The Road Ahead – Main report
6. What information do supporters need?
This section presents the themes which emerged from the supporters' discussions about their own information needs. It highlights the central importance of supporters knowing and understanding the individual young person, their dreams and aspirations and their role in empowering young people to speak up for themselves, as well as knowing about the transition process.
The supporters involved in the discussions included: support workers associated with a special school; supporters in advocacy and leisure services; a special school teacher; and a Connexions Personal Adviser.
Information needed about the young person in order to empower and support them
The supporters stressed the importance of having appropriate information about each individual. They needed to know the young person very well. The kind of information needed included:
- Understanding the young person's likes and dislikes
- Their skills and capabilities and the areas in which they needed support
- Their dreams, any future plans they might have and aspirations for the future
- Health and hygiene support needs
- Behaviour support needs
- The level of support required in social contexts
- Communication needs, including signing or help to communicate their choices
- Potential for development and growth.
Supporters were clear that they also needed to understand the individual's personal context and their family background, including what support was available from the family, friends or a circle of support, as well as the family's hopes and fears for the young person's future.
In their discussions, the parents confirmed that having information about the young person and their situation was central to the supporters' role. One parent said that supporters should 'go in with an open mind and learn as much as possible by spending lots of time with the young person' so that they built a lasting relationship and they understood their 'capabilities', family and the wider context. This would enable them to adapt their support strategies to the individual and to help and advise realistically. The parents expected supporters to know about the young person in all the areas listed above, as well as in relation to their leisure, decision making and travel capabilities. Parents expected supporters to be able to answer young people's questions such as:
- Will I get the support I need?
- What if I have had enough of college - what can I do next?
A key theme within the supporters' discussions focused on 'empowering young people', through 'building their confidence', supporting them to 'speak up for themselves' and to know what they wanted through developing their security and skills to make decisions. This involved exploring what independence meant for young people, being 'positive about choices and decisions made' and 'when necessary to be able to challenge decisions' as well as supporting them emotionally through a time of change.
The supporters stressed the importance of 'responding to the young person's emotions' by understanding 'how they feel about themselves', 'being supportive to their hopes and fears' as well as appreciating the 'stress they are going through'. Information was required on how to empower the young people to:
'Be the most independent they can.'
'Make the best of opportunities.'
'Deal with change.'
So, supporters needed to know how to get information on all the changes and choices that were available for the young people, as well as what was achievable. They also needed information about their own role in the transition process, 'How you can help as a supporter', along with more specific information on:
'Youth work skills, personal development skills, ie. assertiveness, game, drama etc.'
Information needed about the transition process
If supporters are to help young people to understand the transition process they first need to have information about it themselves. So they need to know not only about transition policy and procedures but housing and the support services available to young people during transition and beyond and how to access them. They need to know how they can be involved within the transition and person centred planning processes, not only to support the individual but to share the information they themselves hold. One supporter asked:
'How do we and the young person link into other transition work, eg school transition policy?'
Another felt it was important supporters should be aware that a transition plan was a 'living document'- one that grows and changes with the young person over time.
The supporters recognised that they needed to be well aware of person centred planning so that they could support young people to decide on their wider plans for the future and to recognise the importance of targets, goals and timescales. They needed to be fully briefed about what options were realistic, in relation to the young person, and the resources available in the local area.
Within the parents' discussions, parents were particularly concerned that supporters should know about the availability of support and services such as 'respite care' (short breaks) and activities that were suitable for the young person as well as their young person's abilities with money. Parents also expected supporters to understand about partnership as a whole and to work in partnership with parents to understand the young person and support the whole of the family during transition.
This section discussed supporters' information needs. It showed that supporters need to know the young people they work with extremely well so that they can support them to understand their own capabilities, to speak up for themselves and make appropriate choices.
As well as having a very detailed knowledge of the young person and their personal context, supporters also need information about:
- all the changes and choices available to young people at transition
- the transition process and their role within it
- the local service and support context.