When I am Ready

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What is When I am Ready (WIR)?

When I am Ready (WIR) is where a care leaver continues to live with their foster carer after they have reached 18. Previously, young people have continued to live with their foster carer under a Supported Lodgings arrangement.

Under the new law in Wales, the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 comes into force on 6 April 2016. Local authorities in Wales will have new duties towards young people wishing to remain with their foster carers under post 18 arrangements. The City of Cardiff Council have been preparing WIR arrangements from 2015, ready to implement the new law.

This is brilliant news for young people who can choose to stay with foster carers who may have known them for years. Turning 18 is an exciting time for many young people, but freedom, independence and increasing responsibilities can also be a worrying time, especially when they are about to move into young adulthood.

The Welsh Government recognise that not all young people are ready to leave home at 18. They have specified that you can remain under a WIR arrangement until you are 21, or longer if you are completing an education or training programme, as long as this arrangement continues to meet your needs, as outlined in your Pathway Plan.

Who is eligible for WIR?

WIR is available to young people who have been in care for more than 13 weeks since their 14th birthday and remain in the care of the local authority post 16 years. They also have to be  in foster care on their 18th birthday.

It must be in your best interest to remain living with your foster carer and your foster carer must agree to the plan. Your foster carer must be approved and registered by a Fostering Agency but can be a Local authority Foster carer of an independent Agency Foster Carer.

Is WIR right for you and your carer?

It is very important that the young person and foster carer are in agreement with entering a ‘WIR’ arrangement. Focus groups with young people and foster carers in Wales have outlined the indicators of success as:

  • A chance to explore and try things out in a safe environment.
  • Taking gradual steps towards independence.
  • Understanding clearly what you can expect when living together and what support is available, particularly around finances.
  • Knowing that it is your home and you feel part of the family.
  • Having the aspirations to develop skills for independent living and accessing education, employment and training.
  • Pathway planning begins at 16 so that young people and carers can make a successful transition to WIR.

When I am Ready helps ensure that you do not experience a sudden disruption to your living arrangements which can have a negative impact on your education, employment or training, or upon developing your independent living skills.

How do you have your say about the plans for your future

It is important that the plans for your future are discussed when you are approaching 16. You and your social worker or advocate can discuss where you see yourself living when you are 18. Your social worker will carry out a ‘needs assessment’ which will include the outcomes you wish to achieve when you leave care. This assessment will consider what should be included in your Pathway Plan. If you want to remain with your foster carers, then this will need to be written into your Pathway Plan.

WIR needs to be discussed at your Looked After Children review near your 16th birthday, and a When I am Ready meeting convened by the ‘WIR’ Coordinator, to ensure that you and your carers understand what is expected of you, when you reach 18. The WIR Coordinator can provide advice and support about practical and financial arrangements. Further reviews will also need to consider your wishes, in case your situation changes, or you wish to change your mind. Your social worker needs to tell you what alternatives are available.

Sometimes, WIR is not possible, for example, your foster carer may not agree to the arrangement because perhaps they want to foster young children and do not have sufficient space to enable you to stay and for them to continue Fostering.

What is the difference between Foster Care, When I am Ready and Supported Lodgings

Foster Care

  • You are under 18.
  • You are looked after.
  • As you are in care, it is a placement that is regulated by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate.
  • The Local Authority makes payments to your carer to cover the costs of food and clothing for you.

When I am Ready

  • You are over 18.
  • You are an adult and care leaver.
  • You have a licence agreement with your former foster carer, and are an excluded licensee, but will continue to live as part of their family.
  • You may be in education, employment or training.
  • You are expected to contribute towards your keep and maybe able to claim benefits.
  • Your WIR carer will help you develop skills required for living independently.

Supported Lodgings

  • You are over 16 and will either be a care leaver, homeless or an unaccompanied asylum seeker.
  • You will rent a bedroom in a private home managed by a Supported Lodgings provider, and be expected to contribute towards your keep, and maybe able to claim benefits.
  • The provider will support you and help you develop your living skills.

What is a WIR Living Together Agreement?

The WIR Coordinator will coordinate the completion of the living together agreement based on the outcomes you wish to achieve as identified in your Pathway Plan. The people who are best placed to support you and your foster carer/WIR carer to achieve these outcomes will also be involved.

The WIR Coordinator will arrange a Living Together Agreement meeting six months before you are 18 and should be attended by yourself, your foster carer, personal adviser, and relevant social workers.

This agreement is different to your Pathway Plan, as it is an agreement between you and your ‘WIR’ carer and clarifies the roles and boundaries regarding living together.

What are the questions you and your carer need to consider when agreeing how to live together?

  • What are the outcomes you wish to achieve?
  • How will your carer be supported to help you achieve these outcomes?
  • What are the expectations about household tasks, such as using the washing machine or preparing meals?
  • What are the arrangements for when friends and partners stay over, or times you stay away?
  • What happens if your carer goes away for a few days – can you stay there?
  • What if there are issues relating to other children living in the household, including other foster children?
  • What are the plans for you regarding education, employment or training activities?
  • What are the plans for moving on, or if the arrangement ends suddenly?
  • How much will you be expected to pay to your ‘WIR’ carer?

What is a Licence Agreement?

When you turn 18, the legal basis on which you continue to live in your former foster carer home changes, as you become an ‘excluded licensee’.

This means, in effect that you are lodging in the home and the WIR carer technically becomes your landlord.

The licence agreement outlines the total weekly charges, including the service charge that you will be expected to pay to your WIR carer.

As an excluded licensee, you can be asked to leave the property by your carer, particularly if you breach the agreement. There must be a period of 28 days notice given, unless serious issues have arisen and termination is required more swiftly.

Both you and your carer need to understand the nature of the new arrangement, and care should be taken that the positive aspects of living with your former foster carer is not diminished by the new legal and financial arrangements and terminology.

How will you and your carer be supported?

Your social worker/personal adviser will be responsible for ensuring that your Pathway Plan properly reflects your individual strengths, needs and aspiration. They can also coordinate the provision of other services and ensure you access financial support to assist you with your entitlements.

Your carer will receive support from the WIR Coordinator, who will also liaise with your personal adviser. Your carer will be offered the opportunity to receive independent expert advice from Fosterline Wales or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Your carer will also be offered additional training regarding preparing the young person for adulthood.

What if you or your carer want to end the WIR arrangement?

The arrangement may be brought to an end by yourself or your carer, by giving 28 days notice. The Local Authority can bring the arrangement to an end, if it considers the arrangement to no longer be consistent with your well-being.

What if you or your carer are unhappy with the WIR arrangement?

If you are unhappy with your WIR arrangement, then you should speak to your Independent Reviewing Officer, and ask for an urgent review, so your concerns can be considered. You can ask for the support of an independent advocate or family member or friend.

If your carer is unhappy with the arrangement, then they should discuss this with the WIR Coordinator.

Both you and your carer will have access to the City of Cardiff Council’s complaints procedure, should you wish to make a complaint.