When you have a child with complex health needs, moving from children's to adult's services can feel like a bit of a minefield. Both young people and their families can end up confused and distressed at the lack of information, support and services available during transition - all of which can be made more confusing when you're dealing with completely new teams.

CQC produced a report called "From the Pond into the Sea" back in 2014 which outlined the difficulties faced by young people, their families and carers during the transition period. Their main findings were that too many people were struggling to ensure the right level of care was received during adolescence and through the transition process. While improvements have no doubt been made since 2014, the overarching themes and areas where things can go wrong are still the same today.

Transition is a period of change, and as with all change, planning is key. The transition process should start at around age 14, to give plenty of time to discuss all the options and ensure good communication between everyone involved in the support of the individual. This also gives everyone plenty of time to explore the options available to young adults, who perhaps want to look into supported living for a more independent lifestyle.

Help and guidance

There's a lot of guidance around to help you through, including this NHS guide, and this guidance from NICE that details each step in the transition process.  The Royal College of Nursing also has this useful collection of links and resources.

So what does Lifeways do to make the process easier for young people and families?

You can rely on your Lifeways representative (this will usually be one of our ERAMs - Enquiry, Referral and Assessment Managers) to keep you informed at every step of the way. We will work closely with everyone who is involved in your care so you know what to expect, and when. We pride ourselves on providing relevant and timely information and ensuring there is minimal disruption to existing routines.

You’ll probably be dealing with different people and have different options available for support. We’ll talk you through what we can provide, and even arrange joint meetings to make sure everyone involved in caring for your loved one is aware of what’s going on.

We’re flexible – and although we’ll always agree and stick to timescales, we appreciate that things can change and we will adapt our plans as necessary.

Good communication between teams is key. We’ll really get to know your care team and keep them in the loop with regular updates from everyone involved in your care.

When you’re ready to move in, we offer a staggered transition, where you can come for a visit to your new home, for a few hours, then a day, then an overnight stay to see if it suits you. We’ll also help you maintain your routines and keep up any existing hobbies and interests. Plus we’ll help you explore the local area so you can get the most out of your new home and your new community.

Above all, we'll listen to you and your needs - and do everything in our power to make sure the transition is smooth, well-co-ordinated and timely.

Janine Forshaw, Community Engagement and Development Manager, added “Families find themselves moving from a system that they know well to something completely new. There are different teams to deal with within social services and the NHS, and sometimes benefits can change so there’s all that to navigate. The trick is to plan ahead, get everyone together who is involved in the transition, and stay in touch throughout the whole process. We’ll arrange joint meetings wherever possible, so everyone is kept up to date. We’ll give advice and support from your first enquiry right through to when your loved one gets the keys to their new home.”