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Transition into adult services

After education or training - what next? See what options there are and how your or your child's services will change.

Transition into adulthood

It's a good idea for anyone to think about what you might want to do in adulthood. If you have a learning disability , you might benefit from some support when thinking about your options - from building friendships to finding a job or thinking about where you want to live in the future.

It might also help children to prepare for making decisions for themselves when they become 16, if they have capacity to do so.

This preparation for adulthood should happen from their earliest years and no later than by Year 9, when they are aged 13 or 14.

Children and young people should be encouraged to set what outcomes they want to achieve in future. These outcomes should be reviewed regularly as someone approaches adulthood.

Young people must also have access to careers advice and advocacy to help them prepare for adulthood.

Leaving education or training

Young people must remain in education or training until they are 16 and, in England, until they are 18.

However, some young people with a learning disability – for example those in England who have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan – may remain in education or training, free of charge, until they are 25 if it is agreed that it would be beneficial for them to do so.

When it is anticipated that a young person with an EHC Plan will soon be leaving education or training, the local authority should agree in advance the support the young person might need to access and the support they might need to help them access it.

Transition into adult services

Children with a learning disability who are eligible for social care support can receive it until they become an adult. At this point they  transition to social care services designed for adults.

The transition from children’s services to adults’ services is often very challenging for young people with a learning disability and their families: it combines a change of services and professionals at the very time when they are also negotiating wider changes to their life, for example in their educational circumstances.

These changes should, however, be planned in advance. If a child, young person or their carer is likely to have support needs when they turn 18, the local authority must assess them if it considers there is “significant benefit” to the individual in doing so.This is regardless of whether the child or young person currently receives any services.

This assessment can be requested by the young person's parents. There is no particular age at which this assessment request should be made, and in some cases it would be reasonable to request an assessment when the young person is 14 or 15. 

This is likely to be necessary for young people with complex needs who are going to continue to need significant levels of support from adult services. The complexity of their needs will mean that meticulous planning and a gradual transition to new services will be required.

The assessment is the starting point and could be requested years in advance of their 18th birthday to allow sufficient time for this planning and transition to take place.

There should also be no gap in services. In England, when the transition between children’s and adults’ services takes place, a local authority must continue to provide the individual with any children’s services they were receiving throughout the assessment process.

This will continue until adult care and support is in place to take over – or until it is clear after the assessment that adult care and support does not need to be provided.

This continuation of children’s services into adulthood can also happen in order to avoid the transition to adult services coinciding with other stressful events such as exam periods.

Planning the transition to adult services early aims to reduce the possibility of a “cliff-edge” where someone receiving support turns 18 and suddenly finds themselves without the care and support they need.

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The Learning Disability Helpline is our free help and advice line.

Our team can offer advice, information and discuss what support Mencap can offer tailored to your needs, in your area.

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