Don't hold back: new report explores experiences of young people with learning disabilities as they become adults

Learning Disability Wales has welcomed a new report published today by the Children's Commissioner that has "shone a light" onto the transition experiences of young people in Wales.

Sally Holland, Children's Commissioner for Wales, began thinking about the report after she met with a group of parents in North Wales in 2016 and asked each one of them what they would do if they had a magic wand.

One mother said, "For my daughter never to grow up. I know it sounds terrible, but I have struggled so hard to get her the education and support she needs, and I have no idea how she will be supported when she's an adult." It was an answer that stuck with Sally Holland and troubled her.

The report, Don't hold back: Transitions to adulthood for young people with learning disabilities, highlights many issues young people face as they become adults and points out the limited choices and funding available. Transition services, where they exist, vary greatly across Wales and frequently fail because they do not place young people at the centre of the planning process.

Being able to make the right choices depends on the availability of the right information and too often this simply doesn't exist. The report emphasises the importance of a coordinated response and the positive impact a keyworker or a lead professional can have on the outcomes for young people.

An easy read version of the report is also available and can be downloaded here (PDF).

Engage to Change project

The report makes nine recommendations for improvement, including a specific recommendation to build on the learning from Engage to Change, the employment project led by Learning Disability Wales. The project is working to assist 1000 young people with a learning disability and/or autism into paid employment by 2021.

The Children's Commissioner makes clear it will be essential that learning from the project is translated into lasting change. This will ensure young people with learning disabilities have the necessary skills to gain employment and enjoy improved wellbeing through the independence this offers when leaving school or college.

As part of her recommendations Sally Holland has also committed to monitoring how effective the Welsh Government 'Improving Lives' programme is in ensuring young people with a learning disability are able to live full lives. 

Martyn Jones, Learning Disability Wales CEO, commented on the new report:

"We are really pleased Sally has shone a light on this important issue as the impact it has on the lives of young people with learning disabilities in Wales cannot be overstated. The transition from children's to adult services is perhaps the most obvious area where clear weaknesses in the way we support young people to live fulfilling, independent lives can be seen, often due to a failure to involve them in planning processes.

"The Report calls into question how well legislation and policy in Wales is utilised and carries a salutary reminder of the rights that protect all children. We want young people with learning disabilities to be able to contribute and benefit from 'Prosperity for All' as equal citizens and look forward to working with Sally on the recommendations of the report and with Welsh Government on the implementation of the 'Improving Lives' programme. 

"The life course will be the theme of our annual conference 'All our futures' this year and we are delighted Sally and Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care, are joining us."

You can download the report and the easy read version from the Children's Commissioner for Wales' website.

Photo shows Ashfrord Richards, who has had a positive transition, on his eighteenth birthday, with friends from his local youth theatre group. Now 21, Ashford works for Elite Paper Solutions and is an actor with Hijinx Theatre.