Preparing for adulthood


 What the law says about supporting young people with SEN in the transition to adulthood

What do we mean by “preparing for adulthood”?

The SEND Code of Practice (CoP) states that everyone working with children and young people with SEN or disabilities across education (including early years, schools, colleges and 16 to 19 academies), health and social care, should support children and young people with SEN and disabilities to prepare for adult life and help them go on to achieve the best outcomes in employment, independent living, health and community participation.

It adds that the principles apply to all young people and includes both the transition into post-16 education and transition from post-16 education into adult life and says: “High aspirations are crucial to success – discussions about longer-term goals should start early and ideally well before Year 9 (age 13-14) at school. They should focus on the child or young person’s strengths and capabilities and the outcomes they want to achieve.”

In practice, preparing for adulthood means preparing for:

  • higher education and/or employment – including exploring different employment options
  • independent living – this means young people having choice, control and freedom over their lives and the support they have, their accommodation and living arrangements, including supported living
  • participating in society – including having friends and supportive relationships, and participating in, and contributing to, the local community
  • being as healthy as possible in adult life.

The CoP points out that being supported towards greater independence and employability can be life-transforming for those with SEN and disabilities and this support needs to start early and centre around the child or young person’s own aspirations, interests and needs. All professionals working with them should share high aspirations and help them to achieve their ambitions.

What is meant by “strategic planning”?

The CoP says that strategic planning will contribute to joint commissioning, the LEA’s local offer and the preparation of education, health and care (EHC) plans.

Local authorities (LAs) also have a strategic leadership role in fulfilling their duties concerning the participation of young people in education and training. The CoP say that they should work with schools, colleges and other post-16 providers, as well as other agencies, to support young people to participate in education or training and to identify those in need of targeted support to help them make positive and well-informed choices.

What are the other duties on LAs?

The CoP states that LAs must place children, young people and families at the centre of their planning and work with them to develop coordinated approaches to securing better outcomes, using information from EHC plans and other planning to anticipate their needs and ensure there are pathways into employment, independent living, participation in society and good health.

Why do we need to start early?

The CoP adds: “When a child is very young, or SEN is first identified, families need to know that the great majority of children and young people with SEND, with the right support, can find work, be supported to live independently, and participate in their community. Health workers, social workers, early years providers and schools should encourage these ambitions right from the start.”

So early years providers and schools should support children and young people so that they are included in social groups and develop friendships.

What about transitions to higher education?

LAs must make young people aware of the support available to them in higher education and how to claim it, including the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). DSAs are available to help students in higher education with the extra costs they may incur on their course because of a disability. LAs should plan a smooth transition to higher education before ceasing to maintain a young person’s EHC plan.

Once the young person’s place has been confirmed at a higher education institution, the LA must pass a copy of their EHC plan to that institution at the earliest opportunity. The LA should also plan how social care support will be maintained, where the young person continues to require it, and whether this will continue to be provided by the home local authority or by the authority in the area they are moving to.

What about employment/careers advice?

Maintained schools, pupil referral units (PRUs) and academies/free schools have a duty to ensure pupils from Year 8 until Year 13 are provided with independent careers guidance. FE colleges also have equivalent requirements which apply for all students up to and including age 18 and this will also apply to 19- to 25-year-olds with EHC plans. The CoP says: “Schools and colleges should raise the career aspirations of their SEN students and broaden their employment horizons. They should use a wide range of imaginative approaches, such as taster opportunities, work experience, mentoring, exploring entrepreneurial options, role models and inspiring speakers.”

What about those who are 19 to 25 with EHC plans?

LAs must set out in their local offer the support and provision that 19- to 25-year-olds with SEN can access regardless of whether they have an EHC plan. FE colleges must continue to use their best endeavours to secure the SEN provision needed by all young people aged 19 to 25 with SEN attending their institution. Those with EHC plans should have free access to further education in the same way as 16- to 18-year-olds. Colleges or training providers must not charge young people tuition fees for such places as the funding will be provided by the LA and the Education Funding Agency (EFA). Apprentices aged 19 to 25 with EHC plans are fully funded on the same terms and funding rates as 16- to 18-year-old apprentices.

What about those without an EHC plan?

19- to 25-year-olds with SEN but without EHC plans can choose to remain in FE. Colleges are funded by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) for all students aged 19 and over who do not have an EHC plan (including those who declare a learning difficulty or disability). Colleges are able to charge fees for these students, but must use their best endeavours to secure the necessary special educational provision that they need. LAs are not responsible for securing or funding education and training opportunities for young people aged 19 to 25 who do not have EHC plans.

What else do I need to know?

The CoP states that, under no circumstances, should young people find themselves suddenly without support and care as they make the transition to adult services. Transition to adult services for those with EHC plans should begin at an annual review and, in many cases, should be a staged process over several months or years. A transition assessment should mean the LA concludes that the young person: does not have needs for adult care and support; or does have such needs and begins to meet some or all of them; or does have such needs but decides it is not going to meet them (either because they are not eligible or because they are already being met).

The LA can continue to provide care and support from children’s services after the young person has turned 18 until the EHC plan is no longer maintained, but when the EHC plan ceases or a decision is made that children’s services are no longer appropriate, the LA must continue the children’s services until they have completed “relevant steps”.

Further information

Douglas Silas is the Principal of Douglas Silas Solicitors and runs the website: He is also the author of A Guide To The SEND Code of Practice [updated for 2016/17], which is available for all eBook readers:

The advice provided here is of a general nature and Douglas Silas Solicitors cannot be held responsible for any loss caused by reliance placed upon it.

Douglas Silas
Author: Douglas Silas

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