Financial support for care leavers
When you leave care you may be able to get some financial support to help you live on your own, but what you get will depend on your own specific circumstances.
See our definitions of care leavers if you don't know what a 'relevant' or 'former relevant' child is.
Who is a care leaver
Managing your money can be challenging when it’s not something you’ve experienced before, so your personal advisor will help you to develop a budget plan. Things you will be doing for the first time include:
- Paying rent, Council Tax, energy bills and TV/Broadband
- Buying your own food, clothes and toiletries
- Paying for transport
- Choosing and buying furniture for your home
- Washing your clothes and cleaning your home
- Funding your own hobbies (sports, clubs etc.) and entertainment (cinema, meeting friends, eating out).
Welfare benefits claim
Once you are aged 18 you will need to claim Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance or Universal credit and Housing Benefit.
The Leaving Care team will continue to pay you the Subsistence Allowance until your benefit claim is processed. Your Personal Advisor will assist you to make any claims that you are eligible for.
The Council will provide you financial support or a loan (depending on your circumstance) when you get a job. This will apply if there is a gap between your benefits payment ending and you receiving your first wage payment.
We will help you to apply for PIP (Personal Independence Payments) if you have a disability or health condition that means you're eligible.
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children will receive the same levels of financial support as all other children and young people in the care of Cheshire West and Chester Council. Maintenance and accommodation support may be extended beyond the 18th birthday if, due to their emigration status, the young person cannot access universal benefit support.
Subsistence allowance (16 to 17-year-olds)
If you are living semi-independently (not in foster care or residential) you are not entitled to claim benefits, so we provide you with a subsistence allowance to cover your daily living costs.
The subsistence allowance is the equivalent of income support rates which are £60. If you are in paid training, you will be paid the same or a higher allowance by your training provider.
Whilst you are receiving a Subsistence Allowance, subject to an assessment, you can receive a Clothing Grant up to the £100.
All relevant, and former relevant, young people will receive a birthday card and £215.74 Birthday Grant from the Leaving Care Team on their 16th,17th, 18th and 21st birthdays.
This can be paid direct to you as a lump sum or paid in instalments throughout the year (1 April – 31 March).
For relevant care leavers not engaging with actions in the Pathway Plan, the Leaving Care Team Services provides a birthday present to the value of £50.
All care leavers aged 22 to 25 will receive a birthday card and £20 voucher.
All relevant and former relevant young people will receive a grant at the time of a significant religious festival of their choice, eg. Christmas (Christian), Urdu (Muslim), The Birthday of Guru Nanak (Sikh), Hanukkah (Jewish) or Diwali (Hindu) though you may identify with another.
The Pathway Plan should identify which festival you wish to celebrate and ensure that grants are provided in good time and the details recorded accordingly.
The total festival allowance is £215.74. This amount can be paid direct to you as a lump sum or paid in instalments throughout the year (1 April – 31 March).
For relevant care leavers not engaging with actions in the Pathway Plan, the Leaving Care Services will purchase a festival gift and card to the value of £50.
Relevant care leavers engaging with their pathway plan can request financial support to contribute to the overall cost of a holiday. If a contribution is agreed, the amount can be paid directly as a lump sum, or paid in instalments throughout the year (1 April – 31 March).
Relevant care leavers not engaging with their Pathway Plan will not be considered able to apply for a holiday allowance.
Care leavers in hospital or custody
If a young person is on remand or serving a custodial sentence, they will be fully maintained within that establishment and so will not be entitled to a personal allowance.
Young people in custody may have the opportunity to earn a weekly allowance but, where this is not available to them, the Leaving Care Service will consider paying the equivalent to the Education, Employment and Training (EET) incentive programme eg £10 per week.
Requests for priority payments for items such as clothing and educational equipment will be considered in line with current procedures for other care leavers.
Cost of key documents
It is important that you have your National Insurance Number and key documents – passport, birth certificate, driving license as proof of identity. This will enable you to, for example, open a bank account, to claim benefit, to begin work, to get into pubs/clubs.
The Council will fund the cost of up to two key documents subject to an assessment.
Children’s Services has a Trust Fund that offers a discretionary payment of up to £400-per-year to its children in care and care leavers. The Trust Fund was set up to provide children and young people with additional experiences and opportunities. Care leavers can apply for money to fund driving lessons, an interview outfit, equipment needed for a college course or apprentice, a laptop for university etc.
