Children's handbook Scotland
Chapter 10: Young people leaving care
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Chapter 10: Young people leaving care

This chapter covers:

1. Income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit (Cross reference)

2. Universal credit (Cross reference)

3. Other benefits (Cross reference)

4. Financial support from the local authority for 16/17 year old care leavers (Cross reference)

5. Other help from the local authority (Cross reference)

6. Other help (Cross reference)

7. Challenging local authority decisions (Cross reference)

Many 16/17-year-olds who have been 'looked after and accommodated' by the local authority  (sometimes called 'looked after away from home') cannot get income support (IS), income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), housing benefit (HB) or universal credit (UC). Instead, the local authority is responsible for providing support under section 29 of the Children (Scotland) Act Act 1995. Local authorities often refer to this help as 'after care', 'after-care services' or 'leaving care services'. Young people in this situation are commonly referred to as 'care leavers'. When someone turns 18, there are no special rules about benefits for care leavers, although they may still be eligible for support from the local authority that looked after them.

Some 16 and 17 year olds are still 'looked after and accommodated' by the local authority. The information in this chapter on IS, income-based JSA and HB does not apply to young people who are still looked after. See Cross reference for UC.

Note: benefits other than IS, income-based JSA, HB and UC are not affected.

Continuing care    

Since April 2015, some young people who are looked after by the local authority have been able to ask to remain in their placement after they stop being officially 'looked after'.Footnote This is called 'continuing care'. Continuing care means the same accommodation and other assistance as was being provided for the young person before s/he stopped being looked after by the local authority.Footnote


1. Income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit

Care leavers aged 16 or 17 cannot get housing benefit (HB) and cannot normally get income support (IS) or income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA). However, see Cross reference for who can still get IS/JSA.

You are classed as a care leaver for these purposes if:Footnote

you are 16 or over and under 18; and

you were looked after and accommodated (see Cross reference) by the local authority for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14; and

you were looked after by the local authority at your 16th birthday or after that date; and

you are no longer looked after by the local authority; and

you are not living with your family (see Cross reference), or you are living with your family and are receiving regular financial support from the local authority under s29(1) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.

Note: if you are in 'continuing care', these rules apply to you if all the bullet points above apply.Footnote

'Looked after' means:Footnote

the local authority provides you with accommodation under s25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995; or

you are subject to a compulsory supervision order or interim supervison order under the Children's Hearing (Scotland) Act 2011; or

you are subject to an order, authorisation or warrant issued by a sheriff or a children’s hearing under chapters 2 and 3 of Part 2 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. These include child protection orders and child assessment orders if you are living away from home; or

you are subject to a permanence order under s80 of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 (or you were subject to a parental responsibilities order under s86 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995);Footnote or

you have been moved to Scotland from another part of the UK, and are subject to an order made under s33 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.

'Accommodated' means provided with accommodation by the local authority, requiring you to live in a specified place, unless that specified place is with your own family.Footnote

The 13-week period does not have to be a continuous period. When calculating the 13-week period, do not include any pre-planned short-term placements (such as respite) of four weeks or less if you returned to your family at the end of the placement.Footnote

'Family' includes anyone who has parental responsibility for you (except the local authority) and anyone with whom you were living before being looked after by the local authority.Footnote You are still defined as a care leaver (and, therefore, cannot claim IS, income-based JSA or HB) if you live with your family and the local authority provides regular financial support under s29(1) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (see Cross reference).


Exception: lone parents

Even if you fall within the definition of care leaver, if you are a lone parent, you are not excluded from IS or income-based JSA.Footnote You would normally choose to claim IS in this situation. You are still excluded from HB. This applies to you if you are in 'continuing care' and you fall within the definition of care leaver (see Cross reference).


2. Universal credit

Most care leavers aged 16 and 17 are not able to claim universal credit (UC). For UC, you are a care leaver if:Footnote

you are 16 or over; and

you were looked after (see Cross reference) and accommodated by the local authority for at least three months since the age of 14; and

you were looked after by the local authority at your 16th birthday or after that date; and

you are no longer looked after by the local authority.

If this applies to you, you cannot get UC. There are some exceptions to this rule. You are not excluded from UC but you cannot get the housing element of UC for rent if you:Footnote 

are responsible for a child;

are a member of a couple and your partner is responsible for a child;

have limited capability for work or are waiting for an assessment to establish whether you have limited capability for work.

In addition, if you are aged 16 or 17 and are still looked after by the local authority or you are in a continuing care arrangement and were looked after and accommodated by the local authority for at least three months since age 14, you are excluded from UC unless one of the exceptions above applies, in which case you are not excluded from UC but still cannot get the housing element.Footnote


3. Other benefits
Employment and support allowance and statutory sick pay

If you are a care leaver who is too unwell to work, you may be able to claim employment and support allowance (ESA). There are no special rules preventing you claiming ESA, provided you satisfy the normal entitlement rules. If you are in employment but off sick, you may get statutory sick pay (SSP). If you are a care leaver on SSP, you are not excluded from income support (IS). However, the income from SSP excludes most young people from entitlement to IS. If you are a care leaver who is too unwell to work, you are still excluded from housing benefit (HB).


Health benefits

There are fixed charges for some NHS items and services. Care leavers who are receiving financial support from the local authority under section 29 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (see Cross reference) are exempt from these charges.Footnote

Charges covered are for: dental treatment; glasses/contact lenses (a voucher is issued to cover the cost of the glasses/lenses you require – this may not cover the cost of those you choose to buy); travel to hospital for treatment.

Complete Form HC1(SC) to apply, available from the local authority, Jobcentre Plus offices or NHS hospitals. You should then get an HC2 certificate showing you are exempt from charges. This lasts up to your 18th birthday or for one year, whichever is longest. If you are still entitled when the certificate runs out (ie, because you are still under 18 and still being supported by the local authority), make a new claim.

If you are a care leaver who does not receive regular financial support from the local authority, you may also be entitled to help with NHS fixed charges if you are on a qualifying benefit, such as IS or income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA), or on the grounds of low income (see Chapter 1).


Scottish Welfare Fund payments

Care leavers who are on a low income may be able to get a community care grant or crisis grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund. A community care grant may be particularly important to help with the costs of setting up home (see Cross reference).


Other benefits and tax credits

There are no special rules for care leavers for benefits or tax credits, other than IS, income-based JSA, HB, universal credit and health benefits. If you are entitled to another benefit, including ESA, personal independence payment, disability living allowance or tax credits, you can claim in the usual way (see Chapter 1).


4. Financial support from the local authority for 16/17 year old care leavers

Local authorities are responsible for providing financial support and accommodation to 16/17-year-old care leavers who are excluded from income support (IS), income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), universal credit (UC) and housing benefit (HB).Footnote The local authority that last looked after you is responsible for supporting you. This remains the case even if you subsequently move to an area covered by a different local authority,Footnote although in this situation, the local authority to which you have moved might take on the responsibility for supporting you.Footnote

Note: this section does not describe 'continuing care' assistance. At the time of writing, no guidance about continuing care had been issued.


Who can get financial support
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