Your rights to continuing care

Welcome to our treasure chest of information on your right to continuing care – that is staying with your carers in foster care, kinship care or residential care – up to the age of 21, if it's right for you. If you are a ‘looked after’ young person living with foster carers, kinship carers or you live in residential care this is important information for you. This information helps explain your rights and what you are entitled to so that you know what the local authority who shares responsibility for looking after you needs to provide and consider for your care until you are 21.

Always talk to someone you really trust before you make any big decision about your future.

Why is this important?

Why is this important?

Too many young people ‘leave care’ at too young an age, often when they don’t feel really ready to take big steps into the world. Having your own place, living on your own, paying your own bills, taking full responsibility for yourself often sounds like a great idea when you’re a teenager. However, it can also be really difficult to manage these new responsibilities when you’re still doing a lot of your ‘growing up’ and maybe lack the confidence, support, life skills… and money… to live more independently. It’s worth knowing that in Scotland, most young people don’t leave home until they are in their mid-20’s. Continuing care is designed to give you more time and space to develop the confidence and skills to manage independent life as a young adult when you do feel ready.

What is continuing care?

What is Continuing Care?

Young people who are ‘looked after away from home’ - living with foster carers, kinship carers or in residential care – on or after their 16th birthday have legal rights and entitlements to stay in the same place, (‘stay put’), with their same carers up until their 21st birthday. Before your 18th birthday, you should be under no pressure or expectation to ‘leave care’ (for example when someone under 18 stops being legally looked after under a Supervision Order) if you don’t want to or you don’t feel ready to. And you should be under no pressure or expectation to leave where you are living if you are under 21, even when there is no Supervision Order or Permanence Order in place anymore. You don’t have to apply for continuing care, or be assessed for this, or to sign an agreement. If you are happy and settled where you are, with people you trust and who care for you, and you want to stay, then your local authority has a legal duty to support that and make it happen. What matters is that you are supported to think through all the options available and you speak to someone you trust.

What should I do if I am unsure, uncertain, worried or undecided?

What do I do if I’m unsure or uncertain, worried or undecided?

Don’t make any big decisions to ‘leave care’ or leave where you are living until you are fully aware of all your rights and options. Take your time, talk to someone you trust, and get independent advocacy if you’d find that helpful. You should not be rushed or pressured into making decisions that you are unsure about or you might later regret. Staying in your home – with your foster carers, kinship carers or in your residential home - in continuing care with people you trust and who care about you, is about giving you more time to think about and plan your future, enabling you to find a job, or to go to college or university, save up for your own place, and supporting you as you continue into adulthood.

Who does it apply to?

Who does it apply to?

It applies to all young people who are ‘looked after away from home’ – so living with foster carers, kinship carers or in residential care – on or after their 16th birthday. It doesn’t matter if you are on a Permanence Order, a Compulsory Supervision Order or a being cared for on a voluntary basis (‘Section 25’). There are some exceptions – for example, if you are living in secure care setting, or if staying where you are is assessed to be not good for your wellbeing and welfare.

What are my rights?

What are my rights?

You have a right to be cared for up until at least your 21st birthday, and remain with your carers in the same place if you choose. You have a right to continue to receive the support and care you need to develop confidence and life skills, and not be pressured or rushed into ‘leaving care’ or moving on to live more independently until you feel ready. And when you do feel ready you have a right to ongoing aftercare support up until your 26th birthday if you need it. What matters is that you are supported to think through all the options available and that you speak to someone you trust.

Your rights to ‘stay put’ with your carers until you are ready to move on
  • These days, in Scotland most people leave home in their mid-20’s, and they do this gradually over a period of time. It should be no different for care experienced young people who are no longer being legally ‘looked after’ – and importantly, when you do, you should be encouraged and supported to maintain relationships with all the people who matter to you.
  • If you were ‘looked after away from home’ (in care) with foster carers, kinship carers or in a residential children’s home on or after your 16th birthday then, if you choose to, you are entitled to ‘stay put’ under continuing care arrangements, living in that same place, with those same carers, until you are aged 21.
  • You should be encouraged, enabled and empowered to stay with your carers until you feel you are ready to live more independently.
  • You should not feel pressured or rushed into making a decision to ‘leave care’ or move out of where you are living or into ‘move–on’ accommodation until you feel ready and properly prepared, confident and supported.
  • The local authority responsible for your care, including your social workers, carers and support workers should make sure that you are aware of your rights to remain living where you are and that you have opportunity to exercise that right.
  • You should be given information about all the options available to you as you grow up, and be given time and support to consider what is best for you. You should have opportunities to talk about your plans and options with someone you trust.
What are the legal duties and responsibilities of the local authority?

What are the legal duties and responsibilities that my local authority have towards me?

By law, your local authority needs to make sure that you know about your right to continuing care in a timely manner, that you are fully involved in any and all decisions that are made about your life, and that you can get independent advocacy or legal advice before making any big decision. A timely manner means that they give you plenty of time to understand your rights and choices before any decisions need to be made. Your local authority should make all the arrangements for you to stay with your carers in continuing care if this is what you want to do. Your local authority must carry out a welfare assessment and that is only reason they can refuse to support you to stay with your carers.

