Care leavers: your financial support and entitlements

There are a lot of different ways the Care Leavers' Service (CLS) are able to support you, and if they can't, they will be able to point you in the right direction to find the support you might need. Speak to your personal adviser (PA) who will be able to help you find out what support you can get.

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Moving out

Moving into your own home for the first time can be stressful and confusing. You might have to think about a lot of things you haven't had to before, like rent, bills and other things. Getting the stuff that you need for your first home is often expensive. Some homes may come fully furnished, and others won't; so, getting the rights things you need will be different for each person. Your PA will be able to support you with this, and some of the things the CLS can help with are:

  • Setting up home allowance (SHA). This is an allowance of up to £3,000 to help you get the things you might need, like a bed, TV, sofa, fridge freezer or washing machine. You can also use your SHA to get other things like decorative items.
  • The CLS can also pay for a suitcase for you (up to £50) if you need one to help you move. Your PA may also be able to assist you in finding moving boxes and with moving on the day

Air Fryer Fund

Surrey are signed up to the Care Leaver Covenant (CLC) campaign, to improve provision and services for care leavers in England. We have developed a fund to provide care leavers with a new energy saving air fryer once you secure your first tenancy agreement and move into your permanent home. Speak to your PA about the Air Fryer fund or contact the

Support if you are in education

Below is some of the financial support you as a care leaver may be entitled to:

  • Laptop – your PA can help you with applying for a bursary or grant to help you with the cost of a laptop if you need one for your course. If you are not eligible for the bursary or grant, then you may be able to use a maximum of £300 from your SHA allowance. You will need to show you have tried other means for support
  • Seeing your family – the CLS will help you with travel costs for up to 3 visits to see your family during the year within the UK only. You will need to look at the cheapest form of public transport, trying to book an advanced ticket. If you are driving, the CLS will give you 20p per mile you drive. You can speak to your PA if you need support with this
  • Educational trips – if the trip is an essential requirement for you complete of the course, the CLS will contribute a maximum of £100
  • Bursary – whilst you are studying on a higher education course only, the CLS will give you payments called a bursary. This will be a total of £2000 spread across a three-year course
  • Accommodation - the CLS will not help pay towards the cost of your living accommodation (such as student halls, private renting or council housing) during term time of the course
  • Apprenticeships – support with travel for the duration of your Apprenticeship

Support if you are in employment

Below is some of the financial support you as a care leaver may be entitled to if you are in employment:

  • Employment travel - you will get support for the first four weeks, and your PA will help you to explore other schemes and options such a young person's 16 to 25 rail card which costs £30 a year, or £70 for three years and will save you a 1/3 on train fares

Council tax relief

Surrey County Council have set up a new scheme which offers care leavers living in Surrey with 100% council tax exemption and a 75% discount for all care leavers living out of county aged from 18 to 24, i.e. until the day before their twenty-fifth birthday.

Who is eligible?

All Surrey care leavers aged 18 and up to the day before their twenty-fifth birthday.

A care leaver is someone who has been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14, was in care on their sixteenth birthday and who Surrey County Council looked after up to the point they left care. Care leavers who are employed are also eligible for the discount, regardless of their salary.

Care leavers living in county are eligible for 100% discount and care leavers living out of county are eligible for a 75% discount. This is because we have worked with our borough council and police partners in Surrey.

If there are other adults living with you but who are not care leavers then they will still have to pay (some) council tax at the property, this is different if you live in or out of Surrey, so please check the guidance for more information and speak with your personal advisor (PA).

This scheme became effective on 01 April 2020 and has been revised in 2023 to include care leavers who are currently closed to the service. No backdated council tax applications can be made under this scheme.

How to apply for the discount?

Care leavers living in county will need to apply for the discount by completing a form obtained from their district or borough – which can also be found online. The form will ask for contact details of the PA or duty desk to be able to confirm those eligible. The districts and boroughs will then issue annual 'Nil' bills to you until you reach your 25th birthday. Care leavers living out of county should get a copy of their council tax bill and share this with the PA who will be able to submit an application.

This scheme became effective on 1 April 2020 and has been revised in 2023 to include care leavers who are currently closed to the service.

For any enquiries, please contact the Care Leavers' Service on 9am to 5pm Mondays to Fridays excluding Bank Holidays.

