Thinking about leaving care?

All Local Authorities have a duty to offer continuing support to young people leaving their care, at least up to the age of 21 years.

Between the ages of 21 and 25 you will be offered continuing support if you wish to continue or resume a course of further or higher education, or training. The type of support you are entitled to will depend on your age and circumstances.

Who is a care leaver?

The level of support young people receive depends on their status as care leavers. A breakdown of the entitlements and how young people qualify for them is available in the Regulations and Guidance related to the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. Below is a short summary:

Eligible Child

A child aged 16 and 17 who have been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and who are still looked after.

Relevant Child

A child aged 16 and 17 who have been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and who have left care. This also includes young people who were detained (e.g. in a youth offending institution or hospital) when they turned 16 but immediately before that were looked after.

Former Relevant

A young person over 18 who was previously 'eligible' or 'relevant'. Local authorities should support this group at least until age 21 or longer if in education or training.


Any young person under 21 (or 24 if in education or training) who ceases to be looked after or accommodated in a variety of other settings, or privately fostered, after the age of 16. This also includes young people who are under a special guardianship order.

Young people who return home

A young person's status as a care leaver can also change if they leave care and return home to live with their birth family. A 16 or 17 year old who has lived for a continuous period of six months with a parent or someone with parental responsibility will not be a relevant child, even if they fit the criteria above. However, if this arrangement breaks down before they turn 18 and the young person ceases to live with the person concerned they would again become relevant child.

When do I leave care?

You should be involved in all major decisions about your life, including when you leave care, where you go to live and what support you receive.

You also should be involved in having your needs assessed before you leave care to make sure that you leave:

  • at a time that is right for you
  • when you feel prepared and ready
  • knowing what support you will be getting
  • understanding what your options are if things don't work out for the best

For many young people, it is important to know that you can stay in care up until you are 18, unless you agree that you are ready to leave before.

How will I be helped?

By the time you are 21 your Social Worker will help you achieve the following:

  • be living in stable, safe, affordable, suitable accommodation
  • have sorted out your money and be able to manage your finances
  • be in some form of education, training or employment
  • be registered and plugged into primary health care services and know how to access more specialist health services if necessary
  • have some leisure and social interests
  • have some networks of support in the community other than care or ex care links
  • have understood issues as to why you were in care in the first place, and if appropriate helped you re-establish some ongoing relationship with your birth family
  • have helped you develop enough confidence and self esteem so that you feel able to face the future positively

To know what happens when you reach 18 please see the After Care section.

Leaving Care Charter

The Department for Education has produced a charter for care leavers which sets out principles and promises developed by young people themselves. Leicestershire County Council has signed up to the charter, and seeks to embed the principles in its day to day practice. You can read the charter in the document below.