Benefits and support for care leavers
This content applies to Scotland only.
Housing laws vary between Scotland and England. Get advice relating to England
As a care leaver, you are entitled to certain support and benefits. These will depend on your age and circumstances.
Support for 16 and 17 year olds
The council's social work department must support you financially if you:
- are under 18, and
- have been in care for a total of at least 13 weeks from the age of 14, and
- have been looked after at some time while you were 16 or 17.
Social work will be responsible for the cost of your accommodation, food and utility bills, pocket money, clothing and transport costs for education and training. They will take into account any earnings and savings you have when deciding how much money to give you.
Benefits for 16 and 17 year olds
You won't be able to claim benefits unless:
- you can't work because you're ill or disabled, or
- you are a lone parent.
Find out more about benefits for young people.
I'm 16 to 17 and moving back home
If you are leaving care to return to your family home, you will only be entitled to financial support and benefits in certain circumstances. Contact your social work department to find out whether you qualify, or get advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau or local youth advice agency. Use the Advice Services Directory to find help near you.
The council must make sure that you don't miss out on financial support from social work and support from benefits and end up with no money at all. If you are in this situation, talk to your pathway co-ordinator and get advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau or other youth advice agency.
Support for 18 to 21 year olds
Once you turn 18 social work will no longer be responsible for supporting you financially. Instead, you will be able to claim benefits.
However, you can still ask the social work department for financial help if necessary. They can offer you help in the form of services (for example, advice and support) or money (for example, they may give you money to pay for a rent deposit, or to pay for a shortfall in your rent after housing benefit).
If you are a student or trainee, you can ask the council for a grant to help pay any expenses connected to your course or training. You can also ask for a grant to help pay for your accommodation or living expenses. The council may continue to help you pay these expenses until your course is finished, even if you are then over 21.
If you have a job or are looking for work, you can ask for a grant to help pay for your accommodation or living expenses near your place of work.
In some of these circumstances, it will be up to the social work department to decide whether or not to offer you financial help. Social work is unlikely to subsidise your income if you continually fail to budget well or spend your money on 'luxury' items such as cigarettes, drink, or drugs.
Benefits for 18 to 21 year olds
Once you are 18, you will be entitled to claim one or more of the following benefits, although the amount you receive (if any) will depend on your living, working and educational circumstances:
Care leavers aged 18 to 22 who were in care at some time after their 16th birthday are exempt from the housing benefit restrictions which apply to people who are under 35-year-olds.
- If you are over 16, you may also be eligible for a community care grant, a crisis loan or a budgeting loan.
- Students may be able to claim a care leaver's grant. Find out more about this at the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) website.
- Care leavers aged 16 to 18 are entitled to help with health costs. Ask the social work department for an HC1(SC) claim form.
Getting help and advice
If you're not sure what benefits and support you should be getting, get advice from a housing aid centre, Citizens Advice Bureau or local youth advice agency. Use the Advice Services Directory or the Young Scot website to find an agency near you.