Improving access to social care for adults with autism

Getting transition right

If anybody should look at anything, they should look at that transition.

Residential home manager (7)

The transition from children's to adults' social care, problematic for many groups, can be particularly difficult for people with autism. At present, 70 per cent of children with autism identified in the special educational needs system have statements of special educational needs, and are thus entitled to transition planning from Year 9 (14 years of age). A similar proportion of local areas have multi-disciplinary transition protocols (11). Despite this, and despite a general consensus that people need personalised, holistic and ambitious transition plans (10), many young people with autism need to be served better by the transition process.

They face the same problems as other groups during transition (7), namely:

In addition, some aspects of autism can make transition particularly difficult:

Furthermore, if transition for people with autism goes badly, they can be stuck in poor-quality services, and have lives that are not as independent as they ought to be (36).

During transition, there needs to be (38):

In England, transition planning is being addressed in 'Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability' (40), with proposals for a unified assessment, and an 'Education, Health and Care Plan', covering social care, education, health and support into employment, which runs until a person is 25. There is a strong emphasis also on professionals having much higher aspirations for children with disabilities (40), building on the messages of 'Aiming high for disabled children' (41) and the Transition Support Programme. Although the Transition Support Programme ends in 2011, local areas will have developed greater knowledge and expertise in transition as a result.

The focus in 'Support and aspiration'on reducing the number of people who have a statement of special educational needs may mean that some people with autism fall outside of the transition planning process, although having a statement is not the only route to support through transition (11).

In Northern Ireland, transition planning is guided by the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 as amended by the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Northern Ireland) Order 2005. Further guidance is contained in the 'Code of Practice on the identification and assessment of special educational needs'(42) and a supplement to the Code of Practice issued in 2005 (43). A Task Group on Autism was set up in November 2000 to make recommendations on educational provision for children and young people with autism, and recommended that transition processes be more inclusive of young people and their families, cover all aspects of a young person's life and promote the better sharing of information (44). Furthermore, a priority for action of the DHSSPS strategic action plan is the development of multi-disciplinary, multi-agency approaches totransition (24).

A government inter-departmental group comprising of the Department of Education, the Department for Employment and Learning and the DHSSPS was set up to take forward strategic developments in the transition process for young people with special educational needs, which includes the needs of young people with autism. The group's report highlights deficits in transitions planning and provides a wide range of actions to make improvements in moving across the spectrum of service provision (45).

Further reading