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Leaving care and services for care leavers

Sections 105 to 115 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 place duties on a local authority to provide support for children and young persons who it has looked after when they cease to be looked after (care leavers). The support provided is intended to be equivalent to that which a child who has not been looked after might reasonably expect from his or her parents.

The purpose of this provision is intended to assist young persons who have been looked after to move from being looked after to living independently. The advice and support that care leavers receive depends upon their age and care leaving status.

In order to receive support from a local authority as a care leaver, the young person must have been looked after by a local authority for the prescribed period of time within the prescribed age range (Regulation 47 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (Wales) Regulations 2015 currently sets the criteria at a requirement to be looked after by a local authority for a period of 13 weeks between the ages of 14 and 16 years).

Section 104 of the 2014 Act sets out the different categories of young people who are or who were being looked after by a local authority for the purposes of the Act. Each category is entitled to differing types or levels of support. Section 104(2) contains a description of the six different categories.

A category 1 young person is a child aged 16 or 17 who is being looked after by a local authority and who has been looked after by a local authority (in Wales or England) for a period (specified in regulations), which began after he or she reached an age specified in regulations and ended after the child had reached the age of 16. This definition restates the definition of an eligible child in paragraph 19B(2) of Schedule 2 to the Children Act 1989.

A category 2 young person is a child aged 16 or 17, who is no longer looked after by a local authority (in Wales or England) but who immediately before ceasing to be looked after was a category 1 young person. The definition of a category 2 young person replicates that of a relevant child in section 23A of the Children Act 1989.

A category 3 young person is a young person who is aged 18 or over, and who used to be a category 2 young person and would continue to be so if he or she were under the age of 18; or who was being looked after by a local authority when he or she reached the age of 18, and, immediately before ceasing to be looked after, was a category 1 young person. The definition of a category 3 young person restates that of a former relevant child in section 23C of the Children Act 1989.

A category 4 young person is a category 3 young person who is under 25 (or a lower age specified in regulations) and for whom the duties under sections 105, 106, 107(3) and (10) and 110 have ceased to apply, and who has also informed the local authority that he or she is pursuing or wishes to pursue education or training. The definition of a category 4 young person captures those young persons for whom provision is made within section 23CA of the Children Act 1989 (persons who qualify for further assistance to pursue education or training). Such young persons will be able to obtain advice and assistance by virtue of “reconnecting” with a local authority for the purposes of seeking to pursue education or training.

A category 5 young person is a young person who is 16 but not yet 21 in respect of whom a special guardianship order is in force (or if the person is 18 or over, an order was in force when he or she reached 18). A category 5 young person will be entitled to the same support from a local authority as that provided for a person qualifying for advice and assistance under section 24A of the Children Act 1989 (on the basis that he or she is a person who qualifies for advice and assistance by virtue of section 24(1A) of the Children Act 1989).

A category 6 young person is a young person who has not yet attained the age of 21; is residing in Wales; and who, whilst not currently being looked after, accommodated or fostered, has been looked after, accommodated or fostered for a period when they were between the ages of 16 and 18. This category does not include anyone capable of being captured by the definition of a category 5 young person. A category 6 young person will be entitled to the same support from a local authority as that provided to persons qualifying for advice and assistance under section 24A by virtue of section 24(1B) of the Children Act 1989.

“When I am ready” – post-18 living arrangements

“When I am Ready” is the name given to the scheme through which local authorities will fulfil their statutory duty to facilitate post-18 living arrangements.

Under section 108 of the 2014 Act, local authorities have new duties towards young people in foster care who wish to continue living with their foster parents beyond the age of 18.

Local authorities are required to:

  • ascertain, when carrying out pathway assessments and drawing up pathway plans for young people aged 16 and 17, whether the young person and his or her foster carers wish to make a post-18 living arrangement
  • provide advice and other support to facilitate post-18 living arrangements, where the young person and foster carers wish to enter into them and provided the local authority is satisfied that this is not inconsistent with the young person’s well-being.

Regulation 50 of The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (Wales) Regulations 2015 specify the persons to whom the local authority must provide advice and information about post-18 arrangements, and the kind of advice and information to be provided.

Charges for support for care leavers

In accordance with section 117 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, a local authority is able to impose a charge for support (other than advice) under sections 109 to 115 of the 2014 Act (support for care leavers).  Charges under section 117 can only be imposed on persons over the age of 18 and can only cover the cost that the local authority incurs in meeting the needs to which the charge applies. 

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