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When I’m 25
Annelie is 19 and has profound and complex disabilities. She is non-verbal, uses a wheelchair and has a variety of health needs, that mean she requires 24 hour care and support to be well. She has sensory loss and learning disability and currently lives in a children’s home.
Education to 25
Annelie’s situation has come about because she has been judged by the new adult social care team responsible for her case as having continuing health care needs. Had she been accepted as in need of social care, she would have been moved into a suitable adult placement, probably a supported living setting. Because she needs something more than that, she is still in a children’s service.
As a consequence of the shift to support young people up to 25, many providers have looked at how they can improve their offer. This presents us with a challenge, regulators of children’s services remain steadfastly committed to the 0-18 group. Anyone above 18 is an adult in law and should not be cared for in children’s services. Catering for those older service users needs separate accommodation and a different education provision. This falls into the new world of adult funding, and we all know what that means.
What is out there?
To suggest that Annelie’s care costs would reduce once she reached majority would have been ludicrous. Yet without the funding she has enjoyed to support her education thus far, there is not very much available to provide her with adequate daytime employment or training. For hundreds of young people in care, extending their right to education up to 25 has meant nobody really knows how to provide it.
Some services have been able to extend their offer and provide care and training for this group, outside of their children’s services but within their provision. However, further education funding means that many are just not willing or able to take this financial risk.
We should all be committed to helping young people continue to learn and grow beyond school. Further education is a right and a necessity to help more people with learning disability become as independent as they can. But moving the fence at the edge of the cliff will not result in less of them falling off. Annelie is falling off at 19 but even if she is found a place that supports her learning till the end of her EHC plan, she will be teetering again in 6 years time.
Unless we commit to developing the supported living services that underpin the move to independent adulthood, extending learning to 25 will not mean anything for young people with disabilities, aside from putting off the inevitable.
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