Personal advisers may need to monitor the welfare of vulnerable care leavers who decline a new entitlement to support up to the age of 25.
That is one of the points raised in draft guidance issued by the Department for Education for consultation on implementing the new right to personal adviser support for care leavers aged 21-25. The entitlement, introduced by section 3 of the Children and Social Work Act, applies regardless of people are in education or training. Previously only care leavers in this age group who were in education or training were entitled to PA support.
Under section 3, where a care leaver aged 21-25 requests PA support, the council must provide this up to the person’s 25th birthday or until the person says they no longer want it, if earlier than this. Under the duty, the local authority must assess the person’s needs with a view to determining what other support may assist in meeting these needs, and prepare a pathway plan.
The legislation specifies that a care leaver who does not request PA support must be offered such support as soon as possible after reaching 21 and at least once a year thereafter.
Balancing rights and risks
Though the duty does not apply when the care leaver does not request support, the draft guidance says PAs may continue to monitor the welfare of a care leaver if the person may need support to avoid putting themselves at risk. In these cases any action would follow the same process as if a local authority was made aware of a vulnerable adult, and the “local authority will need to assess the balance between the risk of harm to the individual, and the rights and freedom of care leavers to choose their own lives and lifestyles”.
Where a care leaver turns 21 after the new duty commences, the draft guidance says that their PA should ask them in the run-up to their 21st birthday whether they want their support to continue beyond this point. If a care leaver does want the support their pathway plan should be reviewed and amended if necessary.
Care leavers already aged over 21 who request support must have a PA appointed for them who must then assess their needs and develop a pathway plan setting out what the local authority will provide.
Assessments and pathway plans
The assessment and pathway plan should be proportionate to the care leaver’s situation. Where a person is living a successful independent life and only requires support in a single area, a full assessment may not be necessary, says the draft guidance. But where a PA has concerns that a person needs support with a broader range of issues than they initially report, a full needs assessment may be required.
Likewise, a full pathway plan need not be completed if the person only needs support in a certain area of their life. Pathway plans should be reviewed at least every six months to a year.
The PA support guidance is one of three pieces of guidance on the provisions in the act now being consulted on.
Corporate parenting principles
The 7 corporate parenting principles
- Act in the best interests of young people and promote their health and wellbeing.
- Encourage young people to express their views, feelings and wishes.
- Take account of children and young people’s views, feelings and wishes.
- Help children to access and make the best use of services provided by councils and relevant partners.
- Promote high aspirations and seek to secure the best outcomes for young people.
- Children and young people to be safe and have stable home lives, relationships, and education or work.
- Prepare young people for adulthood and independent living.
Alongside the personal adviser support offer guidance, the DfE is consulting on statutory guidance on how councils should apply seven new corporate parenting principles (see box) to care and pathway planning, and its advice on how local authorities should construct local offers to care leavers.
The statutory corporate parenting principles guidance says councils need to have mechanisms to enable looked-after children and care leavers to feed back on their experience of using local services.
The guidance adds that while the principles are most relevant to local services such as social care, education, housing and taxation, they may have implications throughout the council. As an example it suggests that a council’s highways service could ring-fence apprenticeships for care leavers.
It also says that foster carers and children’s homes should be routinely helping looked-after children prepare for independence by encouraging them to help with household tasks rather than treating these activities as something to be taught to them a few weeks before they leave care.
The consultation on all three pieces of guidance ends on 27 November.