Care leavers

Young people leaving care are among the most vulnerable children in our society. Even those who have had a stable placement may have very high levels of need. Many children, who have been in the care system, have had a childhood full of instability and trauma. Over 62% of looked after children are being taken into care due to abuse or neglect.

Care leavers have been estimated to make up 27% of the adult prison population. Young adults in the criminal justice system, who are care leavers, may need more support than other young adults. This is to help them through their transition to adulthood.

The evidence is that certain categories of children are more at risk than others of being sexually exploited or groomed. This was looked at by the All-party parliamentary group (APPG) for runaway and missing children and adults. They worked with the APPG for children looked after and care leavers (2012). They found evidence that linked children in care going missing to children being groomed or sexually exploited.

The local picture

The Pathway service in Calderdale is a commissioned service provided by Prospects. It gives statutory services for care leavers defined as:

  • Eligible:

    those people still in care aged 16 and 17 years old, who have been looked after for at least 13 weeks from the age of 14;
  • Relevant:

    young people aged 16 and 17 years old, who have already left care and who have been looked after for at least 13 weeks from the age of 14, and have been looked after for some time while aged 16 or 17;
  • Former relevant:

    young people aged 18 to 21 years, who have been eligible and / or relevant children in care.

A breakdown of Care leavers from July 2015 to March 2017

Breakdown of the ages of care leavers Oct to Dec 2015 Jan to Mar 2016 Apr to Jun 2016 Jul to Sept 2016 Oct to Dec 2016 Jan to Mar 2017
Number of current cases 146 149 159 163 170 182
Number aged 15.5 to 17 years 56 60 69 66 70 74
% aged 15.5 to 17 years 38% 40% 43% 40% 41% 41%
Number aged 18 to 20 years 72 73 73 73 79 78
% aged 18 to 20 years 49% 49% 47% 45% 46% 43%
Number aged 21 to 25 years 18 16 24 24 21 30
% aged 21 to 25 years 12% 11% 15% 15% 12% 16%

Number of care leavers as at 31 March 2017

Eligible young people 73
Relevant young people 1
Former relevant young people 108

There is a separate JSNA chapter which considers the health and wellbeing of Children who are looked after .


Current provision

Pathway service, Calderdale

The service provides support for care leavers who have been looked after by the Council or who continue to be placed in Calderdale under an agreement with another local authority. The service fulfils the statutory duties of the Council in respect of children looked after aged 15 ½ years, and care leavers as defined in The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 and the regulations and guidance that relate to the act. These include eligible, relevant and former relevant children (see The local picture section), and young adults up to the age of 25 if still in education or training.

The Service operates within the Children and Young People’s strategic framework and the Vision for children and young people in Calderdale to improve life opportunities for children and young people.

Our Vision:

  • All children in Calderdale are healthy - happy – safe – successful;

Our Strategic Priorities:

  • Start healthy and stay healthy;
  • Are safe at home, in school and in the community;
  • Enjoy learning and achieve their best;
  • Develop social skills and take part in activities;
  • Have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives;
  • Stay in education and get a job.

New Belongings: Improving the lives of Care leavers

The ‘New Belongings’ project - run by the Care leavers’ foundation partnered by Leeds City Council and funded by the Department for Education – aims to create the gold standard in support for care leavers. Calderdale is part of a regional cluster project including: Leeds (cluster lead), Sheffield, Kirklees and Wakefield.

New Belongings Project, Calderdale

The Project focuses on five areas of work to make a significant step change in these areas in order to further improve outcomes for Calderdale care leavers:

  • Apprenticeships and work experience;
  • Participation;
  • Transition;
  • Pregnancy Pathway;
  • Youth Offending Team.



All 16 to 18 year old care leavers are offered a statutory health assessment. In 2015/16, 44 young people were offered assessment, 5 refused, therefore the uptake was 88.6%.

The top five identified health needs for Calderdale care leavers are:

  • Mental / emotional health and wellbeing issues;
  • Substance misuse;
  • Teenage pregnancy;
  • Sexual health;
  • Dental.

Development of a health passport is underway in Calderdale. This will sit alongside the 'health conversation' that the Children looked after (CLA) nurse will have with all 16 year old young people. This will include information and discussion around health history.

