Sections in this guide (click title to view)

1. When will I leave care?

When you are looked after by us, your time in care will end at some point. This can happen in a few different ways.

If you are still in care when you are 18, and you have a care order, this will end automatically. This means that you are independent.

When you're over 16 you can ask to have your care order stopped. You'll need to go through the court process to do this. You can talk to your social worker and independent review officer about this or contact an advocate for extra support if you think that will help you.

If you're over 16, and you have been accommodated without a care order, this can end at any time if you, us and your parents agree. If you would prefer to stay looked after you can do this, even if you parents don’t agree.

It can be an exciting yet scary time when you are leaving care. There is a lot to think about – paying bills, studying or working, looking after yourself, cooking and cleaning, and having fun and time for your self of course!

So what will happen when I turn 16?

If you've been looked after for 13 weeks since you were 14, and you are still looked after when you are 16 (a bit confusing!), then you will be able to get help from our leaving care service. It's their job to make sure you have a social worker, financial assistance, and somewhere to live.

To make sure that you are ready to live on your own, you will get a new social worker when you turn 16 (or when you are 15 and nearly 16). It is their job to support you and to help you think about what you can do to get ready to live on your own once you are 18.

They will also:

  • give information, advice and support throughout the time that you will be leaving care
  • help you in completing and reviewing your pathway plan
  • give you links to other services that you may need
  • help in undertaking tasks yourself, rather than doing tasks for you.

And just because you have a new social worker does not mean that you will move from where you are living. Usually you can stay where you are living if you are happy there.

If you're ready, you might move from where you are living to a place that gives you more independence. This is called semi-independent living. Your social worker and independent reviewing officer will talk to you about this when you are 15 or 16.

What's a pathway plan?

When you turn 16, your new social worker will talk to you and other people who are important to you to find out more about you and what your needs are.

They will help you to think about your future – what you're studying, what you want to do in the future and your independence skills. You should be involved in these meetings to be able to say what your wishes and feelings are.

This is called a needs assessment, and is something the law says has to happen within three months after you turn 16.

Your needs assessment is written into what is called a pathway plan. Although it may seem like more paperwork, your pathway plan is there to help you to take control of your life. It is there to help you to plan future goals and tasks, and to deal with any worries you have or challenges you may face.

A pathway plan will help you to:

  • prepare for living independently
  • get work or start a course
  • become self sufficient
  • make a successful transition from care into your own home
  • build and sustain a permanent home for yourself
  • plan for the unexpected
  • achieve your goals and ambitions.

You will complete your pathway plan and review it at least every six months. Your plan will be written down and you will get a copy of this.

You will have this plan until you are 21 or 24 if you are in further education or training. Your social worker will keep working with you until you are 18, and will help you plan for the future and continue to make sure that you are safe and that all of your needs are met.

2. Where will I leave?

When you're 16 or older, chances are you will be preparing to leave care and thinking about where you might live. It’s really important for you to think about what kind of support you might need.

Some young people will keep living with their foster carer until they are 18, while some young people move sometime from when they are 16 to 18 to a place where they have more responsibilities.

This is called semi-independent living.

Sometimes it can sound great to think of living on your own or with other young people – but remember that with this freedom come loads of responsibilities like cooking, limited money, cleaning, paying bills.

We need to make sure you are ready to live on your own. There are lots of options for this!

Semi-independent living

One way for you to get ready for living on your own is for you to move into what is called semi-independent living.

This is a chance for you to move somewhere where you don’t have a foster carer, but where there is still some adult support – maybe a key worker or owner of the house.

Remember, a move to semi-independent accommodation will only happen with a lot of discussion between you, your social worker and your independent reviewing officer.

We need to make sure you will be able to cope with the increased responsibility for your self (because you might be studying and will need to pay bills and cook for yourself). We need to make sure you will be safe!

There are different types of semi-independent accommodation:

Supported lodgings

This is when you will live somewhere similar to a foster carer’s house; where you are have a higher level of adult support.

Sometimes this can be the foster carer’s house that you might be living in already, but you will have more independence and expected to do more for yourself (like cooking and managing your money).

Supported accommodation

We have a range of supported accommodation options for young people:

A unit: This can include living in a unit that is just for young people who are looked after.

There are staff on site 24 hours a day to help support the young people living there, and you would all have a key worker who would meet with you regularly. Some young people might see their key worker more often than others depending on their needs.

