As a council, we want you to feel financially secure. We will support you to feel confident in budgeting and generally looking after your money. This does not mean we will pay you money each week, but it does mean that we will support you to ensure you are getting all the financial support you need, whether you are at university, college and/ or working.
Barnet has a Financial Policy for Care Leavers that sets out what financial support you will be eligible for when you leave care. A table of all available allowances can be found at the end of this document.
Opening a bank account/credit union
By the time you leave care, you will have a bank account, and payment of any finances, including wages, will be made directly into your bank account. Your PA or social worker will support you with this as needed.
If you find it a bit difficult to maintain a bank account or are not able to open one, alternative arrangements will be made, supported by your PA.
We expect that at 18, you will either be working, in education, an apprenticeship or at university. On the rare occasions that you find yourself between jobs or courses, you may be able to claim benefits from the age of 18. If you need to, you can claim Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit.
If you need benefits for a time, Onwards and Upwards will provide you with a 4 week subsistence loan to assist you while you are waiting for your initial benefits claim to be processed. Your PA will help you with the necessary applications and the loan agreement. This loan will be repayable once you are in receipt of your benefits and receive the back payment.
There is a dedicated Universal Credit Work Coach based at the Onwards and Upwards Centre in Woodhouse Road, who can see you by appointment to assist with your benefits application.
If you are in education or training you will be given financial assistance with travel costs during term-time which covers zones 1-6, or the equivalent, based on an assessment of need. You will need to have a current education contract signed by the Virtual School and apply for a student Oyster Card if eligible. If you need to attend university or college during the holidays, any additional support for fares will be based on an assessment of need, confirmation from the university or college and outlined in your Pathway Plan.
If you are on an apprenticeship then you need to speak to your PA to find out what support you can get with travel. This should be in your Pathway Plan.
Additionally, we may assist with some fares for family contact, leisure and cultural needs. This will be based on an assessment of need and outlined in your Pathway Plan.
A birthday gift will be arranged for you by Onwards and Upwards. The birthday allowance paid to all Care Leavers is as follows:
18th birthday -£100
19th birthday -£30
20th birthday -£30
21st birthday -£50
For young people in Young Offenders Institutions the birthday allowance is paid by postal order. You can indicate your preference for a voucher or cash to your PA who will arrange for the gift.
Live Unlimited / The Imagination Trust and other charitable grants
Live Unlimited is a charity set up by Barnet Council to support looked after children and care leavers in the borough to have the best possible life chances through providing enrichment activities.
The Imagination Trust is the first charity scheme run by Live Unlimited. The Imagination Trust creates the opportunity for Barnet’s looked after children and care leavers to apply for small grants to help them explore their passions and further their interests.
Whether you are a budding sports champ who wants to use the grant to pay for the cost of joining a football club, a wannabe chef who wants the grant to help contribute towards a chef’s course or an aspiring entrepreneur and needs a little help with set-up costs, this scheme can provide you with help on the way. You can apply for a minimum of £25 and maximum of £250.
To apply, complete an application form which can be found on the Live Unlimited website; speak to your PA for any questions or help completing the application.
You are encouraged to access the LiveUnlimited website to read up on their new initiatives and how to get involved with the charity.
Cost of key documents
It is important that all young people have a photographic form of identification (e.g. passport or driving licence) and their birth certificate when they leave care.
You will usually need formal identification of some kind, often a passport or driving licence, as well as your National Insurance number (if you are entitled to one) o;, start work with an employer, set up a bank account, prove you are who you say you are, claim benefits and to get into various venues.
When you leave care, where possible, you will have a birth certificate as well as a passport or at a least a provisional driving licence. If, for any reason you do not have a formal type of photographic identification when you leave care, we will support you to obtain formal identification.
If you are an unaccompanied young person and there are immigration issues to be resolved, your PA will help you to get the right advice to obtain documentation.
If you have lived here for more than 7 years but are not British or a European National, we will pay for you to be naturalised prior to your 18th birthday. You will need to discuss this with your social worker before you leave care.
It is important to keep all your documents safe as you will be responsible for paying for any replacements if they are lost or destroyed.
