Moving Towards Independence

1. Introduction

Developing skills for independence should start at a very early age and build towards the skills and abilities needed for young people to live independently. Children are to be supported to develop their independence in line with their individual needs, while protecting themselves from being in unsafe situations or with unsafe people. You will receive training and support to help you provide effective guidance. This chapter looks at what should be in place for preparing for independence and what support a young person can receive post 18.

2. Preparing for Independence

Regardless of the age of the young person, they need to develop skills so that they can become as independent as possible and should be encouraged to take responsibilities when they are able to do so.

You should build into the routine a chance to practice skills such as cooking and cleaning. This may start with an easy task such as cake making or preparing food and drink.

It is also useful to include young people in supermarket shopping where you can help them to understand (for example) the difference between the cost of convenience foods and fresh foods.

As the child gets older they should be given responsibility for paying for things from their pocket money or savings such as magazines, activities, toiletries or mobile phone credit.

You should support all children to open a bank or building society account in their own name. Some Children's Social Care Services have savings schemes and expectations.

Listed below are areas to think about with young people when preparing them for independence:

  • Budgeting, managing money and savings;
  • What food to buy, how to cook it and store food;
  • How to use a washing machine and ironing;
  • Housework and cleaning;
  • DIY such as putting wardrobes up, putting plugs on and decorating;
  • Thinking about their futures; what do they want to do, employment, further training, and how can they achieve this?
  •  Accessing advice and support from others;
  •  Leisure activities and other interests.

This is the range of things young people need to learn how to do and to be thinking about. It is important that you support the young person to develop their self esteem and resilience in order to survive living independently.

It is tempting to do things for them but remember this will not help them in the future when they are living on their own.

3. Leaving Care Needs Assessment

All Young People who are Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant (see below for definitions) must receive a multi-agency assessment of their needs covering the advice, assistance and support they will need when leaving care.

The young person's social worker will be responsible for coordinating the Needs Assessment.

This assessment should be completed no more than 3 months after the young person's 16th birthday or after the young person becomes Eligible or Relevant if this is later. The young person's Care Plan together with information from other recent assessments will form the basis of the Needs Assessment.



Eligible children are those in care aged 16 or 17 and currently looked after by Children's Services for a period of 13 weeks since the age of 14 and are currently still looked after.

Relevant children are those aged 16 or 17 and have been looked after by Children's Services for a period of 13 weeks since the age of 14 and looked after for a period of time after their 16th birthday but are no longer looked after.

Former relevant children aged between 18 and 21 or between 18 and 25 if still in full-time education and were previously a eligible and/or child.

4. The Pathway Plan

Your Fostering Service will support you to participate in preparing and reviewing the young person's Pathway Plan and, as part of this; you should support the Personal Adviser/children's social worker to identify the ways in which you can provide practical, financial and emotional support to young people as they become independent.

These tasks and other elements will form a Pathway Plan that in time will replace their Care Plan.

This Pathway Plan will include the educational and employment arrangements support and accommodation plans including financial help.

This doesn't mean that the young person has to leave your care, as being looked after by you might be an important part of their independence especially if the young person (for example) has a disability or if they are planning on moving to University.

The Pathway Plan will cover some of the following key areas:

  • Health;
  • A plan for education, training or employment;
  • Support to develop and keep appropriate family, social and sexual relationships;
  • A programme to develop practical skills to live independently;
  • Budgeting and money management;
  • Any safeguarding issues or concerns that need to be addressed around keeping the young person safe such as sexual exploitation, county lines;
  • The young person's accommodation needs including any adaptions for a young person with a disability;
  • What is needed to provide the young person with support;
  • Who is involved from Adult Services if the young person has additional needs;
  • The Pathway plan should be reviewed every 6 months by the Personal Advisor until the young person is 21 or longer if the young person is in education.

Training and support will be available from the Fostering Service on developing independence in young people including those with a disability or special need.

As a foster carer, you should be aware of the corporate parenting principles and your role to support, as well as advocate on behalf of, your foster child or young person.

In addition, the local authority in which the child is placed publishes a 'Local Offer' for care leavers, advising them of the support and assistance that they can have up to the age of 25. For children in year 9 and above, it is important that you are familiar with the opportunities and support available and should be able to discuss these with the young person when appropriate. Be mindful also that the Local Offer will change and develop over time (see Brent Offer to Care Leavers).

5. Personal Adviser

A Personal Adviser is the person appointed to support the young person post 18. The personal assistant should be appointed when the young person is 16 years old. They will hold an important role (where applicable) in the assessment, planning and review of services as set out in the Pathway Plan, and will co-ordinate with other agencies as necessary. They will visit the young person regularly and offer support and guidance.

The Personal Adviser has a duty to offer advice and support to care leavers up to the age of 25. However if the young person is over 21, then support can be still be offered if the young person feels they need this continual support and guidance.

6. When a Young Person Reaches 18 - Staying Put

Local Authorities must provide information about the possibility of extending a young person's living arrangements when they are 18.

If you feel that keeping the young person with you may be an option, the first Looked After Review following their 16th birthday should consider a Staying Put arrangement. This will mean assessing the implications for both the young person and your family.

Following the young person's 18th birthday, the legal basis on which they live in the foster home changes (the legal term is that the young person becomes an 'excluded licensee' lodging in the home) – this does not mean that the young person will be treated differently than when they were fostered.

Although Fostering Regulations do not apply to these situations there may be certain checks carried out over time. The Local Authority will need to assess and consider the appropriateness of these checks particularly where the young person is the only person living with you and it is not envisaged that further children will be placed.

7. When a Young Person has Additional Needs

Some young people need to stay in placement because they have additional needs and are eligible for an Adult service.

You may wish to be considered as a Shared Lives Carer and move over to this service to continue to support the young person post 18.

If this is the plan for the child then it is important that this is discussed when the child reaches 16 so the Child's Social Worker can work with Adult Social Care to complete their assessment, secure funding and complete your assessment as a Shared Lives Carer.

If the young person or you as the carer feel this is not appropriate, then discussions should take place so that a suitable placement can be found for the young person. Good planning and preparation will be needed to support the young person to move on.