Young People's Zone
WHAT FINANCIAL SUPPORT CAN I GET?
Once you turn 18, the general expectation is that you will be responsible for managing your money and that Children’s Services will not be your main source of financial support. This means that you will be responsible for paying things like rent, bills and living costs (food, travel etc.) either by working, claiming benefits or by using your student loan if you are studying.
This doesn’t mean that Children’s Services shouldn’t support you at all. Children’s Services should have a Financial Policy that clearly states what financial support you can expect as a care leaver and your Personal Advisor (PA) (see Who’s who in the care system?, Become) should give you a copy of this policy (the part of the law that says this is Paragraphs 8.4 & 8.7 The Children Act 1989 Guidance & regulations, Vol 3: Planning Transitions to Adulthood for Care Leavers). Remember, Children’s Services must pay for any extra things that have been agreed and are written down in your Pathway Plan.
Something that Children’s Services must provide you with is a “setting up home allowance” (this used to be called a “Leaving Care Grant”). This money is to help you buy all the essentials you need when moving in to your own place (like buying furniture or electrical equipment like a fridge or TV). The government recommends that this is at least £2,000. Although £2,000 sounds like a lot, it doesn’t go far so think carefully about what you are going to spend it on. Your Personal Advisor (PA) should be able to help you to do this.
In addition, your Pathway Plan (see 'What all those words mean, Become) must be reviewed every 6 months and should always look at your financial situation and how you are coping with money. The kinds of things that need to be considered are what you spend on:
- Accommodation and bills
- Education (books, fees, travel etc)
- Work (interviews, travel and other work related expenses)
- Training or skills development (e.g. IT course, driving lessons/licence)
- Cultural or religious needs
- Special needs, for example disabilities, pregnancy and parenthood
- Personal documentation (e.g. passport, citizenship)
Your PA should help you look at how you can manage on the money you have available and may even help you look for special grants or bursaries to apply for extra money if you need to buy something special.
You can ask Children’s Services to help you too: they don’t have to provide things, but if you can show how having some extra financial support is necessary for your welfare, they may be able to help.
Children’s Services must help you with the cost of education and training (Section 23C (4)(a)&(b) Children Act 1989). For more details see 'What help can I get to study or do training?'
What can I do?
It will be easier for you to argue for more financial support if you can clearly explain what expenses you have and how far your income covers these. Try to list down everything you spend money on and then work out whether the money you get every week is enough to cover it. Children’s Services don’t have to provide things now that you are over 18 unless it is necessary for your welfare, so it is a good idea to think about how not having this help would affect you.
Finally, have a read of your Children’s Services policy on financial support for young people your age. You can normally find this on the Children’s Services website or you can ask your PA for a copy. This will help you decide what you can expect before you ask your PA for help.
Talk to People
Your Personal Advisor (PA)
Once you have worked out your income and expenses, you should then ask to speak to your PA and ask them to complete a financial assessment. It is best if this is done as part of your Pathway Plan review so that everything is written down and you can ask for a copy of all the agreements.
Remember, Children’s Services have to honour anything they have agreed in your Pathway Plan so try to get any agreements of support written down in this document.
If you just need a one-off expense (e.g. clothes for an interview), you don’t need to have a full assessment and can just call your PA to discuss this. However, getting agreements for extras can be difficult so it is important to think ahead about the costs that may arise and try and get as many of these included in your Pathway Plan as possible.
Your PA’s Manager
Your PA probably doesn’t have the power to make the final decision about what financial support you receive or not. Normally, your PA’s manager will need to agree or it might have to be considered by a special panel (this is just a group of managers who sit together and make decisions about specific things). If your PA says that they can’t decide immediately, try not to get frustrated with them as it is normal for them to have to check with their boss first.
However, if your PA says they will check with their boss and doesn’t come back with an answer or you think the answer they are giving is unfair, you can ask to speak to their manager directly. If you are going to do this, it is important that you have clear reasons why you think you should be getting the financial help and how not receiving this help will have a negative impact on you.
Making a Complaint
If talking to people doesn’t help then you have a right to make a complaint.
It is important to read the Children’s Service’s policy on financial support for young people your age so that you can highlight any areas where they say they offer support but in reality, they are not (e.g. if they say in the policy that they will provide money for books for college but then have said ‘no’ to this when you asked for it).
It is also important to review what is in your Pathway Plan. If Children’s Services have agreed to help you in some way in your Pathway Plan but have then not kept to this agreement, you should include this in your complaint.
Get Some Help
If you still feel that no-one is listening, you can contact your local advocacy service and ask for help to get this resolved. To find your local advocacy service, please click here.