Driving lessons

The road to driving just got a little bit easier. Care leavers are now able to get support with funding their journey to independence. If you are a care leaver, you are now able to ask your personal advisor for funding to pay for:

  • The cost of one provisional driving licence (if you lose this, the CLS will not find the cost of a replacement)
  • The cost of one theory test (if you do not pass first time, you will need to pay for future tests)
  • The cost of one driving test (if you do not pass first time, you will need to pay for future tests)
  • The cost of five driving lessons. You will need to evidence that you have paid for five yourself. Your PA will need to see proof of these, so always ask your instructor for a receipt

You will need to speak to your personal advisor from the CLS for further information on how you can access this support.

AA's Driving Theory Test App for care leavers is free for care leavers to download. The App has a super user-friendly interface, is easy to navigate and has a database of information covering essential topics to guide you successfully through the DVLA Theory Test.

This great opportunity is accessed by opening the Care Leaver Covenant web page.

Helpful resources

Help with the cost of living

Help for Households is a government initiative to help people with the rising cost of living, check the link to see what help you may be eligible for. One off payments and other financial help is available for things like:

  • Childcare costs
  • Energy bills
  • Discounts are available at some supermarket chains

The Welfare Support Hub is a Surrey based service for local residents, this website offers lots of help for people living in Surrey including:

  • Financial support
  • Help with your health and wellbeing

Citizens Advice webpage has a lot of information about managing money and getting help with finance when you need it, including information on:

  • Grants and benefits to help pay your bills
  • Warm Home Discount Scheme

Surrey Family Information Service is a useful resource for care leavers living in Surrey, it contains lots of information and support on a number of topics:

  • Childcare and what support you are entitled to
  • Education and learning - training, tips and more
  • Finance - how to apply to local/national government schemes for support and financial help

The Surrey Young People's Fund provides funding for young people (aged 16 to 25 inclusive) who live in Surrey. The funding helps young people to move towards an identified goal in education, training, apprenticeship, or employment.

Grants will typically be up to £300 and will fund items that will directly enhance young person's employability skills, such as;

  • helping to obtain qualifications, certificates or licenses
  • developing vocational or technical skills
  • providing self-development opportunities that improve social skills, motivation and confidence

Capstone Care Leavers Trust

The Capstone Care Leavers Trust (CCLT) awards grants to people aged 17 to 25 years who have been in local authority care in England or Wales and are in need. The CCLT also offers advice and guidance to young people to help reduce experiences of social exclusion and enhance life chances. They can be also contacted on 0121 374 2601. The CCLT will consider awarding grants for:

  • Further education courses
  • Higher education courses
  • Training courses
  • Laptop
  • Travel costs to place of study/training
  • Driving lessons - subject to meeting criteria
  • Practical driving test
  • Household goods – Sofa, chairs, cooker, fridge, freezer, washing machine bed, wardrobe, drawers.

Open University Course: The MoneySavingExpert Academy of Money

The Open University (OU) has joined forces with MoneySavingExpert (MSE) to produce a new free course to give you the skills and knowledge to master your finances. The course was written by the OU, with MSE providing support and guidance.

Packed with videos, audios, quizzes and activities, the course covers all the key aspects of personal finance in six sessions of study that each take around two hours to complete. The course starts by looking at how to be savvy when spending money and the different pressures can influence what consumers buy. The course also looks at budgeting and the impact of tax on household finances.

To sign up to complete this free course, visit the Open University website. You will need to create an account before starting the course.

Members of the User Voice and Participation Team have completed the training. Read below about what they had to say.

  • "The training was very helpful and useful to do. However, it was very long winded and would take a lot of patience to complete but it is worth it as I learnt a lot. For example, I now know that a fixed rate mortgage is the best option for a mortgage."
  • "This training was very insightful and opened my mind to all of the things I need to be thinking about to prepare myself financially for the future. I am so happy I have completed this training as it has given me a lot more knowledge around saving my money, opening accounts, and sorting out a mortgage. I would encourage anyone to take this training as it is great and prepares you for what to expect in the future."

Barclays Life Skills

Barclays Life Skills are offering free online lessons to support you with finance and money management. These are a fantastic resource to help with budgeting, understanding bills, rent and other expenses as helpful information about financial fraud, scams and identify theft.

Guidance for leaving care - Barclays Life Skills

Young Enterprise Workshops

We also wanted to share with you resources created by Young Enterprise. This helpful information provides guidance on key money-making decisions young people might need to make when they start living independently.

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