Leaving care – what can I expect?

Thinking about life after care can be daunting so it's a good idea to be prepared and to start planning for it sooner rather than later. These pages tell you about your rights and entitlments so you can think about the many options and opportunities available to you before you turn 18.

Bristol City Council will continue to  support and work with you if you are in care on, or after, your 16th birthday. We will be in touch with you until you are at least 21 and we might be able to support you longer than this if you are disabled or in education. So the first thing to say is - "Don't worry!"

Becoming independent can be both exciting and overwhelming, and we want to make sure that you get as much support as possible to make sure that you get the best start to adult life. We will continue to stand up for your rights, and make sure that you have all the support you are entitled to. If the path you choose the first time doesn’t work out, we won’t give up and we will work with you to make another plan and support you into independent living. 

When you turn 16 it is a good time to start thinking about your Pathway Plan and to have conversations with your social worker and carers about your future and what you would like to happen when you reach 18 .

We will:

  • make sure that you have a pathway plan, that we review together regularly

  • ensure that you receive the financial support you’re entitled to

  • provide you with a Personal Advisor when you become 18, who will advise and support you

  • make sure that you are living in accommodation that suits your needs

More information about the support you are entitled to is available in this leaflet. Sorted and Supported.

Who will support me?

When you leave care, you will have a personal advisor (they might be called a leaving care worker) who will be the key person to make sure you get the right support as you become independent.

What is a Pathway Plan?

Your Pathway Plan is a document developed with you while you are still in care to plan for when you leave care, it should include your plans for:

  • Your health and development

  • Your education, training and employment – what you want and what support you will get to help you with your goals

  • Contact with your parents, wider family and friends, focusing on the help they can give you at this time

  • Managing your money, including an assessment of what money you need to live on and how good you are at handling money.

You should be given a copy and feel that it is your plan. We will review your plan with you regularly and make sure that we think about any support you may need when you are no longer a care leaver.

Where will I live?

There is a range of housing options open to you, including:

  • ‘Staying put’ – this means you continue to live in the same place as when you were looked after, but changed to take account of the fact that you have technically left care. This might happen for example if you have been in a long-term foster placement and your carers are happy for you to continue to live with them. You can read more about staying put in this leaflet from Catch 22 http://www.catch-22.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Staying-Put-FINAL-WEB.pdf
  • Supported housing – combining accommodation with support and opportunities for education, training and employment
  • Supported lodgings – living in supported lodgings means that you will live with people who are able to offer you a bedroom in their home, along with a low level of support.
  • Specialist accommodation – it could be self-contained accommodation with assistance and support if you have specific needs like disabilities or mental health problems
  • Independent accommodation – rented accommodation with support as needed

If you’re going on to study in further or higher education, we will support you to find accommodation in halls or other rented accommodation near college or university. We will also make sure that you have accommodation during the holidays.

What will I do?
We will help you to think about what you want to do in the future – whether that is work, training, or further education. 

If you think you would like to continue in education after you leave school, we can help you to look at the options available to you. We will support you emotionally, financially and with equipment to be able to continue your studies, including possibly going to University. Information about post 16 courses available in Bristol is available in the post 16 directory.
    Careers Advice and Guidance
You may already have a career in mind and will be talking to teachers and your social worker and carers about the choices you need to make now, When you reach 18 your Personal Advisor canalso give you information about careers advice and guidance.  The Care Leavers Training Officer (Ria Pandya) can also help you to find  an employment and training opportunity that suits your interests and skills. 

You will also be able to access a short course for Bristol children in care that includes personal finance, advice about food, and your career. It will lead to a Bristol Learning City certificate and will provide you with credits for qualifications.
Check out the Career Pilot website to plan your study & work http://www.careerpilot.org.uk/


Work Experience, Training and Apprenticeships
We can help you find the right work experience and training placements and support you into work. This includes:
-    Work experience opportunities with Bristol City Council and our partners in a variety of areas, for example business support, museums, leisure centres, or customer services. 
-    Apprenticeship programmes arranged by the Council which guarantee you an interview and provide you with support and advice.
What will I do about money?
Your Personal Adviser will be able to explain to you what financial support you are eligible for. Your pathway plan should say what money you will get, how it will be paid to you and any conditions attached to it, like attending college.
If you leave care at age 16 or 17 you will not be entitled to claim benefits, like income support or jobseekers’ allowance, but you will receive a Setting Up Home Allowance and your accommodation will be paid for.
Once you reach 18, you will be able to apply for certain benefits. We have benefits pathway for Bristol care leavers, which means there will be a named person for you to contact in each Job Centre Plus and in the Benefit Processing Centre.
We will help you to learn about money and money management in a number of ways, for example the short course for our care leavers, at our drop in sessions, through online resources, and through your personal advisor and carer. 
How will I stay healthy?
When you leave care, you will receive a health passport which will help you to understand your health information and where to access help.
You will receive a final appointment with the Looked After Children nurse when you are 17 when you will learn how to access health services and health records.
Remember that your Personal Advisors can help you find and use/get an appointment with the right health services.
If you have specific health concerns, you can contact the following services:
Mental Health Services – Off the Record, Call free on 0808 808 9120, email at confidential@otrbristol.org.uk, or text on 07896 880 011
Drugs services (17 years and under) - Drugs and Young People Project (ask your Personal Advisor to make a referral) Telephone: 0117 3772997
Drugs services (18 years and over) – Bristol ROADS (request the transitions service) email: roads@bdp.org.uk Telephone: 0117 987 6000
Sexual Health services – www.4ypbristol.co.uk/your-local-services 
Relationships – Bristol Against Violence and Abuse www.bava.org.uk 

What can I do in my spare time?
As a care leaver, you can enjoy  free swimming at Everyone Active swimming pools. 
If you are interested in peer mentoring Barnardo’s can support you to find a suitable volunteering opportunity.
Speak to your Personal Advisor about how you can contact  these services
How will I stay in touch with my family and friends?
Bristol City Council has Care Leaver Ambassador whose role it is to ensure that we listen to your  views. .  Contact details 
Barnardo’s has a care leavers participation service which will support you to take part and get your voice heard. To find out more call/text is 07799 418308 or email  liz.small@barnardos.org.uk.  


If you are under 18, you can contact your Independent Reviewing Officer or get support from Reconstruct to advocate on your behalf. 
Complaints – complaint s process
How do I find out more about my past?
You may be able to learn more about your past and your family by asking to see your records. Speak to your personal advisor to learn more about how you can do this. 

Useful Links
Coram Voice http://www.coramvoice.org.uk/young-peoples-zone/are-you-care-leaver 
Catch22 http://www.catch-22.org.uk/offers/looked-after-children-and-care-leavers/ 
The Who Cares Trust http://www.thewhocarestrust.org.uk/pages/leaving-care-what-happens.html 
Shelter – Accommodation options for care leavers http://youngpeopleoutcomes.shelter.org.uk/advice_for_advisers_of_young_people/when_young_people_have_to_move_out/care_leavers/accommodation_options_for_care_leavers