to costs of 10 driving lessons, where linked to EET activity.
We believe the more you do, the better off you will be in the long term therefore we will offer you:
- At a minimum we will offer 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.
Studying, learning and career progression takes time, hard work and commitment. To recognise this and to give you encouragement, we offer:
- Upon successful completion of a university or apprenticeship level 4-6 we offer a grant of £1000.
- £750 for a level 3 - 4 HE/FE/apprenticeship completion,
- Negotiable grant up to £500 for level 2 FE/apprenticeship completion for specific support to access 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, the 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 eight terms).
- Setting up home allowance if needed up to £2000. This is accessible until you are 25.
- £500 contribution to a computer.
- Funding for travel to and from university at the beginning and end of term depending on distance. Plus one 'family' contact per term (as agreed with personal adviser). Also includes visiting during application process and moving costs.
- Up to £300 discretionary travel grant for first term if commuting from Oxford or on placement. Travel grants to be applied for from care leaver charities and UCAS.
- A term-time bus pass if needed and if not provided by the university/HEI. Or a bicycle package including a bike, a helmet, lights and padlock. Up to £400.
- Essential reading/kit/equipment, as required.
- Vacation accommodation, to be discussed with your personal advisor.
- Up to £35 per month to access university leisure facilities.
- Health - any additional costs to be discussed with your LCPA. Travel to hospital appointments outside the young person's locality paid by local authority.
- Graduation - photos, gown hire and contribution to ball ticket etc, as required.
- £50 for a celebration meal with your personal advisor when you graduate.
- £1000-degree course completion grant
- Vocational course placement costs and travel, as required e.g. languages courses compulsory leaning abroad.
- A dyslexia assessment if needed.
We recognise COVID lockdown has presented opportunities to undertake 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 in order to be paid the £1000 completion grant. 40 points will need to be achieved in order to receive the £250 payments.
Courses must begin before you are 24. 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.
Health and wellbeing
We will support you to assess health needs and identify specialist referrals where required, we can offer:
- A health passport.
- Signposting to where you can help to pay for prescription costs and help to complete HC Health forms.
- Support to register at health services when you move home.
- Support to move from CAMHS to adult services, if required.
- Paying for transport costs when attending hospital or doctors’ appointments.
- Free or subsidised access to the local authority’s leisure centres.
- 50 per cent contribution to necessary/essential dental work. If you are not in receipt of benefits we will pay for an annual dental check.
- A £40 contribution to prescription glasses/contact lenses.
We want to help as much as we can to ensure you look after your health and get any support you need to stay healthy. To do this we can offer:
- 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 Aquarius 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
Becoming an adult and living independently can be complicated, between the age of 18 and 21, we offer some other financial support, if assessed as needed, which can include:
- Leaving care personal allowance if unable to claim benefits or work: To match current universal credit levels
- Or NASS S4 levels for all appeal rights exhausted asylum seekers where it is
- determined to be needed by human rights assessment. This money pays for essential toiletries, food and entertainment.
- We will help you to undertake advanced claims for benefits, applications for
- student finance and any other grants/bursaries that you can access.
- We will help you to apply for council tax exemptions as a care leaver in Oxfordshire.
- We can provide up to five weeks of grant to ensure a smooth transition between
- leaving care support, employment or benefits payments if needed. Any further funding needed to cover transition due to delays in processing may be loaned to you, by signed agreement, and recouped on payment of benefits.
- While working with us, we will ensure provision of a suitable and appropriate
- placement (or the means to secure the accommodation) up to your 21st birthday and support with access to ‘move-on schemes’ to secure housing as it becomes available.
- Celebrating occasions with you
- Help with travel when part of an agreed EET activity agreement
- Support with key documents e.g. birth certificates, passports etc.
- Funding for a provisional driving license, driving practical test and driving theory test when agreed as part of an EET plan.
We want to be able to support all care leavers in the county. If you have any additional needs, we can offer additional support. This can include:
- Signposting and introductions to specialist services and support e.g. for health, special educational needs, asylum advice, making challenges or requests/support available to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
There may be additional support we can identify if you are a parent, for example:
- The NHS Family Nurse Partnership is a home visiting programme for first-time young mums and families and offers wellbeing and parenting support for the first two years of a baby’s life.
- Surestart maternity grant is a one-off payment to help towards the cost of having a child. Young parents can access this from week 29 of pregnancy until three months post birth.
- Lone parents can apply for healthy start vouchers to help purchase milk and fresh/frozen fruit and vegetables.
- We can access clothing and items from the Oxford Baby Bank to help you.
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
- Informing you about awards, schemes, and competitions you can enter, in line with your talents and interests
- Helping you to enroll 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
Which unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) who turn 18 can access support from the county council:
- Former unaccompanied children who are 18 + care leavers who have received a positive decision, are awaiting a decision or have put in fresh applications 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.
- Pregnant women get one Healthy Start voucher a week.
- Babies under the age of one get two vouchers a week.
- Children aged over one and under four get 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.
- Maternity grant of £250 (matches S4 asylum support amount) available from eight weeks before the ‘due date’.
- Pregnant mother can receive an extra payment of £3 per week.
- Parent with child under three years can receive an extra £5 per week.
Leisure: ARE young people are encouraged to attend leisure activities that are provided by Asylum Welcome and other free community activities.
We will help with 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. We will also help with some clothing: £150 per year, assessed within pathway planning, which will deliver the basic requirements of: winter coat, hat, gloves, scarf, trainers, socks, nightwear and underpants, two jumpers / hoodies, three pairs of jeans / trousers, five t-shirts.
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. 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 - Abingdon – 01865 897984, Oxford –01865 323222, Banbury – 01865 816677
- 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) - 08088081001.
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.
- Oxford Baby Bank for clothing and baby equipment – referral by your social worker or LCPA
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