Moving from children’s disability social services into adult social services

Following an assessment, if a child or young person with special education needs and/or disabilities (SEND) requires social care and support, this is provided by child health and social care services until they reach the age of 18. 

For adults over the age of 18, this care and support will usually be provided by the adult social care team within the 0-25 Social care service which sits in Integrated Children’s services.

Between the ages of 16 and 18, children with SEND and their families who already have a children’s social care service in place are provided with support to move between services. The children’s Social Worker will gain consent, and make a referral into the adult social care team within the 0-25 social care service. This is often called ‘transition’. 

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Transitions care assessment

The Care Act 2014 states that local authorities (councils) must carry out needs assessments for children, children's carers and young carers where there is a likely need for care and support after the child in question turns 18, and a transition assessment would be of 'significant benefit'.

This means the local authority is able to take each individual’s circumstances into account when deciding whether to assess them. This is instead of having a blanket rule that means everyone has to be assessed at the same age. This flexibility recognises that the best time to plan the move to adult services will be different for each person.

The purpose of this assessment is to understand what adult social care a young person might need once they turn 18. It also helps young people and their families to make informed choices about their future.

The assessment is an important step. It helps young people and their families to plan for things like how to manage finances, look after their mental and physical health, sustain employment, get appropriate housing, and travel in the community and further afield.

The assessment makes sure that the appropriate support will be available to enable a young person to live as independently as possible once they turn 18.

From when they are in year 9 at school (the age of 13-14), young people and their families should be given information on how to request an assessment, usually through their school or education setting. 

Transition planning is an ongoing process, not just a one-off event. Starting these discussions early is important, so that by the time the young person reaches 18 there is a good idea about what their care and support arrangements in adulthood will look like.

How to get an assessment

Young people or their parents can request an assessment at any time before the young person’s 18th birthday, regardless of whether or not the child currently has an EHC plan.

To request an assessment, contact South Gloucestershire Council’s Access and Response (ART) team:

Telephone: 01454 866000 Monday to Thursday 9am ‐ 5pm, Friday 9am ‐ 4.30pm.


If a child receives children’s services this will continue during the assessment process, either until the adult care and support is in place to take over, or until it is clear after the assessment that adult care and support does not need to be provided.

Please note that all education enquiries should also be made to the Access and Response Team, regardless of the young person’s age.  

If the referral relates to an adult, this should be made to the First Contact Desk on 01454 868 007

The assessment

The assessment is carried out by a social worker or social work assistant. They will sit with the young person and their family and consider:

  • the young person’s wellbeing (including building a fulfilling social life and making a contribution to society), and
  • the young person’s basic living needs.

The assessment will help the council to understand the young person’s needs.

If they are found to have eligible needs, the council will then work with the young person (and perhaps their family, carer or someone who knows them well) to build a care and support plan. It will be decided who the most appropriate person is to support the young person at time of assessment.  A referral to advocacy services may be considered. 

Mental Capacity Assessments are carried out from the age of 16, which will determine a person’s ability to make important decisions about their care.  Best interest decisions will be made for those who are not able to understand a particular decision.  You can find out more about this process in this article.    

The Social Work Team can help decide who the most appropriate person to complete the Mental Capacity Assessment is, and will help identify the best time that this needs to happen.

The care and support plan

This is a document that describes the care and support the young person with eligible needs is thought to require when they turn 18.

The help and support agreed with in the plan could come from lots of places, including the young person’s friends, local community and volunteer services, and specialist help if this is needed.  

If you are assessed as in need of social care support, the assessment should include an indicative (or approximate) personal budget to be spent on your service provision at that time.

No one should have to pay for care and support they need if they cannot afford to. However, not all services are free once a young person reaches 18. Information about paying for adult social care services and getting a financial assessment will also be provided.

As a young person and their needs usually change over time, the care and support plan will change too. This might be because:

  • the young person develops new independence skills and/or interests
  • they would like to live away from home, or
  • they go to college.

Planning can take place for the next stage in someone’s life.  If changes happen the council will provide information and advice explaining options for any other support that may be needed.

The Care and Support Plan would cease once a decision is made that social care provision is no longer required. This could be following a review, or at the young person’s request.  It could be that services were only needed for a certain amount of time and the young person’s outcomes in the plan have now been met.

If an assessment or plan is not suitable

The council can decide not to carry out an assessment where there is ‘not likely to be a need for care and support post-18’ or because the timing is not of ‘significant benefit’ to the young person’s preparation for adulthood. In these circumstances, the council must provide reasons for this in writing, and include information and advice on what can be done to prevent or delay the development of needs for care and support.

If the council do not carry out an assessment because the timing is not of ‘significant benefit’ they should advise when it is likely to be of significant benefit, and ask the young person and their family to make contact again at that time in order to arrange the assessment. 

If the young person does not meet the Care Act eligibility for adult social care provided by the council, they will still have information provided to help them meet their needs. This could be by signposting to other services, including local charities or voluntary agencies.

The young person and their family will be given clear reasons why the eligibility criteria have not been met, and you have a right to challenge this decision.

How transitions are supported   

In South Gloucestershire Council, The Preparing for Adulthood Team (PFA) helps young people and their families plan for the future.  

The PFA team can become involved from Year 9, when they attend some education, health and care plan (EHCP) annual reviews to provide advice and guidance. This is an opportunity to identify needs in preparing for the transition between childhood and adulthood. However, your child can be referred at a later stage (up until the age of 25). The majority of transition work completed by the team is with young people, predominantly at key transition stages such as post 16 and post 19.

Referrals into the PFA can be made by a variety of professionals, with the criteria being to have either an EHCP or lead professional such as social care practitioner.  Referrals are prioritised and allocated within a multi-agency meeting once consent is provided, and an allocated worker will decide with the young person the best approach in meeting their needs.  This would be either through indirect work, such as suggesting what available resources  may meet their needs, or direct work, for example travel training.

Find out more about the team here: PFA team.  

The adult social care team also work very closely with the PFA Team, and sometimes carry out joint work; supporting young adults to develop their community networks with a strength based approach.  The aim is to enable the young adult to work towards their goals and outcomes, developing their independence as much as they are able to do.  This is also about working with families to help develop the young person’s skills in their day to day life.  

Further information

You can find further information about Preparing for adulthood guidance, including various pathway guides relating to employment, housing and health, in this article.

The NHS website has information about moving between children’s and adult’s health and social care, which includes useful advice to help parents and carers to agree with their child how involved they will be in this planning.

The Council for Disabled Children’s Transition Information Network is also a good source of information and advice for young people and their parents/carers. It includes a free ‘Future choices’ magazine.

The British Association for Supported Employment’s website provides information on their work to promote best practice and represent people with additional needs in the workplace.