Share-house accommodation: This is when you live with other young people who are looked after but you will have your own bedroom and share kitchens and bathrooms.

Usually there is no adult living there, although sometimes a key worker will visit the house to make sure the young people are okay.

If you are living in this accommodation we will support you with a basic level of financial support. Just ask your Social Worker if you want to know how much this is.

Can I go back and live with my family?

When you turn 18 you can move back to live with your parents or other family members if you want to, and if they agree to this.

It is important that you think about this very carefully to make sure that you are ready to do this and that you will be safe. Sometimes it helps to talk to your social worker or a trusted friend or adult about this – as it is a big decision.

If things don’t go well for some reason if you do move back to your family, you will be entitled to some support from the leaving care service – you just need to let us know.

3. Planning your future

What will happen when I turn 18?

When you turn 18 you are no longer looked after by us under the law. However, we will continue to support you until you are 21 and make sure you are coping and settled in to where you are living.

When you're 16, your social worker will have helped you to apply for social housing with us. It can often take time to be housed through the council and you will usually be offered a one bedroom or studio flat.

There is always a shortage of property in Lambeth, but we will help you to make sure that you are offered a house when you turn 18. If you don’t want to move into the house you have been offered you can appeal this and move into temporary accommodation while you wait for a response.

The rules with Lambeth housing are that you only get one house option. If you don’t accept the offer they give you then you will lose the flat. Your only other option is private accommodation which is much more expensive.

When you are offered a property you will get financial help to furnish your place from your social worker. This is called a setting up home allowance.

Setting up home allowance

When you have signed for your permanent accommodation, the leaving care team will help you to furnish your property through a setting up home allowance. This will give you enough money to buy essential furniture and items such as a sofa, bed, wardrobe, kitchen utensils.

If you are receiving benefits, or will be in the coming months, you can to apply for a community care grant for more help to furnish and decorate your property.

We require you to spend this allowance with an appropriate person for example a personal adviser, key worker or social worker.

Privately rented flats and bedsits

Some young people will move into a privately rented flat or bedsit. If you think this is the type of accommodation you will need, you can talk to your social worker about this and the leaving care service will look at your circumstances and see if they can offer you a package of support.

Accommodation when you're at university

If you're attending university in London, you will most likely be living in your Lambeth Council accommodation.

If you go to university outside of London, we can look at supporting you to live in the halls of residence. We would also offer you vacation accommodation in London, which would be in shared accommodation with other young people.

We will negotiate with the housing team to hold your offer of accommodation in Lambeth until you complete your course. Once you have completed your course we can help you to make sure you get your offer of accommodation if you choose this.

Training, education and work for care leavers

When you are leaving school, it’s time to think about what you want to do in the future!

Do you want to go to university, or do some particular training? Do you want to work in a certain field?

We all have different ideas about what we want to do in the future – sometimes it can be hard to make this decision.

We currently have a Connexions worker based in the leaving care team. They will work with your social worker to make sure that you receive proper support from Connexions, your school or college, or a careers centre – depending what you need.

It is their job to check if you are linked to any other Connexions worker, and will help you. All young people need some guidance to know their options for the future.

We want you to have all of the support and encouragement to do the best you can!

Reach high - reach for the stars!

4. Financial support

Financial support with education

We can help you with education and training costs, travel, clothing costs and other costs that will help you to do what you want to do for your future!

This will depend on your individual circumstances and where you are living – we can’t pay for everything – but we will always listen to your request and help you as much as we can. If we cannot pay for everything we can help you to apply to charities for help with funds.

When you are studying it is very important for you to claim Educational Maintenance Allowance. This gives you extra money to help you with your studies. Talk to your social worker about this if you want help applying for this.

Your workers will be able to advise you on the current arrangements that Transport for London have in place for students as you should be able to receive a student discount.

Financial support and university

If you are considering going to university we'll support you to get your degree!

It is important you let the leaving care team know about this as soon as you can so that they can help you to understand the rules regarding grants and loans, because these will vary year on year.

If studying outside London we will support accommodation in halls of residence for at least your first year. We will also offer vacation accommodation in London.


When you're under 18, we'll provide you with an allowance as we are responsible for your care. When you turn 18 you may be able to apply for benefits.

You may need assistance and advice when claiming benefits to ensure you are claiming the correct benefit as this can be a complex process. If you need help with this please speak to your social worker.