Young People's Zone
WHAT FINANCIAL SUPPORT CAN I GET?
If you are a relevant child and you are living independently, you will not yet be entitled to claim benefits like income support or jobseekers’ allowance (unless you have a disability or are a lone parent, but even then you won’t be able to claim housing benefit).
As an absolute minimum, Children’s Services must give you the same as you would be getting if you were receiving income support or job seekers allowance (JSA). They must also cover the cost of your accommodation (the part of the law that says this is Paragraph 8.6 The Children Act 1989 Guidance & regulations, Vol 3: Planning Transitions to Adulthood for Care Leavers).
In addition, any care leaver aged 16-19 who is attending a Further Education course (that means going to college or doing your A Levels) must get a £1,200 Further Education Bursary. This replaces the old Educational Maintenance Allowance.
To work out what other financial help you might need, your Personal Advisor (PA) (see The Name Game, Become) must do a Financial Assessment as part of your Pathway Plan Review (see Pathway to Success, Become). As part of this, they should talk to you about the money you spend on:
- Accommodation and bills
- Education (books, fees, travel etc.)
- Work (interviews, travel & other work related expenses)
- Training or skills development (e.g. IT course, driving lessons/licence)
- Cultural or religious needs
- Special needs, for example disabilities, pregnancy and parenthood
- Personal documentation (e.g. passport, citizenship)
Based on this, Children’s Services will need to decide what financial support (if any) they can offer. It is hard to say exactly what will be agreed as:
- Decisions should be based on what YOU need and Children’s Services should not just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without thinking carefully about your individual circumstances. If they do just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ automatically this is called ‘having a blanket policy’ and can be challenged.
- Decisions will also be based on the specific Financial Policy that your Children’s Services has (and each one will be slightly different). This policy should clearly state what financial support your Children’s Services offers to care leavers (covering all the things listed above) and they should give you a copy of this policy (the part of the law that says this is Paragraphs 8.4 & 8.7 The Children Act 1989 Guidance & regulations, Vol 3: Planning Transitions to Adulthood for Care Leavers).
Remember, though, that Children’s Services are allowed to take into account any money that you get from working, from savings or which you may have inherited (the part of the law that says this is Paragraph 8.16 The Children Act 1989 Guidance & regulations, Vol 3: Planning Transitions to Adulthood for Care Leavers). If you are able to pay for things yourself, Children’s Services won’t be expected to cover the cost.
Any additional financial support that is agreed must be written down in your Pathway Plan and this must be reviewed every 6 months (the part of the law that says this is Paragraph 8.22 The Children Act 1989 Guidance & regulations, Vol 3: Planning Transitions to Adulthood for Care Leavers).
It is really, really important that you check everything is written down in the Pathway Plan and that you ask for a copy because Children’s Services must stick to any agreements that are written down in your Pathway Plan.
What can I do?
It will be easier for you to argue for more financial support if you can clearly explain what expenses you have and how far your income covers these. Try to list down everything you spend money on and then work out whether the money you get every week is enough to cover it.
Be honest and ask yourself whether everything is essential as Children’s Services won’t pay for luxuries. For example, having a winter coat is an essential, having a designer winter coat isn’t.
Also, Children’s Services will expect you to look at the cheapest option. For example, they may ask you to get the bus to college/work instead of getting the train as it is cheaper. This is OK as long as it doesn’t make your journey unreasonable or unsafe (e.g. if going by bus means it takes 2 hours each way and you don’t get home from college until really late at night, you could argue that this is unreasonable). It is important to think about the different options before you speak to your PA.
Finally, have a read of your Children’s Services policy on financial support for young people your age. 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
Your Personal Advisor (PA)
Once you have worked out your income and expenses, you should then ask to speak to your PA and ask them to complete a financial assessment. It is best if this is done as part of your Pathway Plan review so that everything is written down and you can ask for a copy of all the agreements.
Remember, Children’s Services have to honour anything they have agreed in your Pathway Plan so try to get any agreements of support written down.
If you just need help with a one-off expense (e.g. clothes for an interview), you don’t need to have a full assessment and can just call your PA to discuss this. However, getting agreements for extras can be difficult so it is important to think ahead about the costs that may arise and try and get as many of these included in your Pathway Plan as possible.
Your PA’s Manager
Your PA probably doesn’t have the power to make the final decision about what financial support you receive or not. Normally, your PA’s manager will need to agree or it might have to be considered by a special panel (this is just a group of managers who sit together and make decisions about specific things). If your PA says that they can’t decide immediately, try not to get frustrated with them as it is normal for them to have to check with their boss first.
However, if your PA says they will check with their boss and doesn’t come back with an answer or you think the answer they are giving is unfair, you can ask to speak to their manager directly. If you are going to do this, it is important that you have clear reasons why you think you should be getting more financial help and how refusing this will have a negative impact on you.
Making a Complaint
If talking to people doesn’t help then you have a right to make a complaint. To find out more about making a complaint, please click here.
It is important to read the Children’s Services policy on financial support for young people your age so that you can highlight any areas where Children’s Services say they will provide support but in reality, they are not (e.g. if they say in the policy that they will provide money for books for college but then have said ‘no’ to this when you asked for it).
It is also important to review what is in your Pathway Plan. If Children’s Services have agreed to help you in some way in your Pathway Plan but have then not kept to this agreement, you should include this in your complaint.
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.