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Preparation for adulthood

Planning for the future

This information has been co-produced as a partnership across the whole of Northamptonshire, including:

  • Northamptonshire Parent Carer Forum Group (NPFG)
  • officers from a range of children’s and adults' services from North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) and West Northamptonshire Council (WNC)
  • Northamptonshire Children’s Trust (NCT)
  • health partners and members of Integrated Care Northamptonshire
  • local colleges

This content is still subject to change.

Preparing for the future is really important for all of us. As children grow up, there are new opportunities and things to think about and prepare for.

When children are young, decisions are made for them, but as they get older, they begin to make more decisions for themselves. This can be a difficult time for parents and carers, particularly parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

It is important to view this stage in the young person’s journey as helping to prepare them for life.

Preparing for adulthood means preparing for:

  1. education beyond 16 and/or employment
  2. independent living
  3. participating in society: friendships and contributing to the local community (community inclusion)
  4. being as healthy as possible (health)

Supporting the young person to be as independent as they can be in all 4 of these areas starts when they are very young. This support helps them to build the foundations and skills they need when they become an adult.

Even before they turn 16, young people should be supported to plan for their future and make decisions about their adult life. This is sometimes called transition planning or person-centred planning.

Effective transition during this time requires good planning and good communication.

If the young person has an Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan, a transition plan will be developed at the Annual Review in Year 9 and will continue to be reviewed each year from then.

Making a plan

The young person’s views and wishes should be the starting point, even if they seem unrealistic, or not everyone agrees. If the young person has severe and complex needs, they may need support to have their say using different forms of communication.

Some may not be able to say what they want in the future, but those who know them well will know a lot about their likes and dislikes and how they communicate with those around them. It helps to think about the interests and skills the young person has, what they enjoy and what they are good at.

Family and friends may have thoughts about what a good adult life will look like for the young person. They can also be asked for their views.

It is important to be flexible with the plan. Ideas change, new opportunities arise, and sometimes things just don’t work out as expected. The plan can be changed as often as necessary to ensure it is complete and up to date.

Growing up

We want all young people to grow into becoming confident adults with positive self-esteem who can live happy and healthy lives. This section covers areas related to growing up and preparing for the personal changes that will happen.

If young people are to grow into confident adults, support must be provided to help develop positive self-esteem. There is some advice from other parents about developing self-esteem on the Contact website.

Puberty can be an anxious time for young people with SEND and their parents/carers.

You may be worried about how they will cope, but there are agencies that offer advice about supporting young people through these changes. Read about puberty and growing up on the Contact website.

Agencies can also help young people manage their personal hygiene, periods, emotions, emerging sexuality, and masturbation. Agencies can also help young people keep safe, and understand social boundaries (like the inappropriate touching of others), pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

You can find out about local support through the young person’s GP.

Schools will teach young people about sex and relationships as part of the national curriculum and will advise parents and carers about it.

Contact has really helpful guides for parents/carers and young people. They may help you support your young person as they grow into adulthood.  Find out more about sex and sex awareness on the Contact website.

Change of legal status and decision-making

When a young person reaches the end of compulsory school age (the end of the school year in which they are 16), some decision-making rights pass to them.

They will have the right to:

  • request an EHC Assessment - they can do this up to their 25th birthday
  • ask for changes to the content of their EHC Plan
  • request that a particular institution is named in their EHC Plan
  • decide whether they wish to remain in education/training
  • request a ‘Personal Budget’ for elements of their EHC Plan
  • appeal to the SEN and Disability Tribunal about decisions concerning their EHC Plan

The SEND Code of Practice 2014 says that parents should be involved in discussions about a young person’s future and that the young person may still need help with this.

From the age of 16, under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, young people are presumed to be able to make their own decisions.

The following may be useful:

From the age of 18, young people are legally classed as adults and many things change.

For example, when they are 18:

  • they can legally make their own decisions
  • letters and other communication will be addressed to them (this may already have started before they turned 18)
  • money, including benefits, is their money
  • they may have to contribute financially to some services or support they receive (this will be based on their income)
  • parents no longer have ‘legal’ parental responsibility, although most young people continue to need the support and guidance from their parents/carers and others

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Last updated 04 June 2024