Planning for the end of care

Last update: 12 September 2023

‘Leaving care’ refers to casework to assist children and young people to develop the independent living skills they will need to rely on as they transition to young adulthood. Work and conversations about leaving care should begin around the time the young person turns 15. 

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    Planning for end of care ensures that young people have financial support and appropriate accommodation when they leave care and that arrangements have been made to ensure that young people are linked in with appropriate health, education and social support services.

    Planning for leaving care is an iterative process and leaving care plans should be reviewed regularly, as the young person’s needs and wishes change.

    Minimum requirements

    Regardless of the young person’s circumstances, there are mandatory, minimum requirements that all agencies must meet to ensure that young people are adequately supported to transition to independence. Children and young people aged 15-25 years are entitled to assistance to support them to transition from care.

    This includes financial assistance, legal assistance, accommodation and other practical supports to meet their day-to-day needs. Every young person must have a leaving care plan setting out the assistance and support to be provided to them, once they leave care.

    Standard 12 of the NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care sets out the minimum leaving care practice requirements for all accredited OOHC providers:

    1. that young people are encouraged and assisted to develop independent living skills
    2. strategies for young people to manage everyday issues in their lives are included in leaving care plans
    3. young people have leaving care plans which include support for accessing accommodation and financial assistance
    4. upon leaving care, young people are provided with their original identity documents and life story material and are provided with information on how to access their files, if they wish
    5. upon leaving care, young people are provided with information about their entitlements to continued support and assistance, and how to access these services, and
    6. after they have left care, young people are provided with additional support or are referred to a relevant service, where their circumstances require it.

    The Standards require agencies to support children and young people, their carers, family members and significant people in their lives to participate in important decision making and this includes planning for leaving care.

    Successful transition 

    Leaving care planning is a challenging area of practice. It requires caseworkers to have difficult conversations with young people about their future beyond care, while also supporting young people to navigate the challenges experienced by all adolescents.

    These conversations are made more difficult where the young person has experienced multiple placement changes and has not had opportunities to develop trusting relationships with a caseworker or a care provider.

    Leaving care casework is more than developing a plan and ensuring that referrals to other services have been made.

    Good leaving care casework also involves working with the young person to develop, test and practice critical independent living skills, particularly budgeting and financial management skills, obtaining employment and finding appropriate accommodation.

    Leaving care plans

    Leaving care plans are broadly comprised of 2 elements:

    • an after-care plan sets out the practical supports and services to be provided to the young person on leaving care and
    • a financial plan, which is approved by the NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ). The financial plan is informed by the known and anticipated needs of the young person to 25 years of age.

    Alongside the development of a leaving care plan, caseworkers should be working with the young person to gradually build their independent living skills and caseworkers should start engaging young people in these discussions from the age of 15. 

    Report on leaving care

    A review by the Office of the Children’s Guardian of the experiences of young people leaving care will be used to strengthen requirements for statutory out-of-home care providers in NSW.

    The experiences of 635 young people leaving care last year are examined in a report into the practice of agencies in the leaving care monitoring program 2020–21.

    Key themes emerging from the review

    • Most young people who left care between 23 March and 31 December 2020 had a leaving care plan, but the quality of these plans varied significantly
    • most young people who had a leaving care plan participated in the development of their plans and were able to influence decisions impacting on their lives
    • where young people were not engaged in planning for leaving care, plans were often generic and not informed by an assessment of the young person’s independent living skills
    • those who were in stable placements and had the support of at least one adult had more comprehensive plans
    • agencies need to strengthen approaches to cultural planning to help young people to maintain connections with culture, particularly for Aboriginal young people
    • many leaving care plans were approved after the young person had turned 18 and leaving care casework must begin much earlier, and
    • the support that young people receive after leaving care varies significantly across the sector.
    These themes will inform the review of the NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care to better support young people leaving care and building independent lives with the supports they need.
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