The law and transition

The Care Act addresses a very important area – the transition between children’s and adults’ services. Transition can be regarded as a process, a period of time or a single chronological event.  It should be the gradual movement of a young person away from children centred health and support services and towards adult centred ones. Transition also means the subjective state of mind that a young person can be in, and so the planning of their social care should reflect and support this. Under the old system, many young people felt as through they had disappeared over a cliff edge when they became an adult, as the support that they had been receiving would vanish overnight.

What makes a good transition?

The guiding principles for a good transition are:

  • Early planning
  • Holistic assessment, planning and review
  • Active involvement of young people and their families
  • Focusing on key life chances
  • Integration with other services – this could involve a lead support worker
  • The provision of information and advice to ensure that a young person and their family understand what to expect once they turn 18

Planning for transition should start at age 14. Transition should take account of what support a young person receives from elsewhere, whether that is from other services, charities, friends, relatives or carers. Crucially, it should take account of what the young person wants, what is important to them and how they want to live their life in future.

Transition planning should also prepare the young person for the big choices that they will have to make, such as whether to continue into higher education, whether to move from the family home and live independently or how they can work towards a chosen career. The new law recognises that the active involvement of the young person in question and their family is essential. The
new law recognises that these choices must be well informed and the young person must be supported in making them, but also that they are deeply personal and that the young person must be in control of making them.

Transition assessments

The Care Act places a duty on local authorities to carry out a transition assessment for young people if they are likely to have needs once they turn 18. This also applies to young carers and carers whose children are nearing age 18. These assessments can be carried out by either adult’s or children’s services, and a decision can be made to continue providing care and support through children’s services beyond 18 if the assessment suggests that this is appropriate.

Assessments can take place any time between ages 14 and 18 depending on whether there is “significant benefit” to the young person in doing this at a certain time. Factors such exams, leaving school, leaving home and being able to accurately predict needs will determine whether there is significant benefit in carrying out an assessment at a particular time. The Care Act guidance is clear that the assessment must be carried out in time to allow plans to be put in place for support.

The question of whether there will be a significant benefit is the local authority’s to make, however a young person or carer (or somebody acting on their behalf) has the right to request an assessment at any time. If the local authority refuses to carry out the assessment then they must give their reasons in writing.

A young person or carer also has the right to refuse a transition assessment provided that the person has capacity to make this decision and the local authority are satisfied that there is no risk of abuse or neglect if an assessment does not go ahead.

The assessment must take account of the following things:

  • current needs for care and support and how these impact on wellbeing
  • whether the child or carer is likely to have needs for care and support after the child in question becomes 18
  • if so, what those needs are likely to be, and which are likely to be eligible needs
  • the outcomes the young person or carer wishes to achieve in day-to-day life and how care and support can contribute to achieving them

The young person should be provided with information and advice throughout the assessment process. They should know what to expect from the assessment, and also should be made aware that they can choose to have their parents or carers involved, and that they have the right to request a supported self-assessment.

After 18 – continuity

By the time a young person reaches their 18th birthday they should have an adult care and support plan already in place. If not, and if they have not had a transition assessment, then they must continue to be supported by Children’s Services until adult care and support is in place. These reforms were written into the Care Act to ensure that there will be no “cliff edge” in future when a person becomes an adult.

If a young person has complex needs, then the local authority is able to make a decision that children’s services will continue to provide support after the person turns 18.

Young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

The Children and Families Act 2014 when read alongside the Care Act 2014 sets out a new legal framework for post-18 young people with SEND. Local authorities must read the wellbeing principle into the Children and Families Act and ensure that it shapes their decision making.

The reforms create an SEND system which covers a person from birth until age 25 through the use of Education Health and Care plans. There is now a single planning and assessment process for children and young people with SEND. For children with EHC plans, planning for adulthood must begin in Year 9. If a young person has an EHC plan, then their social care must be informed by and fit in with the short, medium and long term goals set out in the EHC plan. The adult services care plan will then go on to form the basis of the care and support aspect of the EHC plan, and care and support services will be provided under the Care Act.

When a young person turns 18, they may be affected by both the Children and Families Act and the Care Act, which governs adult social care. The combined effect of both new pieces of legislation is to create a general duty on local authorities to ensure that in such cases support services are integrated. This can mean pooling budgets for education, health and social care or setting up 0-25 teams who inform all aspects of a person’s support.

First published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
Updated: Tuesday 31 March 2015