Your Junior ISA (Individual Savings Account) - The Share Foundation
The Government have contributed £200 for each eligible looked after young person to open a Junior ISA. The Share Foundation, a registered charity, has been authorised by the government to set up and manage the Junior ISAs for all looked after children. The Share Foundation also raises funds which it contributes to the Junior ISAs that it manages.
What changes now I am 18?
When you become 18 you are entitled to access the funds. You can then choose, for example, whether to invest in a regular ISA or draw out the money. If you make no decision the Junior ISA will automatically become an adult ISA in your name.
What do I have to do to access my account?
You should contact your social worker or Personal Adviser at the Leaving Care team on, tel: 0208 770 6600 (admin), who will enable you to have direct contact with The Share Foundation.
We recommend that young people contact Share Foundation as soon as practical after they reach 18 as, without an instruction from you, the account will convert to a regular ISA automatically and can no longer be subject to active investment decisions on your behalf. It may, therefore, not be invested in the most advantageous way for you.
How can I see how much money is in the Junior ISA or how it is performing?
Regular Junior ISA valuations are sent to the local authority, and you can obtain a balance of the latest statement from them. Once you reach 18, a final valuation will be sent to the local authority, at which time you will need to take on the responsibility of managing your own account.
Can I get advice and support on how to understand my money better as part of the scheme?
Yes - a programme of financial education support is available to you. Materials for young people in care, as well as Local Authorities, Corporate Parents and carers have been developed by PFEG and are available via the Share Foundation website:
Or the PFEG (Personal Finance Education Group) website:
Telephone support is also available to advise you on further educational materials that will help you learn how to manage your money, including your Junior ISA.
Is it possible to contact the Share Foundation and get further information?
Further information on the scheme and copies of all materials can be obtained from The Share Foundation website or by calling the number below. (General information only, until you have been introduced by the Local Authority).
Alternatively you can call: 01296 310400 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Leaving Care Team hold Drop-in sessions for care leavers each month in the Winsford, Chester and Ellesmere Port Localities – where you can access support or signposting to different agencies.
In the event of storage being required for longer periods (eg. due to prolonged homelessness, a custodial sentence or period of detention under the Mental Health Act) ‘in-house’ storage facilities are available.
NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service)
The National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) provides an advocacy service to Cheshire West care leavers. You have a right to be involved in all decisions about plans for leaving care. You have the right to support from an independent person if you are thinking of challenging decisions about the care we give you. An Independent Advocate can inform you of your rights and help you express your views in meetings.
Caring 2 Care Team
Children's Services has the Caring 2 Care Team, which offers a service to support the emotional wellbeing of children in care and care leavers, up to the age of 25.
Cheshire West and Chester Council services
The Council provides many services. So, if you live in the Borough, why not visit the Council’s website and see what might be of interest to you?
The Council also offers its care leavers the following opportunities:
- Five work experience placements for care leavers within Cheshire West and Chester Council over the next 12 months.
- Care leavers will be given advance notice of all apprenticeships and other suitable roles prior to general advertisement. We will guarantee an interview for those who can meet the minimum criteria.
- Care leavers will be given the opportunity to access any volunteer opportunities.
Help Team and Welfare Visiting Team
These Council teams will assist you with;
- work advice
- benefit advice
- debt advice
- support to access other public services.
See what the Team have to offer you in the documents below:
West Cheshire Foodbank
Our local Foodbank offers care leavers:
- Emergency food voucher.
- Weekly cookery sessions.
- Short courses – on budgeting, cookery.
- Christmas hampers
Core Assets, who provide the Caring 2 Care Team to Children’s Services, provide two apprentice post per year to care leavers, working in the North West. The apprentices will act as care leaver champions within the organisation and explore creative offers of support that meet the needs of young people in Cheshire West.
So, if you are interested, why not talk to your Social Worker or Personal Advisor about it?
Cheshire Colleges will provide apprenticeships and taster sessions for care leavers. They can provide free meals, a free bus pass and contributions to costs of equipment and educational visits.
Department of Work and Pension in Cheshire West offer group sessions for care leavers (and their carers) before their 18th birthday to explain what benefits you may be entitled to and how you can make a claim.
Youth Service in Cheshire West offer care leavers volunteer opportunities and work experience. They offer training and qualifications in Youth Skills (National Vocational Qualification) NVQ 2 and NVQ 3 – paid for by the Youth People Grant.
The Youth Service offers a guarantee of an interview to care leavers for any apprenticeship or employment opportunities that arise in the Service.