Care leavers

If you are a care leaver you may be able to get housing and other support from us. The help you receive mainly depends on your age. Surrey County Council’s Children’s Services are responsible for finding you somewhere to live until you turn 18.

If you are aged between 18 and 25 years and are a homeless care leaver, you may qualify for advice, support and guidance from both Surrey County Council and us.

Housing assistance for 16 and 17 year old care leavers

If you have already left care, and have spent at least 13 weeks in care since the age of 14 and part of that time in care was while you were 16 or 17, you will be able to get help including somewhere to live from Surrey County Council Children and Families Team.

It doesn’t matter if those 13 weeks were not all at the same time. You have different rights if you have spent less than a total of 13 weeks in care, or you want to leave care before you are 16.

Financial support for 16 or 17 year old care leavers

Most 16 or 17 year old care leavers do not qualify for benefits. Surrey County Council’s Children Services must help you by:

  • providing housing or helping you find and keep your own place
  • supporting you financially by assisting with your rent, food, bills, travel costs for education and training, clothing, pocket money and childcare if required
  • giving you any other support you need, such as help with continuing your education, finding work or dealing with personal problems.

You can usually only claim benefits if you are a 16 or 17 year old care leaver and are also a single parent or unable to work because of a disability or illness.

Housing assistance for 18 to 25 year old care leavers

We have a duty to assess the circumstances of your homelessness, identify your housing and support needs and work with you to try to prevent your homelessness or help you find somewhere to live.

We will provide you with a Personal Housing Plan which will explain where we can assist and what you can do to help yourself. This might include actions such as attending appointments with Job Centre Plus or engaging with organisations that support care leavers.

If you are homeless we will consider whether we have a duty to provide you with accommodation. You will automatically be classed as being in priority need for accommodation until you turn 21 if:

  • you are aged between 18 and 21 and spent at least one night in care when you were 16 or 17, or
  • you are older than this but qualify for assistance as you are still in education.

Surrey County Council’s Children Services can also help by providing support and help with training and education. If you are in full-time further or higher education, they must find you somewhere to live during holiday periods if required.

Benefits for 18+ care leavers

Upon turning 18 you are entitled to claim benefits. You should be able to claim Universal Credit if needed.

Housing assistance for 21+ care leavers

We will provide housing assistance to all care leavers in the form of a Personal Housing Plan. Personal advisers will also assist and support care leavers until they turn 25. Some older care leavers can receive accommodation from us if they are in priority need. For example, this may be the case if you:

  • are considered to be vulnerable as a result of having been in care
  • haven’t had a settled home since you left care
  • have slept on the streets in the past.

As a care leaver you should continue to receive help and advice from Surrey County Council Children’s Services until you turn 25, including assistance with education and training.

Your personal adviser should keep in touch and go over your pathway plan. Ask Children’s Services if you need support to continue with your education or find training or employment. They may be able to help you with the cost of living near your college, training centre or workplace.

Help for all care leavers

If you are a care leaver under 21 who has been looked after, accommodated or fostered in a different area for a period of at least two years, you may also apply for assistance in that area.

However, if you are not in this category, the council that last looked after you remains responsible for you even if you move to a different area.

Personal adviser

Before you leave care you will be given a pathway plan setting out what support you might need to live independently.

You will be given the details of a personal adviser whose job it is to make sure that you access the services and benefits entitled to you. They can help you with application forms for housing, benefits and education/training courses. They should also help you with learning life skills, like how to budget.

Your personal adviser should stay in contact with you and provide ongoing support and help until you turn 25.

Seek advice if you do not have a personal adviser. You may be able to get one even if you did not get one while you were still in care.

Suitable accommodation for young care leavers

Any accommodation offered to you should be suitable for you. You may get a place in a hostel, a self-contained flat or a placement in supported or shared housing. It is unlikely, but in some cases, you could be offered a place in a children’s home or foster care.

Ask your personal adviser to help you if you have problems in your accommodation.

Single room rate

Usually if you are under 35 and you rent from a private landlord, the maximum Universal Credit you receive is the same rate you would for renting a single room in a shared house.

However, if you have been in care, this rule will not apply until you turn 22. You should be entitled to Universal Credit even if you have just spent one night in care. There is a maximum amount that you can be paid, which depends on the area you live.

Priority need

If you are aged between 18 and 21 and spent at least one night in care when you were 16 or 17, you are automatically classed as being in priority need until you turn 21. You may be entitled to emergency housing from us if you are in priority need. This will normally be supported housing as we consider this to be the most appropriate accommodation for young people.

Additional help when moving into a new home

If you are a care leaver moving into a new home, you may be entitled to a budgeting loan to help pay for rent in advance, moving expenses or household items. Most people who have been on income support or jobseekers allowance for at least 26 weeks can apply.

These loans are paid back through deductions from your benefits. Your personal adviser will be able to help you apply for this.

Leisure, culture and life skills opportunities for care leavers

Surrey County Council provides free and reduced cost leisure and culture activities for care leavers or looked after children in Surrey. It offers you some brilliant opportunities including:

  • free gym membership
  • free swimming access at all times
  • 50% concession on classes and bookable activities (Surrey foster carers and their birth children (under 18 years old) are entitled to a 50 leisure discount)
  • help with buying a bike, boxing class membership, driving lessons and more.

Find out more about leisure, culture and life skills opportunities

Advice for homeless care leavers

Before you become homeless get advice. Your personal advisor can help you.

  • Check whether Children’s Services and/or us should help you.
  • Tell you what sort of accommodation and support Children’s Services normally provide in Surrey – this will give you an idea of what you can expect.
  • Make sure you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled.
  • Tell you what longer term housing options are available in your area and give you an idea of how much it might cost.
  • Put you in contact with specialist support organisations or local schemes that can help you raise a deposit or find a suitable place to live.