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Transitioning care-leavers with mental health needs: “they set you up to fail!"Background Children in the UK care system often face multiple disadvantages in terms of health, education and future employment. This is especially true of mental health where they present with greater mental health needs than other children. Although transition from care – the process of leaving the local authority as a child-in-care to independence – is a key juncture for young people, it is often experienced negatively with inconsistency in care and exacerbation of existing mental illness. Those receiving support from child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), often experience an additional, concurrent transfer to adult services (AMHS), which are guided by different service models which can create a care gap between services. Method This qualitative study explored care-leavers’ experiences of mental illness, and transition in social care and mental health services. Twelve care-leavers with mental health needs were interviewed and data analysed using framework analysis. Results Sixteen individual themes were grouped into four superordinate themes: overarching attitudes towards the care journey, experience of social care, experience of mental health services and recommendations. Conclusions Existing social care and mental health teams can improve the care of care-leavers navigating multiple personal, practical and service transitions. Recommendations include effective Pathway Planning, multiagency coordination, and stating who is responsible for mental health care and its coordination. Participants asked that youth mental health services span the social care transition; and provide continuity of mental health provision when care-leavers are at risk of feeling abandoned and isolated, suffering deteriorating mental health and struggling to establish new relationships with professionals. Young people say that the key to successful transition and achieving independence is maintaining trust and support from services.