Young people approaching adulthood


The term “transition” is often used by practitioners to describe the period from school Year 9 (14 years old) to when a child becomes an adult at age 18 and as they develop through young adulthood to 25. The phrase “young people approaching adulthood” is now commonly used when referring to this period in a person’s life.

The period from school Year 9 (14 years old) to when a child becomes an adult at age 18 can be a difficult one for any young person and their family. This period can be especially difficult for young people with disabilities due to the changes in services and support that is available for adults.

Parents have to adjust to the practical and emotional changes as their child becomes more independent. For a young adult, there are opportunities and choices in relation to many areas of adult life. For both parent and child this can be a positive, yet challenging time.

Statutory organisations and partners therefore need to ensure young people with additional needs approaching adulthood are supported to make their own choices in planning and developing their future.

Facts, figures and trends

The Bracknell Forest School Places Plan 2012 – 2017 has identified a noticeable increase in the child population. There is greater demand for school places resulting in the need to provide additional classrooms and schools, in particular at primary age. The plan noted the increase in the birth rate of 9% between 2005 and 2010 equating to an additional 124 births in 2010. Additionally in the last five years over 2,000 new dwellings have been built and there are plans to further increase the number of new dwellings over the forthcoming years.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) produced a mid 2011 population estimate which shows that currently the estimate of the general population is 113,696 people in Bracknell Forest. They predict an increase in the overall population of Bracknell Forest to 128,215 by 2021 with the number of young people aged under 18 set to increase from 26,625 to 28,695 (an 8% increase by 2021). This actual and predicted rise in the child population is likely to result in additional demands upon both children and adult services.

Over the recent years there has been an increase of Black Minority Ethnic (BME) groups in Bracknell Forest. This is demonstrated by the make up of the schools pupils in 2001 which was at 6% and currently stands at 16.8%.

This identified increase in BME communities means that agencies will need to understand and respond to the needs of those communities through engagement, and ensure support and services are planned, shaped and delivered in accordance with those needs.

Children and young people with statement of special educational needs (SEN) require additional support in education to achieve their potential. Whilst a statement of special educational need does not necessarily mean that additional support will be needed in adulthood, almost all young people turning 18 that receive services have or have had a statement of special educational needs.

Within the present Year 9 and Year 10 there is a higher than usual number of young people with SEN. In particular, in year 9 there are already 29 young people who have been identified as likely to require additional support. This is higher than the usual numbers of around 20-22 young people per year group. Given this high number of young people who will require support it is therefore expected that there will be an increased demand on resources.

In recent years there has been a noticeable increase in the number of children and young people diagnosed on the autistic spectrum within Bracknell Forest. Work undertaken as part of the Adult Autism Strategy provided estimates as to the numbers of people with a diagnosis and made estimates as to potential increases in numbers in line with the predicted rise in the population of Bracknell Forest.

Table 2: Estimated number of people on the autistic spectrum in Bracknell Forest

YEAR 2010 2015 2020
Number of people (all ages) 1155 1199 1248
Number of people (18+ years) 882  934  953

Source: Projecting Adult Needs and Services Information System

The increase may be more than this as national and local autism strategies raise awareness of assessment and diagnosis pathways, as well as knowledge of how to access support.

Over the last 3-5 years both the Disabled Children’s Team and Special Educational Needs Team have noted an increase in the complexity of needs of children and young people. This primarily can be attributed to advances in medical science combined with the increase in the population of Bracknell Forest and improved recognition and diagnosis of needs. This is particularly evident at primary age with an increased number of children requiring bespoke education support to enable them to access education.

All these factors are important in designing, planning and delivering the level of support needed for young people to achieve their potential.

Current activity & services

In recent years there have been a number of developments within Bracknell Forest to improve and ensure good support for young people approaching adulthood and their families. Some of these key developments are outlined in the following sections and further details can be found on the Bracknell Forest website:

  • Approaching Adulthood (Transition) Policy – A clear policy and procedure is in place to ensure practitioners are clear as to their responsibilities when supporting young people approaching adulthood.
  • Approaching Adulthood (Transition) Panel – Key to ensuring appropriate support is a meeting of managers from children and adult social care and other key agencies, such as the NHS, Connexions and the Local Special School, every term. The meeting identifies those young people approaching adulthood, who will need support. The panel identifies lead practitioners and agencies both in children’s and adult’s services who will co-ordinate support and planning arrangements.
  • Approaching Adulthood Strategic Group – In order to further improve provision within Bracknell Forest a strategic group was set up comprising key agencies and parent group representatives.
  • Young People in the Care of the Local Authority – Within Bracknell Forest there are in the region of 100 children and young people in the care of the Local Authority. This group of children and young people are particular vulnerable and there is legislation and regulations in place to ensure they are supported into adulthood including the Leaving Care Act 2000.

National & local strategies (current best practices)

There are a number of pieces of legislation and government guidance that shape how services should support young people as they approach adulthood. The Transition Information Network website has useful information on government guidance.

The most recent legislation Children and Families Bill 2013 takes forward the Coalition Government’s commitments to improve services for vulnerable children and support strong families. It underpins wider reforms to ensure that all children and young people can succeed, no matter what their background. The Bill will reform the systems for adoption, looked after children, family justice and special educational needs. It will encourage growth in the childcare sector, introduce a new system of shared parental leave and ensure children in England have a strong advocate for their rights.

Specific to special educational needs and disability the approach set out:

Special educational needs (SEN)

The Government is transforming the system for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN), including those who are disabled, so that services consistently support the best outcomes for them.

The Children and Families Bill will extend the SEN system from birth to 25, giving children, young people and their parent’s greater control and choice in decisions and ensuring needs are properly met. It takes forward the reform program set out in ‘support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability: progress and next steps’ by including:

  • replacing old statements with a new birth- to-25 education, health and care plan;
  • offering families personal budgets; and
  • improving cooperation between all the services that support children and their families, particularly requiring local authorities and health authorities to work together.

Locally an ‘Approaching Adulthood Strategy’ has been developed having been informed by an analysis of local needs so that appropriate resources and options are available and developed for young people approaching adulthood.

What is this telling us?

The key areas for development identified:

  • improve communication and information about support available
  • prepare young people and their families for adulthood well in advance
  • further develop local provision related to employment, education and housing
  • engage families and young people more on how provision is developed

Recommendations for consideration by other key organisations

It is recommended that key organisations would need to take account of the requirements in the Children’s Bill given the requirements for integrated assessments, personal budgets and the requirement for an education, health and care plan for each young person. This will necessitate from partners a commitment in terms of resource, capacity and application.