Young People's Zone

I am a Former Relevant Child


Children’s Services normally stop supporting care leavers (former relevant children) when they turn 21. However, if you are studying when you turn 21, Children’s Services must continue to support you until you finish your course (the part of the law that says this is Section 23C(7), Children Act 1989).

Some young people don’t decide to study or do training until they are older. Sometimes, they don’t decide until after they turn 21 and Children’s Services have already closed their case. The good news is that the law has changed which means that if you decide to go back to college or university after the age of 21 (but before you turn 25) you can actually go back to Children’s Services and ask them to re-open your case (the part of the law that says this is Section 23CA Children Act 1989).

When you contact Children’s Services, they must:

  • Do an assessment of your needs to decide what help you might need from them
  • Give you a new Personal Advisor (PA) (see The Name Game, Become)
  • Complete a new Pathway Plan (see Pathway to Success, Become) for you which details all the support and help you will be getting from them (this should include help with the cost of education).

(The part of the law that says this is Section 23CA Children Act 1989)

Sometimes, Children’s Services might try and argue that you can only be assessed or have your case re-opened if you have already registered on a course. This is not true. (The part of the law that says this is Section 23CA Children Act 1989). You can approach Children’s Services as soon as you start thinking about returning to education, you don’t have to wait until you are registered or have started the course. In fact, you may want to approach them early so they can help you decide what to study and how you can manage studying alongside your other commitments. This is OK and is a legitimate reason for asking for your case to be re-opened.

Children’s Services might also argue that re-opening your case only applies if the course is full time, or is a college or university course. This is not true either. Children’s Services should re-assess you and decide if you need support if you re-enter all forms of education. This includes:

  • Re-doing your maths and English qualifications so you can find a job more easily
  • Vocational training or apprenticeships
  • College courses
  • University and postgraduate courses.

What can I do?

Be Prepared
Although you can approach Children’s Services as soon as you are thinking about studying again, it is good to have an idea about:

  • What type of study you would like to do (e.g Do you want to go to university? Do you want to do some vocational training at college?)
  • What subject are you thinking about studying?
  • Why do you think that doing a new course of study is important to your future?

If you have already decided on what course you want to do, try to have all the details ready to share with Children’s Services. This includes:

  • The name of the course and the educational institution (college, university, training institute) who is providing it
  • The length of the course
  • The number of study hours per week
  • The cost of the course.

It is also a good idea to read your Children’s Services policy on financial support for care leavers. You can normally find this on your 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
If your case has been closed, you will no longer have your own Personal Advisor (PA). If you had a good relationship with your PA, you can always phone up and talk to them and see whether they can help. This doesn’t mean that they will become your PA again but they might be able to give you some advice and get the ball rolling.

If you don’t want to speak to your old PA or they are no longer working for your Children’s Services, you can just ask to speak to the Duty Social Worker.

Whoever you speak to, they should arrange for you to meet with a member of the leaving care team to have an assessment before deciding what happens next. The first meeting will probably focus on what course you want to study and what help you would like from Children’s Services.

After this initial meeting, a PA should be allocated and there should be a second meeting to re-do your Pathway Plan. Remember, it is important to get all agreements written down in your Pathway Plan as Children’s Services have to honour all agreements included in your Pathway Plan.

If you do not receive a positive response when you try to speak to your old PA or a Duty Social Worker, then you should ask to speak to the Manager of the Leaving Care Team. If they seem reluctant to help, you can remind them of what the law says using the information in this section and ask them to arrange for you to be assessed as soon as possible.

Making a Complaint
If talking to people doesn’t get things moving then you have a right to make a complaint. To find out more about making a complaint, please click here. Complaints can take some time to get resolved so it is best to try and get things started as early as possible. Trying to argue with Children’s Services to re-open your case whilst starting a new course of study can be stressful so it is best to start contacting people about re-opening your case as early as possible in case there are any problems.

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. You can find your local advocacy service by clicking here.

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