If you are 'Looked After' by the Local Authority, either in foster or residential care, then you should check out the list below (just scroll down) for some of what you're entitled to whilst living in care.
When an Order is made by a Court regarding your welfare, e.g. a Care Order, it will also think about how you should keep in touch with other people in your life like your family and friends. This is called CONTACT. Contact may mean frequent visits, visits during holidays, or letters, phone calls and cards.
If a Care Order is made, Children's Services must make sure that your family and friends can stay in touch with you. This is your right. The Court will want to know about these contact arrangements whenever it hears about your case. Children's Services may sometimes feel that it would be better for you if you did not have visits or letters or calls from someone in particular - especially if they think that you are at risk from them.
There may also be someone who wants to have contact with you. That person can then ask the Court for an order. You may even want to have contact with someone yourself, and you can apply to the Court in the same way.
Contact can be asked for at any time, even after a Care Order has been made.
See also Visits - Friends and Family below
Whenever you are being Looked After, you can choose your own clothes to wear.
Sometimes your parents will still provide your clothing and school uniform. but if you live with foster carers, an allowance for clothes is included in the payment to them. It is up to you and them to decide how and when this should be used. When you have left school and are working or getting benefits you will have to buy your own clothes.
Continuing education or training
Once you have completed your "compulsory" education and left school, as a Looked After young person you can still think about going on to further education or to some sort of training, or eventually on to university if that is what your ambition is!
This will be covered in your needs assessment and your pathway plan. The government wants to see young people who leave care able to do much better in their education and training than in the past, so your Social Worker and your Young Person's Adviser will help you to identify what options are open to you and will encourage and support you to think about achieving the best you can.
You can only take a full time job once you are 16 and have left school. If you stay on in education beyond 16, you can take a job during the holidays. You should have received some help from the Connexions service about the sorts of jobs that may suit you. (They can also help you to arrange to join one of the various training schemes set up to help young people).
Looked after young people who are in full time employment are expected to pay towards their keep just as they would if they lived at home. The contribution made depends on how much you earn, taking into account any expenses involved.
Some younger people get part time jobs such as paper rounds to earn a bit of extra pocket money whilst they are still at school, but there are some laws about this. For example, you cannot be employed if you are under 13. You cannot, of course, work during school hours until you have left school.
Files and case records
Children's Services have to keep information and records about every young person who is looked after. If you live in a residential unit (children's home), there will usually be some information about you and your family kept there too. Any reports prepared on you should be discussed fully with you and you can ask to see your file.
All children and young people have a right to find out what has been recorded about them by Children's Services under the Data Protection Act.
There are many reasons why you might want to see your record. When young people are looked after for a long time, social workers sometimes encourage them to put together their own life history books describing their life so far, where they have lived in the past, who their relatives are and so on. You might also want to see what was said and written about you when you lived with foster carers or in a residential unit. You might want to check whether your memory of what happened to you is correct, or, if you are a bit older, you might want to know why certain things happened to you. If you have any questions like these, then you should ask to see your record to find out the answers.
In principle, you are entitled to a copy of your record with all the information in it. However, the law allows Children's Services to withhold information if it would cause serious harm to you or to someone else. We may also have to write to other people to get permission to show you what they have written.
There is also no set age limit at which you can see your record; rather it is a matter for the people who have your record to decide whether you are able to understand what has been written. The law says that usually a child over the age of 12 will be able to understand and should be treated as a competent person. This means that as a teenager you should expect to see your record yourself and have the information given to you. This should happen even if one of your parents asked to see your record.
However, if you are over 12 and still feel a little worried about asking, you can ask your mum or dad (or whoever has parental responsibility) to apply for you. We would also want to make sure that you had agreed to this and ask you to confirm this in writing before we gave anyone any information. If you are under 12 or have a reason why you might not be able to understand, we would allow one or both of your parents (or whoever has parental responsibility) to act on your behalf. However, we would not allow them to have any information that might be used against you or to harm you.
We will then arrange to show you your record. We will find a convenient time and place which is private. We will also arrange for someone to be with you to explain anything you do not understand and help you with any issues that arise. You cannot take the original record away, but we will photocopy anything you want to keep. There is no charge for this.
Children and young people who are in long-term placements normally have the opportunity to go on holiday with their carers. Sometimes a grant may be available for a special holiday - such as a school trip or visit abroad. Your social worker will need to help you with any questions you may have about holiday funding, or you can apply for funding yourself, check out the youth fund link on the useful organisations page.
Everybody has a birth certificate, medical card and National Insurance number. If you do not know where yours are, please speak to your social worker or carer, who will help you to find them.
Every young person looked after by the County Council gets pocket money. The amount depends on age and is reviewed each year. Pocket money is given weekly and it is a good idea to try and make it last out! If you are earning or receiving welfare benefits, you will keep a portion of it for pocket money.
Visits - friends
When you are looked after by Children's Services, you are still able to go out and visit your friends, and they can come and visit you. This will, of course, depend on your age and the reason for coming into care. For your own safety, the adults looking after you will want to know where you are going, and what you are going to do and will arrange with you the time you must get back.
Visits - family
Children's Services has a duty to encourage contact between a young person who is being looked after and their family. If you are accommodated by voluntary agreement, then visits and contact with your parents and relatives will be worked out and agreed with yourself, your parents, your carers, social worker and other people who are involved.
If you are on a Care Order, the Court will have considered what the arrangements should be for contact between yourself, your parents and other relatives. Your views and wishes will be taken into account.
You have the right to go to Court if you want to stop contact, or if you want to ask the Court to make an order to let you get in touch with your parents or relatives.
Children's Services may, in some circumstances, feel it is in your interest not to have contact with your parents if they feel it will keep you safe. You will never be prevented from having contact with your parents as a punishment. You must be told in writing if contact is to stop and it can only be for up to seven days unless the Court has agreed to a longer period or for contact to stop completely.