Discussions are taking place regarding a health pathway for pregnant care leavers, and how services can better respond to the particular difficulties and challenges faced by care leavers during pregnancy and post birth. In 2014, 22% of female care leavers in England became teenage parents.

Working in partnership with the Contraception and Sexual Health (CASH) services based in Calderdale has resulted in the development of a ‘Fast track’ access service for care leavers to receive advice and support around contraception and sexual health.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (UASC)

These are children under the age of 18 years who are seeking asylum, but not living with their parents, relatives or guardians in the UK. Local authorities have a duty of care to ensure that the welfare of unaccompanied asylum seeking children is met. Since November 2015, 11 UASC children have arrived in Calderdale, four were planned and seven were not. The age range is between 14 and 17 years. At 31 March 2017, the total of UASC supported in Calderdale was 21.

UASC additional support element

From July 2016, our Care Leaver service has had:

  • a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered child care social worker, with experience of working with UASC;
  • an interpreting apprenticeship for a care leaver with lived experience of UASC;
  • and other business support, to help with Home Office requirements for each UASC.


Almost all (97.1%) care leavers live in safe, suitable accommodation that meets their needs. Calderdale is part of the White Rose framework of accommodation providers for vulnerable young people. This means that all our providers meet agreed quality standards and are monitored against outcomes for young people.

The percentage of care leavers aged 19, 20 and 21 years in suitable accommodation at 31 March 2017:

  • Calderdale: 98%
  • Yorkshire and Humberside: 81.1%
  • England: 77.8%

The Right Home service in Calderdale brings together innovative new and existing services. This supports young people between 11 and 25 years old at the right time and in the right place. This aims to provide better outcomes for young people on the edge of care or at risk of becoming homeless. To be able to use the services, the young person must live in Calderdale, be on the edge of or already living in care, or at risk of homelessness. All young people referred to Right Home service receive additional support and services from the virtual team.

Education and Employment

Virtual School

The Virtual School provides statutory outreach support to children who are looked after in mainstream schools and alternative settings as a core service. The Virtual School is committed to improving educational attainment, and narrowing the gap between Calderdale children looked after and their peers.

In 2015:

  • At Key Stage 4, it is difficult to compare results from previous years due to the government’s new reporting procedures and the examination reforms. However, Calderdale's had an outcome of 17% for 5A*- C General certificate of secondary education (GSCEs). This included Maths and English. This was higher than the national and regional averages for children looked after (12% and 13.7% respectively). Although, this is below last year's result (42%), which was the highest in Yorkshire and Humber;
  • Overall six young people (33%) achieved the 5 A*-C GSCEs. This is higher than the 2014 national (16.3%) and regional (31.5%) averages;
  • As in previous years, the continued engagement with education for the majority of the Year 11 cohort has resulted in 15 young people achieving a wide range of qualifications, and gaining a minimum of 5 A-G GCSEs with an outcome of 83% overall. From the cohort of 18 young people, every young person achieved at least 1 GCSE (100%) which is beneficial for the next stage of their education;
  • In relation to post 16 education and employment status, Calderdale has consistently performed well against national indicators;
  • Achievements in 2015 are again positive with 100% Personal Education Plans audited and completed, and excellent attendance for children looked after with a slight reduction in absence rates.

Seven of our care leavers have also offered university places, to study a variety of subjects.

Careers Advice, Training and Employment

All young people entitled to a Leaving care service must have a Pathway plan that sets out their needs in respect of education, employment and training. It should identify what support they require, and from whom, in order to support them into and maintain employment, education or training.

Calderdale careers service (C&K Careers) provides information, advice and guidance on an individual basis to young people aged 16 to 19 years, in order to facilitate the young person's movement into a positive learning or employment outcome. A formal agreement is in place with the Pathways service to ensure care leavers have the same opportunities as their peers. Through effective joint working, by sharing information and helping to problem solve, this formal agreement and partnership avoids operational issues which may arise between different services. A more targeted service is available for more vulnerable young people or those with additional educational needs which also includes support for care leavers to the age of 25.

Pre-apprenticeship workshops are delivered in a five week programme to support the bi-monthly opportunities and intake of apprentices.

