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The transition to adulthood: improving outcomes and managing demand within the Younger Adult’s cohort

Emma Ockelford

IMPOWER have recognised the need to focus attention on Younger Adults for some time. This call to arms is now being taken up more widely; councils are acknowledging that they cannot continue to sidestep the financial pressure from this cohort, and have realised that more can be done to achieve better outcomes for these individuals.

To improve outcomes and manage demand within the Younger Adult’s cohort requires a focus on the interface between children’s services (including High Needs) and adult services. Young people accessing support through children’s services – in particular those with learning disabilities and/or SEND – may transition to adult services and we need to prepare for this.

While I have seen a variety of transitions services used to prepare young people (aged 14 upwards) for adulthood, I have yet to see an effective way of managing the fundamental differences in culture and practice between children’s services and adult services.

The problem:

  • Children’s social workers have a duty to protect the children they support which can be restrictive in terms of preparing young people for adulthood
  • Young people with learning disabilities or SEND often require long term support from social care, education and potentially health services which can create a culture of dependency. They may have strong advocates in their families who have often had to fight to get the support required, and they may continue to fight for this support as they reach adulthood.
  • In High Needs, decision making is often driven by processes and paperwork rather than outcomes, meaning that young people are not as well prepared for adulthood as they could be.
  • In contrast, adult services have shifted to focus on maximising independence and on encouraging individuals to make the most of their strengths, assets and community networks to improve outcomes and enable them to remain as independent as possible.

The difference in culture between children’s and adult services leads to many young people making the transition between services without having their independence maximised.

The solution:

  • The sector needs to reframe its thinking around support provided to young people, in order that they can be as independent as possible when they reach adulthood. Councils need to train their staff to enhance children’s independence at an early stage. IMPOWER can provide children’s social workers with the tools, knowledge and confidence to reframe their thinking, and practice in a more independence-focussed way.
  • It is vital to bring families, schools and providers along on this journey, so they understand why it is important to consider independence early, to help prepare young people appropriately for this, and for families to have the confidence to continue to support their loved ones when they reach adulthood.
  • Developing an inclusive ambition across the interface between children’s and adult services will help overcome the differences in culture and practice currently seen and will allow improved outcomes for these individuals as they transition to adulthood.

The fact that councils are now thinking about maximising the independence of young people as they approach adulthood is a hugely positive development. To find out how IMPOWER can help, do get in touch.

Written by

Emma Ockelford



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