Communities and Justice

How to develop a Leaving Care Plan

Caseworkers should do their best to develop a leaving care plan that provides the young person with a planned transition toward independence and opportunities to build on their strengths and skills in preparation for this.

View Moving Forward with Leaving Care ‘Future’ Planning (PDF, 516.2 KB) for the colour chart of leaving care planning for caseworkers.

Start planning early

  • Start an ongoing conversation with the young person from 15 years of age to plan ahead and give you both time to think about future goals.
  • Remember to include carers and other significant people in the young person’s life.

Engage with the young person

  • Use your practice skills to engage the young person to participate in leaving care planning (future planning).
  • Ask meaningful questions and listen to what they have to say about things like what their hopes are, what they see themselves doing as an adult, who they would like to establish or maintain contact with and where they would like to live.
  • Make it real for them, seek their views, explore their strengths and interests, and put this into action in the plan. After all, it is their plan.
  • Be mindful of how you communicate with them. Conversations should happen over time, give them space if they are overwhelmed about deciding what they want their future to look like, but try to look at other opportunities to hear their views and continue over time to help them participate.

Engage with the carer

Engage with significant others

  • Speak with other people who may be important in their life, or professionals for agencies such as Education, Health, Justice and the NDIA.
  • People other than carers also make up the young person’s support network and can contribute relevant information about the individual’s life.

Consider all key elements that should be included in the plan

These are:

Help establish connections

  • Help the young person establish strong and positive family and community connections that build stability and safety, and strengthen their confidence.
  • Support the young person to explore their own feelings and to better understand their family relationships.
  • Have conversations about the people and places that are important in their lives, how to keep them connected, and how to make sure they feel emotionally and physically safe.
  • Helping them connect with support services, finding family members or connecting them with people who can support them is critical to making them feel safe and ready for independence.

Think creatively

  • Think creatively about what the young person may need ‘each step of the way’ – just as any parent might do for their teenager!
  • Consider the things teenagers are normally interested in at that age - learning to drive, improve their cooking skills and making healthy meals, sexual health and exploration, school formals and HSC readiness
  • Explore what can make a difference - a tutor for a school subject? Driving lessons? Joining a sports team or community club to promote friendships? Getting braces? More cooking time with their carer? Try to think outside the box!

Explore their financial entitlements

  • Think about what supports and entitlements will help the young person – DCJ or Centrelink benefits?
  • Advise on the best allowance or payment type, noting that choosing one type of allowance may determine eligibility for other allowances that may be higher in value. These may also impact their income threshold for tax purposes.
  • Independent Living Allowance – a fortnightly payment to help with the cost of accommodation and other essential needs. It is paid directly to the young person’s bank account by DCJ, until they turn 21. Eligible young people can choose between the Independent Living Allowance and the Staying on Allowance, and their choice should be added to their leaving care plan.
  • Staying on Allowance – a fortnightly payment to carers who continue looking after young people after they turn 18, up until they are 21.
  • Transition to Independent Living Allowance (TILA) - paid to eligible young people in instalments or as a one-off payment of up $1,500. It should be added to every leaving care plan and utilised to meet the needs of the young person. Caseworkers must apply on behalf of the young person using the NSW TILA application form (PDF, 574.6 KB). See the TILA animated explainer on the DCJ Facebook page for more information.
  • Youth Allowance – financial help for 16 to 24 year olds studying, undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship or looking for work.
  • After Care Allowance – available to young people aged 21 to 24 who study and are at risk of homelessness.
  • Think about scholarships, opportunities to travel with school and free or low cost access programs for sport and music such as sport and recreation camps and the School Spectacular.

Review the plan

  • Things change for young people so the plan will need to be reviewed and updated. This includes reviews and updates until 25 years of age.
  • Keep in mind that it is likely the young person will be feeling anxious and worried about leaving care, even if planning has been taking place. Wherever possible check in with the young person regularly leading up to their 18th birthday to support them through this period.
  • Let the young people know they can continue to contact the agency they have been working with, the Care Leavers Line or their local DCJ office, if they need any support after they leave care at 18.

For more information, DCJ caseworkers can refer to the Leaving care and after care practice mandate (DCJ login required).

Last updated:

28 Feb 2023