Percentage of Calderdale care leavers who are EET (Education employment and training), NEET (Not in education, employment and training), or not known at 31 March 2017

  Care leavers All 16 to 18 year olds
  Care leavers EET %EET Not known % not known NEET %NEET EET %EET
England 9,324 5,482 59% 782 8% 2,830 30% n/a n/a
Calderdale 182 145 80% n/a n/a 37 20% 72 3%

Direct support for care leavers over 18 years old

The Children (leaving care) Act 2000 set out key duties, and from 2008 the government has required local authorities to support care leavers up to the age of 25 years if they remained in, or planned to return to, education and training. Care leavers do not always get the support they need past the age of 18 years. In 2013-14 only eight out of 151 local authorities reported that they knew where all their care leavers (19 to 21 years old) were living and whether they were in employment, education or training.

These are the EET and NEET outcomes for 182 young people leaving care as at the end of March 2017 (using the definition in the Department for Education Statutory guidance and regulation January 2015):

EET total: 145

  • Enrolled in Higher education:20;
  • Enrolled in Further education including school: 90;
  • Work: 20;
  • Apprenticeship: 8.

The national average for care leavers in university is 6%. Calderdale have 19.5% of care leavers over 18 years old attending university.

NEET total: 37

  • Aged 15.5 to 17 years: 2;
  • aged 18 to 25 years: 35.

Of these:

  • Parent / pregnant (male and female): 20;
  • Employment and support allowance (ESA): 12;
  • Total NEET 20%;
  • NEET and in a position to engage: 6%.


  • In suitable accommodation: 180 (99.5%);
  • In unsuitable accommodation: 2 (0.5%).


Calderdale has a Police Intensive Offender Management Multi Agency meeting where young people offending or at risk of offending are discussed and strategies are developed to reduce offending risk.  This enables the voice and needs of young people and care leavers to be expressed. It also ensures the team are aware of issues, and can make sure that Pathway plans support work with the plans and interventions of other agencies in respect of care leavers. This provides an opportunity to provide contextual information regarding young people to contribute to the overall assessment of risk.

New Legislation Coming into Force: New protocol gives care children second chance

Police, prosecutors and social workers have signed up to a protocol which means that children in residential and foster care are kept away from courts. Any child who is arrested is automatically bailed and the criminal process frozen while their background is examined. If the child admits their guilt, there is a presumption that a "restorative justice" route will be pursued, in which they acknowledge the harm that their crime has caused and enter a tailored programme of work. The case will not go to court or result in a caution. Offences such as murder, rape and arson are not covered by the scheme. It comes after a pilot scheme in Surrey, where the proportion of children leaving care with a criminal record has fallen from 15% to 3.1% in three years.


User views

New belongings project

Getting on and living (GOAL)

Calderdale Pathways leaving care service with the Care leavers association have piloted the GOAL project; a peer led mentoring program that aims to improve knowledge and confidence in the areas important to a successful transition into adulthood. Peer support and mentoring has been gaining more evidence in recent years as an effective and transparent way to improve, not only the outcomes, but also the mentality of those giving and receiving the mentoring.

Upwards n Onwards (UnO) - Care leavers council

A group specifically for care leavers to ensure a cross section of service users have the opportunity to work with their peers, to feedback on and influence decisions made on issues that affect them. This group also provides direct training for Elected Members regarding the issues facing care leavers.

Right 2 Voice – Children in care council

Calderdale has a very strong child in care council, Right 2 Voice. They have contributed to key pieces of work such as the Care leavers pledge.

Engaging and supporting older care leavers

This area has been identified as a key theme in the feedback from a Calderdale Care leaver’s survey. Older care leavers have consistently said that they experience feelings of loneliness and social isolation. However, the New belongings project gives the opportunity to develop support mechanisms to address this, and work is underway.

Care leavers pledge

This pledge is a commitment made by Calderdale Council to young people who have been looked after by the Council, who are aged 15 1/2 years old and above, and who are supported by the Pathways service.

Corporate parenting panel

The Panel ensures the Council and its partners are an effective Corporate parent and fulfils its corporate parenting responsibilities to children looked after and care leavers. Its aim is to make a positive contribution to the lives of children looked after and care leavers through a coordinated approach to the development and improvement of services to achieve better outcomes.

