What happens when I leave care?

Hands holding post-it notes


You officially leave care when you’re 18. It can be an exciting yet scary and stressful time. There's a lot to think about potentially living on your own for the first time, having to pay bills and doing your own cooking and cleaning. You could also be continuing in education or starting work. It’s really important that you feel prepared during this time and know where to go for help and support if needed.  

You can get help from our Leaving Care Service if:

  • you've been in care for 13 weeks since you were 14
  • and you’re in care after you turned 16

The leaving care process starts somewhere around your 16th birthday, when you’ll be assigned a leaving care coach. During this time, and up until your 18th birthday, your social worker and leaving care coach will work together with you on what’s called your pathway plan.

It’s important to remember that your social worker will have overall responsibility to work with you until you’re 18, helping you to plan for the future, ensure you are safe and that your needs are met.

What’s a pathway plan? Click to get info

When you turn 16, your social worker will start to talk to you about your future plans. They’ll ask you questions like ‘What you want to do in the future for work?’ ‘Would you like to continue to study?’ and ‘What are your skills to live independently?’ They’ll also talk to other people who are important to you, like a foster carer or keyworker to find out more about you and what they think your needs are.  

This process is called a ‘needs assessment’ and it’s something the law says must happen within three months after you turn 16.

The results of your needs assessment are then written into your pathway plan.

Your pathway plan is there to help you take control of your life. It’s there to help you with planning future goals and the tasks that will help you to achieve those goals. The pathway plan can help you to deal with any worries you have or challenges you face. Your pathway plan will help you to:

  • prepare for living independently
  • get work or start a training course
  • become self-sufficient with money and other things that you need day-to-day 
  • make a successful transition from care into your own home
  • build and sustain a permanent home for yourself
  • plan for the unexpected
  • achieve your goals and ambitions

Once you complete your pathway plan it will be reviewed it at least every six months by your leaving care coach.

Your plan will be written down and you’ll get a copy. You’ll be able to continue working on your pathway plan until you’re 25 if you continue to need support.

Your leaving care coach will be introduced to you around your 16th birthday. During this time, and up until your 18th birthday, your leaving care coach and social worker will work together to develop your pathway plan. Once you turn 18 and officially leave care, your leaving care coach will become responsible for providing support, advice and guidance in the following areas:

  • keeping your pathway plan under review and updated
  • taking reasonable steps to stay in regular contact
  • helping you get into or continue in education, training and employment
  • giving you advice about housing, finances and health
  • helping make sure you are able to live independently

You’ll be able to continue to access support from your leaving care coach up to the age of 25 years.

Your leaving care coach can also help you to keep contact with relatives and friends that you have met whilst in care.

If you’re aged between 21 and 25 and recently had your case closed but you still need support, you can request that a leaving care coach is reallocated to your case. They will be able to support you with the specific issues you’ve identified.

Independent living skills Click to get info

We’ll work together with your foster carer or any other people caring for you to make sure you learn how to take care of yourself. Your social worker or your leaving care coach will help you to understand:

  • how to buy enough food for the week and pay your bills with the money you have 
  • how to cook and make meals from the food that you buy 
  • how to make sure you know how to eat healthily to stay fit and well 
  • how to take care of your space (being clean and tidy, washing your clothes, not allowing other people to mess up your space, getting on with neighbours and landlords, paying your bills)

There may be other support you need, such as if you need help with your mental health and emotional wellbeing. Make sure you talk to your social worker or leaving care coach about these needs, which they should write in your pathway plan.

Make sure you know and understand what’s in your pathway plan. Don’t sign it until you’re happy that it covers everything you think it should.