Protecting Care Leavers’ Rights

Since 2015 young people who are in care have been entitled to accommodation and support to help them make the transition into adulthood. In certain circumstances, young people have the option to stay in care up to the age of 21 and an entitlement to stronger after care support up to the age of 26.  

However, we have found in our work with care experienced young people that these rights are not being respected or realised – many care leavers are not being provided with the support they are entitled to. This can mean that they struggle as they are moving into adult life.  

Legislation such as the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 introduced new care leavers' rights into law. This change was in response to concerns about consistently poor outcomes for care leavers and aims to ensure that young people are encouraged, enabled and empowered to remain in positive care settings until they are ready to move on. These legal changes followed a passionate and effective campaign by care-experienced young people.

Summary of care leavers' rights:

The right to continuing care

Care leavers have a right to the same accommodation and support they received while they were looked after continuing until the are 21.

(The Children Scotland Act 1995 as amended by the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014) 

The right to end of care planning

Care leavers have a right to:

-have their views taken into account

-a full welfare assessment of continuing in their placement in advance of them leaving care

-a written decision about their placement

The right to aftercare:

Care leavers have a right to:

-assessment of their eligible needs

-a plan for "advice, guidance and assistance" (including financial support and secure accommodation) to meet their eligible needs

- a written decision about their eligible needs

-an appeal if they disagree with the assessment

Although it has been five years since the Act was passed, many care leavers are not getting what they are entitled to and we have noticed many problems in the implementation of these rights and disparities between different local authority areas. 

We are working to help improve implementation of these rights by raising awareness of the issues care-experienced young people are facing, working with partners to ensure the spirit of the legislation is carried through at all levels to ensure that care leavers enjoy the rights they are entitled to, and through the service provided in our Care Leavers' Law Service (CLLS). At the launch for CLLS, we were delighted to host many colleagues who are involved in driving forward change in this area on a strategic policy implementation level and we discussed what needs to be done to achieve change now. 

We responded to the consultation on the Continuing Care Amendment Order 2019.

Our Principal Solicitor and CEO also contributed to a news story on homelessness in Scotland and pointed out that those with a care-experienced background are disproportionately represented in the homeless population in Scotland.