Support in pregnancy
If you are expecting a baby and are aged 16 or 17 years please speak to your social worker.
At 18 your PA or midwife will support you to claim a grant of £500 from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) if you are eligible for one. This is to buy essential items you need for when your baby is born.
Your PA may also be able to offer support to access funding from other organisations for you and your baby.
Council tax exemption scheme
Barnet has renewed its commitment to care leavers and one way that we will be showing this commitment is with our Council Tax exemption policy. As a care leaver, regardless of your employment status, you will receive a maximum of 100% discount on Council Tax bills for the first 2 years of independent living, up to the age of 25. The 2 years may be paused for up to 2 periods where a full council tax exemption is already being given because you are a student.
After the two-year period, you can still get support with council tax if you are experiencing financial difficulties. All decisions on eligibility and levels of financial support after the initial two-year guaranteed relief period will be based on a thorough assessment of your circumstances. Your PA and Revenues and Benefits Council Tax staff member will ensure that you are aware of and fully understand the assessment criteria and how decisions have been made regarding applications for relief.
If you have any questions or want to see a full copy of the policy, you can review it here.
Setting up Home Allowance
When you leave care, and we all agree you are ready to live independently, you will receive a Setting Up Home Allowance of £2,000. This allowance is to provide you with sufficient furniture or equipment when moving into independent housing and will be written into your Pathway Plan. Payment method will be agreed with your PA.
Savings accounts and ISAs
When you leave care, you should have a short-term savings account, with savings you and your carer have made while you were in care. Some of this may have been used to buy things before you moved to living independently.
It is important when you leave care to try and continue to save in case of emergencies or for special treats.
If you do not have a bank account, your PA can advise and support you to get one set up. A bank account is not only important to have for savings, but also to pay your wages or benefits into and potentially any financial support you receive from us.
If you were in care for more than 12 months you will have a Junior ISA which was set up with £200 initially. When you become 18 years of age these accounts will become Adult ISAs and you will be able to access this money. Your social worker and PA will be able to give you information about the money in your account and advise on how to access this money. From 1 April 2019 the weekly savings, previously held for you at your placement when you were looked after, will be paid directly into your Junior ISA account and you will have access to the savings at the age of 18.
Your savings are there to support you in your move to independence and adulthood. This may include buying items for your own place, driving lessons and supplementing the financial support available to you if you continue in education or training.
It is important that you think before you spend your savings, as once the money has been spent, it may be a long time before you are able to add to them again.
Savings over £16,000
Some young people may have a lot of savings. This includes money in bank accounts, ISAs but can also include inheritance or compensation given by the courts.
If you have savings of £16,000 or more you will not be eligible for Housing Benefit, Income Support or Income Related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), or Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). You can put up to £15,000 of these savings into a tax-free savings account such as an ISA or Trust Fund.
If you have a lot of savings, it is important to get appropriate financial advice. Your PA will be able to help you to get appropriate financial advice.
Barnet Crisis Fund
You can access the Barnet Crisis Fund up to twice a year. Barnet’s Crisis Fund policies are available on the Child Poverty Action Group’s (CPAG) website.
The grant helps people who:
need extra help in anemergency
are working but are on a low income;and
have a pending Council Tax support or Housing Benefit claim. If you need to apply, your PA can help you with anapplication.
Discretionary Housing Payments
As a care leaver, you are also able to apply and have priority status for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) if you experience housing related payment issues.
DHPs can provide extra money to young people or their landlord if you already receive Housing Benefit, and if there is a shortfall between the rent you must pay and the Housing Benefit you receive.
DHPs are usually paid for a few months to help through a crisis or short-term problem, but can pay for longer periods in exceptional circumstances. These payments are helpful if you experience financial difficulties; your PA will support you to apply for DHPs.
Sometimes young people run out of essential things and are unable to afford to buy them. In these situations, it is important that you contact your social worker or personal adviser for advice. Young people based in Barnet can sometimes collect hygiene products such as toiletries, sanitary products, and food from Woodhouse Road, if they are in immediate need. We can also tell you about local services such as food banks.