Supporting young people leaving care in Scotland: regulations and guidance

Regulations and guidance on services for young people ceasing to be looked after by local authorities in Scotland.

Regulations and Guidance on Services for Young People Ceasing to be Looked After by Local Authorities


Principles of financial assistance

8.1 Learning to manage money and a budget is an important step on the road to independent living. As corporate parents, local authorities will want to make sure that their looked after young people are given advice on saving and living within a set budget. Young people should be encouraged at an early age to open a suitable bank account and learn to manage money. Local authorities will wish to consider opening accounts for their young people as soon as they become looked after as part of learning about financial responsibility. This would also overcome any potential difficulties which may arise when young people try to open accounts at an older age. Where local authorities are giving financial assistance this should be paid through bank accounts except in exceptional circumstances.

8.2 Young people should receive a package of support which meets their assessed requirements. This will be based on individual circumstances and needs identified in the pathway assessment, although it would be expected to include the following as appropriate: rent, utility bills, food/household goods, laundry, insurance, clothing, travel and leisure.

8.3 Young people should be encouraged to take part in employment, training or education as this will assist them in fulfilling their potential and enable them to plan for the future. Local authorities may wish to use some form of incentives to do this, which could be in the form of extra financial payments or access to leisure facilities, but which are recognised and valued by the young people.

8.4 Young people who are in further or higher education should be encouraged and supported to continue their studies. As part of this, financial considerations should not affect the young person's wish to continue in education. It is not considered helpful for young people to be expected to take out full student loans and authorities, as corporate parents, will want to provide assistance.

Regular financial assistance

8.5 Given the different components that will make up such a package this could be cash and/or payment in kind. However, regular financial support to replace DWP benefits should normally only be given to young people under 18 years of age who ceased to be looked after over school age and who had been looked after away from home for over 13 weeks since the age of 14. It is this category that has had their entitlement to DWP benefits withdrawn under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. These young people should receive a package at least the equivalent of the DWP benefits available to 16 and 17 year olds at any particular time. This information is available to local authorities from the DWP.

Regulation 13(1)
Regulation 13(3)

8.6 In assessing the financial payments to be made to a young person, the local authority should consider the factors the DWP would take into account in assessing a claim. In particular, the authority will want to take into account any earnings and savings the young person might have. The authority has the discretion to reduce payments or not according to the other income of the young person. Generally, the local authority should treat income and savings as the DWP would, because the young person will move to the DWP system at 18 years old and should not be faced with a loss of income at that point. The local authority will also want to encourage young people both to take employment or training places and to learn to save. In particular, where a young person has been awarded a sum in compensation for a criminal injury the local authority should normally disregard that capital entirely in calculating financial support. The local authority should ensure that young people have access to sound financial advice about the best use for such funds, bearing in mind that normal rules on benefit entitlement will apply when the young person reaches 18.

8.7 Where agreement on appropriate packages of support cannot be reached between the local authority and the young person, local authorities should pay the current DWP rate of payment to the young person as a minimum, if they are not in receipt of any other income.

8.8 Local authorities may want to work together to ensure consistency in the approach to the level of financial payments, and the way the income and savings are treated, whether in a particular area or across Scotland. There are precedents for a joint approach from Wales and areas of England.

8.9 In addition to regular financial support, the local authority may, under certain circumstances, consider that a financial payment to their young people who are either still looked after or have ceased to be looked after would be appropriate. For example, a young person may need suitable clothes for an interview and the authority would wish to assist with such a purchase. Regular financial support may also be made available to other young people in exceptional circumstances, for example they cannot live at the family home because of concerns about their safety, or they may have been looked after in England and Wales but they are not currently receiving support form the local authority that last looked after them. Local authorities may also wish in certain circumstances to assist by other means of support rather than financial support, for example when there is reason to believe any cash is likely to be spent on drugs.

Young people remaining eligible for DWP benefits

8.10 Some careleavers under 18 years of age will continue to be eligible for DWP benefits. In particular, those who are single parents or disabled are not generally excluded from DWP benefits. Local authorities should not normally pay regular financial support to those young people who remain eligible for DWP benefits. Local authorities will want to ensure they are familiar with these categories and work closely with their local DWP offices to ensure that young people who continue to be eligible for DWP support are correctly identified and receive their benefit. No young person should fall between the DWP and local authority and receive no support.

Young people returning home

8.11 A compulsorily supported person under 18 who returns home after leaving care should normally only be provided with regular financial support in circumstances where the DWP would pay benefits because of extreme hardship. This is in line with the position of other 16 and 17 year olds living at home. If such a person is at home but does not qualify for regular financial support from the local authority they may be eligible to apply for DWP benefits, but DWP will take into account similar factors as the local authority in making this determination. If a return home breaks down and the young person returns again to the local authority for help before reaching 18, they will again be eligible for regular financial support from the local authority in the same way as other careleavers under 18 not living with their family.

Regulation 13(2)

Young people turning 18 years old

8.12 Once a young person is 18 they will return to the DWP benefits system and the responsible authority does not have a primary financial support role for young people who are no longer looked after. The responsible authority will want to have done preparatory work for this with the young person, in particular on any differences between adjustments for income and savings and incentives between the local authority's system and the DWP approach. The local authority can continue making payments in certain circumstances but will want to be sure that any DWP benefits are not affected.

Health costs

8.13 Young people who receive financial support from the local authority can complete a claim form, HC1(SC) for help with health costs. An NHS charges certificate for full help will then be sent to the young person and lasts for 12 months or until the young person's eighteenth birthday, whichever is longer. Claim forms should be ordered from the Department of Health. Local authorities should hold a small supply of these forms and give one to each young person as soon as a decision to provide any form of financial support is made. Some health and other services will also be available directly to those receiving regular financial support from the local authority.



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