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Crossing the divide between children and adult services – the principles of a good transition

MV’s Emmet Regan and and Michael Wyatt argue that local authority children and adult services need to have a unified view of the transition from children’s to adults services

For a young person turning 18, the world becomes a different place, a time when thought is given to new educational opportunities, employment or travel. For a young person who relies on public services, this a time can be a real period of trepidation and worry. Whether it is services such as mental health provision, children’s social care or special educational needs (SEND) services, this point of transition in to adulthood is a critical juncture in their lives.

We must ask ourselves, are we doing enough to aid the transition between children’s social care and adult social care? Are we doing enough to join up across the public sector? Are we taking as wide a view as possible to think holistically about transitions and ensuring a joined up approach to improve outcomes? Our view is that taking a more balanced approach can enable organisations across the public sector to improve outcomes. Our balanced methodology looks at transitions through four different lenses:

Rising Demand: there has been a rise in three key cohorts of young people of whom transitions is often required: young people with mental health problems, young people with SEND and looked after children. The number of young people diagnosed with non-communicable diseases and weight related illnesses is also on the rise. Understanding the increase in demand and planning for it is crucial.

Complexity: transitions can involve a number of departments within local authorities with often very complex cases. Working through and understanding this complexity allows for more collective thinking and action.

Wider system pressures: It is very difficult to join up across the wider system to free up funding and work to get the right support in place around the young person during the transition process. As a result, there is currently an absence of wider outcome monitoring across the transitions process.

Resources: Complex cases and fragmented capacity is compounded by reducing resources and ensures public servants face next to impossible decisions in relation to transitions, often having to think in the short-term.

The principles of ‘good’ transitions

Transitions across a number of different services and organisations makes each case unique in its context and challenges. Whilst the services and complexity underlying transitions cases may differ, there are a set of fundamental principles indicative of what constitutes ‘good’ transitions. These principles include continuity of care; ensuring the young person is at the centre of the process and is offered meaningful choices to the support they will receive as an adult; and an integrated approach to the transitions process. Integration between children’s and adults’ services, as well as with external organisations such as health and education, enables both the services and the family to have a unified understanding of the process and expectations of what is the possible services upon transitioning. Joining up internally and externally allows for greater control and a drive towards improving outcomes.

Transitions is without doubt a shared and complex challenge that requires each public sector organisation to identify the specific problem(s) that needs resolving in order to ensure a smooth transitions process and positive outcomes for children and young people.
Breaking down the barriers

There is no simple or singular solution to the challenges and barriers facing transitions. Transitions presents as a complex public sector problem with a variety of factors that affects services and organisations across the sector.

Ensuring a coordinated process across the local authority and beyond, enables services and families to have a unified view on the care and support on offer to the young person upon transitioning. A balanced approach enables public services to identify their major barriers and how to overcome these by considering increasing complexity, rising demand, reducing resources and wider system pressures. A model where challenges are shared, teams work together, future thought is given and the young person at the centre of thinking will improve outcomes and life chances.

To view and complete the Balance Diagnostic tool click here.

For more on our work and to hear about how you could use the Balance Approach, contact emmet@mutualventures.co.uk.

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