Unmet need

Rising demand for support nationally

In 2013-14, 10,310 young people aged over 16 years old left care. This number has increased by almost 50% in the past 10 years, from 6,900 in 2003-04. The reasons include:

  • An increase in the care population as a whole (68,840 on 31st March 2014);
  • An increase in children aged 16 years old or over starting to be looked after. In the year ending 31st March 2014, 4,510 children entered care. This was an increase of 22% from 2013;
  • 16 and 17 year olds presenting as homeless and becoming looked after. Recent legal rulings and government guidance have stressed that homeless 16 and 17 year olds should generally be looked after.

At the end of March 2014, 1 in 75 of all 19 years olds was a care leaver (National Audit Office, 2015).

Monitoring care leavers over time

There is no reliable information to monitor the lives of care leavers over time. There are no official statistics on some aspects of care leavers’ lives, like:

  • whether they have timely access to health services;
  • whether they feel they left care at the right time;
  • or the extent to which they have poor social outcomes, such as:
    • unemployment;
    • homelessness;
    • mental illness;
    • or criminal activity.

The Department for Education does not collect data on care leavers after the age of 21 years. Which includes their participation in employment, education and training, or where they live and whether this is suitable accommodation.

Therapeutic services

Therapeutic service and response for current and past victims of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) to ensure their emotional needs are being responded to. This is an overarching problem for current and past victims not just care leavers (Department for Education, 2015).


Projected future need

Increase in Care Leavers


  • In 2013-14, 10,310 young people aged over 16 years old left care. This number has increased by almost 50% in the past 10 years, from 6,900 in 2003-04;
  • An increase in children aged 16 years or over starting to be looked after. In the year ending 31 March 2014, 4,510 children entered care. This was an increase of 22% from 2013;
  • 16 and 17 year olds presenting as homeless and becoming looked after. Recent legal rulings and government guidance have stressed that homeless 16 and 17 year olds should generally be looked after.

At the end of March 2014, 1 in 75 of all 19 year olds was a care leaver.


Our current projection, undertaken at March 2017 shows our number of young people leaving care will rise to 216 by December 2018. However, these figures cannot account for young people entering care after the data was collected, or the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (UASC)

Since November 2015, 11 children have come to Calderdale with only four of these planned. The figure is set to rise but is almost impossible to predict for the unexpected children. Calderdale has a noted ‘drop off’ point at Hartshead Moor Services, Clifton, Brighouse, West Yorkshire. All the unexpected UASC children to date have been left at this location. There have been 4 expected UASC aged between 14 years to 17 years, and 7 unexpected aged between 15 years to 17 years.

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Victims

Those care leavers that are victims of CSE may need longer term support and access to therapeutic services specialised for traumatised young people.

Key considerations linked to the known evidence base (what works?)

Significant changes in legislation as set out in the Children and social work Act 2016 include:

  • Standards for how local authorities should act as a ‘corporate parent’ to support children in care and as they move into adult life;
  • A requirement on local authorities to consult on and publish a ‘local offer’ to care leavers, setting out the services they are entitled to;
  • An extension to the right to a Personal adviser to all who want one up to the age of 25, someone who will make sure care leavers receive the support they need as they transition into adulthood.

A new care leavers strategy, ‘Keep on caring - Supporting young people from care to independence’, started in July 2016. It sets out a vision for further reform of support for care leavers based on:

  • innovation;
  • system reform;
  • and the embedding of corporate parenting responsibility across society.

The five key outcomes are:

  1. All young people leaving care should be better prepared and supported to live independently;
  2. Improved access to education, employment and training;
  3. Care leavers should experience stability in their lives, and feel safe and secure;
  4. Improved access to health support;
  5. To promote through the strategy that care leavers should achieve financial stability.

The UASC National dispersal scheme from Kent and Calais is expecting to support approximately an additional 20 children and young people.

The implementation of the Children and social work act 2017 and the Keep on caring agenda

The Children and social work act introduces a change to the upper age at which care leavers are eligible for a service. At present, only young people engaged in education can receive a service after the age of 21 years. The new legislation allows all care leavers up to the age of 25 years to receive a service.


References and further information


Further information

For more about children and young people, see: Further resources .

For more on care leavers, visit:


Always open first panel: 


Designated nurse, Calderdale and Huddersfield foundation trust (CHFT);

Team manager, Pathways leaving care service, Calderdale Council;

Commissioning team, Children and Young Peoples service, Calderdale Council.

Edited by Naomi Marquis, Public Health Intelligence officer, Public Health, Calderdale Council (June 2017).