What does the law in Scotland say about Continuing Care and Welfare Assessments?

‘Leaving care’ means that a young person is no longer legally looked after under a Supervision Order or a Permanence Order.

However, there are laws in Scotland that enable and empower young people to stay where they are living after they ‘leave care’ and to receive day-to-day care and support. The only thing that changes is the legal basis on which young people are supported. Since 2015, local authorities have had this legal duty to support young people to stay living in places that benefit them after they ‘leave care’. This accommodation and support after leaving care is known as Continuing Care and a young person can stay put under these arrangements until they are 21 or until they are ready to live more independently. The law says that the only reason for an eligible young person not to get Continuing Care is if an assessment – called a Welfare Assessment – shows that staying where they are would significantly adversely affect the welfare of the young person.

Watch the videos or read the about these stories and listen to the wise words of Jelly the cat. Use the information to help you speak to someone you trust. You are important and you have rights!

Continuing care images

Islay's Story

Continuing Care in foster care

Islay is 17 and lives with her foster carers. She enjoys working at her local Primark five days a week. Recently her social worker has been talking about Islay moving into her own flat. Islay is confused. She likes her home with her foster parents but the idea of living more independently is exciting.

Find out more

Josh playing football

Josh's Story

Continuing Care and living in a residential home

Josh is 17 and has lived in his residential home for the past 18 months. His social worker is encouraging him to move into a flat once he completes his college course. He loves how things are now and doesn't feel ready to move out yet.

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Erin in her kitchen

Erin's Story

Continuing Care and living with her gran in kinship care

Erin is 13 and has lived with her gran since she was 11 as her mum isn’t very well and needs a lot of support at the moment. Erin is really worried about what is going to happen in the future. Erin doesn't see her social worker much so she doesn't know who to speak to.

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Sophie in the park

Sophie's Story

Continuing Care whilst living at home on a supervision order

Sophie is 14 and has been living with her brother and foster carers for the past year. Her social worker said that Sophie and her brother can move back home with their mum and dad again. What does this mean for Sophie and her brother she wonders.

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Katie at home

Katie's Story

Continuing Care on a permanence order

Katie is almost 16 and lives with foster carers on a permanence order. She feels loved and cared for and hopes to go to university. Her social worker says that at 16 her permanence order will ’run out’ and she'll have to sign a 'S.25 voluntary agreement' to stay where she is. She's doesn’t understand what this means.

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Emma at university

Emma's Story

Continuing Care whilst attending university

Emma is 18, lives with foster carers and starts her first year at university soon. She wants to live in student halls but worries about where she will live over the summer. Her part time job isn't enough to pay for rent on a private flat, and she isn't sure if she can go back to her foster carers. Emma doesn’t know whether she can go to university now.

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Kyle at home

Kyle's Story

Continuing Care and additional support needs

Kyle is 21, lives in his residential home and has additional needs and feels supported. His social worker keeps encouraging himto move into his own flat. Kyle doesn't want this - he wants to stay where he is with the people who know him best.

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Alex's Story

Does he have a right to Continuing Care after secure care?

Alex is 17 and is living in secure care. He knows it will be recommended that he will no longer need this care and his social worker has told him to start having a think about what his plan is when he leaves. But Alex is scared. He just wants to make a good life for himself and feels like he has no support and nowhere to go.

Find out more

Always talk to someone you really trust before you make any big decision about your future.

If you think you need advocacy support or independent legal advice, the following organisations can help.

Clan Childlaw

Anyone, of any age, anywhere in Scotland, can call Clan Childlaw with a question about children’s rights and about how the law and legal systems in Scotland work for children and young people. Clan Childlaw has a team of lawyers who can represent children and young people in court, in children’s hearings, and in important meetings. You can call free on 0808 129 0522, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Or online here.

Who Cares? Scotland

If you’re a care experienced young person and you need advocacy support or someone to talk to, contact Who Cares? Scotland by phoning 0330 107 7540 or emailing The Helpline is open Monday-Friday, 12pm-4pm.

Scottish Child Law Centre

If you are under 21 and want to talk to someone about how the law affects you, our advice line is open Monday to Friday 9.30am – 4pm. You can contact us anytime or you may wish to call us during our dedicated Youth Hour which takes place every Tuesday and Thursday between 12pm and 1pm. During this time, our solicitors only take calls from children and young people. Call free on: 0800 328 8970 (from landlines) or 0300 3301421 (from mobiles).

Care Inspectorate

If you are not happy with the level of care you are receiving, we would encourage you to first of all speak to the care service itself about your concerns. This is often the quickest way to resolve a problem. However, you can choose to complain directly to the Care Inspectorate either by: filling in our complaints form online, calling us on 0345 600 9527 or emailing us here. Children and young people can send a text directly to 07870 981 785.

Information for people supporting children and young people with care experience

Together CELCIS (the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection), Clan Childlaw and the Care Inspectorate, have written a Practice Note to help explain the rights of 'looked after' young people to stay put in positive care placements after they leave care.

Continuing Care and Your Rights is a project co-created with care experienced young people, CELCIS, Clan Childlaw and the Care Inspectorate, with the assistance and expertise of visual artist Ciara Waugh and Liminal Studios and Edinburgh Napier University in developing the digital media resources.