Leaving care and getting your own place is a big step, so it’s important that you’re well prepared. Social services have a legal duty to help you prepare and if you are a care leaver you may be able to get housing and other help from your local council.
Download our housing guide for care leavers here.
Help for care leavers from a personal adviser
Before you leave care
You should be given:
- a Pathway Plan setting out what support you might need to live independently. You should be able to help write your plan – so make sure you tell the council your views and any worries
- a Personal Adviser whose job it is to help you look at accommodation options and to help you with application forms for housing, benefits, education and/or training courses. They should also help you with learning life skills, like how to budget.
Once you leave care
- Your Personal Adviser should keep in touch with you once your leave care and provide ongoing support and help until you turn 21, or until your 25th birthday if you are still studying full time
- Your Pathway Plan should be regularly reviewed and updated.
Get advice now if you don’t have a Personal Adviser or a Pathway Plan. You may be able to get one even if you didn’t get one while you were still in care.
Help from the council for homeless care leavers
Most young people who have been in care are entitled to help from the homelessness department of the council if they become homeless. The help you are entitled to usually depends on your age and personal circumstances.
Care leavers under the age of 18
If you are under the age of 18 and homeless, social services are responsible for finding you somewhere to live. The accommodation they find you must be suitable for your particular needs and might be supported housing, or perhaps a private lodging with support for dealing with things like bills and applying for benefits.
All 16 and 17 years olds in Wales are also entitled to help with housing from the council’s homelessness department. If you apply as homeless, the homelessness department should accept you as ‘priority need‘ and should work together with social services to help you find a solution which is in your best interests.
18 to 21 year old care leavers
If you are over 18 but under 21 and have spent any time, however short, in care, then the council’s homelessness department should accept you as ‘priority need‘ and provide you with emergency housing whilst they decide what other help to give you. In most cases the council will try and prevent your homelessness or help you to find some other accommodation. If they are unable to do this then they will have to provide you with long-term accommodation.
If you are a care leaver, social services also have a duty to help you until you reach the age of 21, or, if you are in continuing further education, until you are 24.
If you are entitled to help from both housing and social services departments, they should work together to provide whatever help you need. For example, social services can ask the housing department to house you. They are not allowed just to tell you that they can’t help you and send you to the other department. If this happens, get advice immediately.
21 years old and above care leavers
Some older care leavers can get accommodation from the homelessness department if they can show that they are vulnerable for some special reason. This may be the case if you are vulnerable as a result of having been in care, for example, if you haven’t had a stable home since you left care, or you have slept on the streets in the past.
Social services can also help you by providing assistance with education and training until your 25th birthday. If you are in full-time further or higher education and you have nowhere to stay outside term time they must also find you somewhere to live.
If you have problems getting either the homelessness department or social services to help you, contact Shelter Cymru straight away.
Budgeting and renting
Like anyone out there for the first time, you’ll need to work out a budget and think about how you’re going to pay for your accommodation before you leave. As a care leaver, social services should help you to manage your money and gradually become independent.
Special rules apply if you are a care leaver aged 16 or 17 and want to claim benefits. Find out more on the Turn2Us website.
In a crisis, you may also be able to get help from the discretionary assistance fund (which replaced crisis loans).
You should be able to apply for housing benefit to help you pay for your rent.
Normally if you are single, under 35 and you rent from a private landlord, the maximum housing benefit you can get is the same rate you would get for renting a single room in a shared house. This is known as the ‘shared accommodation rate’ and it also applies when calculating the housing costs element under universal credit.
But, if you’ve been in care, and are aged between 18 and 22, you should be entitled to housing benefit for a one-bedroom flat of your own. See our fact sheet for more details.
In many areas of Wales you will be exempt from paying council tax if you are a care leaver. By April 2019, it is possible that all care leavers across Wales under the age of 25 will be exempt from paying. Until then, if you do have to pay, you may still be entitled to a Council Tax Reduction to help. Contact your local council to find out what happens in your area.