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Planning for transition to adult care

Depending on your child's needs, you can start planning how your disabled child will move into adult services when they are about 14.

Some services stop at a certain age. Different services will stop at different times. This is often called ‘transition’.

You and your child will need to make a plan for what their life might look like when they turn 18. This will depend on what you and your child want and what they can do.

Your school should help your child to learn skills that prepare them for adult life. If your child has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, you should have a chance to review this every year. You can talk about the plan and your child’s future.

Support for your child at school: SEN and EHCP

Asking for an EHC plan review

Transition assessments

By law, the local authority must find out whether a carer wishes or intends to provide care when the young person is over 18.

Providing care for someone over 18 is a choice. It is not compulsory.

If you will still be caring for your child when they become an adult, you should have a carer’s assessment. Your assessment will list ‘desired’ and ‘eligible’ outcomes. Your local authority has a duty only to meet the eligible outcomes.

Preparing for a carer’s assessment

A local authority must do a needs assessment of a disabled child if they are likely to have care and support needs after 18. If the local authority refuses, they must explain why in writing.

If the young person has an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), this takes the lead in transition planning. The EHCP ends when the young person moves to adult care and support. But there should be no gaps in services during this transition.

Child’s Carer's Assessment

Local authorities must:

  • assess parent carers
  • offer other adult carers an assessment

If they refuse, they must explain why in writing.

A young carer is a person under 18 who intends to provide care for an adult but is not paid to provide care.

For example, an assessment can help when a young person is living in a residential school. At 18, they might return to live at home or may want to move into their own accommodation. This will need planning and time to arrange if the young person uses a wheelchair to get around or needs other adaptations.

Hospitals and doctors

Adult medical services are different. You and your child will probably need to deal with more specialists. Your GP may be the only person who has an overview of your child and their care.

Make a plan before your child turns 14. Talk to your paediatrician about the move to adult care. List the specialists who will be taking over your child’s care and agree a strategy. A meeting with you, the paediatrician and the adult specialists may also help, but could be hard to arrange.

Warning Next of kin

Being your child’s ‘next of kin’ on forms does not give you any power to make decisions for your child.

The right to make decisions for your child

Being able to safely make decisions about finances, benefits and care is called ‘mental capacity’. Mental capacity starts at 16. But, legally you can make most decisions for your child until they are 18 if both of the following apply:

  • your child, aged 16 or 17, does not have mental capacity for the specific decision
  • you have what the law calls ‘parental responsibility’

Managing affairs for someone else (Citizens Advice) 

Deputyship from the Court of Protection

If you do not think that your child is able to make their own decisions when they turn 18, you will need a legal document that gives you the power to make decisions on their behalf. This will usually be a deputyship from the Court of Protection.

The Court of Protection will also hear cases for children aged 16 to 17. But you will not need this unless any of the following apply:

  • the local authority is involved
  • there is a dispute
  • it is a decision which legally does not fall under parental responsibility

Become a deputy (GOV.UK)

Lasting power of attorney (LPA)

Lasting power of attorney is only useful if your son or daughter is over 18 and has mental capacity. A power of attorney could give you the right to make decisions for them if they then lost mental capacity. If you have power of attorney, you have the right to make decisions for your child if they lose capacity. 

Power of attorney (GOV.UK)

Finding free or affordable legal help (Citizens Advice)

For example:

Your child is 18. They can safely make decisions about their care, benefits and money. But their condition means that they might not in the future.

You and your child decide that your child should start making their own decisions. Your child makes a power of attorney. This means that if they stop having mental capacity because of their condition, you will have the right to make decisions for them.


Banks should make adjustments to help meet your disabled child’s needs. These could include changing their communication style, providing quiet meeting spaces and bank accounts without an overdraft.

Finding accessible bank accounts and financial services

Your child can agree to give you a third party mandate that will let you check their account. All banks should help if your child is being financially abused.

Managing money for someone else


If you feel that your child is not ready to manage their benefits when they’re 18, you could apply to be their appointee. This can be helpful if they have ‘mental capacity’, but do need support with benefits.

Become an appointee for someone claiming benefits (GOV.UK)

Social care

Start talking with the people who fund your child’s care at home. This could be your local authority or clinical commissioning group. Ask for a transition assessment. Your local authority may have a transition services team.

The amount of care

Adult services are funded in a different way to children’s services. This can mean that the services can change or reduce when your child moves to adult services.

The amount of support you and your child will get usually depends on a transition assessment by your local authority. If you think that your local authority is not meeting your child’s needs, you have the right to challenge the assessment.

If you ask for an amount of care, be prepared for your local authority to ask you to take less. Negotiate. Be clear about what you and your child want and why you need it. Never say you’re managing if you are not.

Challenging a social care needs assessment

Writing a formal complaint about your assessment

Warning Tell them if you are not managing

If you ask for an amount of care, your local authority may ask you to take less. Be prepared to negotiate. Be clear about what you and your child need and why.

Paying for care

Adults are normally expected to pay for some of their social care. How much will depend on your circumstances.

If your child has complex health needs that cannot be met by the local authority, the NHS may pay for this care. This is type of funded care is called NHS continuing healthcare.

Young people who are eligible for NHS continuing healthcare will get a continuing care package to help them move into adult services. Ask your GP or social worker for an assessment to find out if your child is eligible.

Are you eligible for NHS continuing healthcare funding? (Money Advice Service)

Direct payments

Direct payments from personal budgets are a way of managing and paying for care funded by your local authority or health authority.

They may give your child more choice on how they manage their care but can mean more work and responsibility.

You and your child do not have to manage a personal budget if you do not want to. You can choose for the local authority to manage your child’s social care.

Managing your social care direct payments budget

Housing and care homes

Even if your child needs support with personal care and has health needs, they might be able to live independently with the right support. 

Living in your home

If your son or daughter wants to carry on living with you, think about how both of your needs might change as you get older. For example, you might need:

  • support from a personal assistant
  • new adaptations, for example a hoist to get them into the bath
  • more privacy

Funding to adapt your home (Money Advice Service)

Disability grants for home adaptations

Living independently

Think about the kind of place your child will need to live in. If your child will need an accessible place to live, start looking for accessible housing near you or for landlords who will let you make adaptations to the property. Whether the landlord lets you make changes may depend on the adaptations needed.

Getting more suitable accommodation and moving house 

Sheltered housing

In sheltered housing, people have their own flat. There is usually a warden who can give limited support. Only services which provide personal care as an additional service come under the Care Quality Commission.

Assisted living

Assisted living, sometimes also called ‘extra care housing’, is similar to sheltered accommodation but there is support available for everyday tasks such as laundry. The Care Quality Commission inspects assisted living schemes.

Care homes and residential care

Care homes and residential care are for people who need help with most daily tasks, including personal care. If your child does not want to live in a care home or residential care, find out what support the local authority can provide to help them live independently.

If you’re thinking about a care home for your child, start looking for ones which you think would be good for your child. Talk to who is funding your care about what they recommend and what’s available. This could be your social care or health care worker. Think about what your child needs, including:

  • how often you might visit and how near the care home is to where you live
  • how the age and needs of the other people there will affect your child
  • your child’s social life

Ask about what a typical week might look like and the care package that your funding will cover.

Find a care home (Care Quality Commission)

Friends and going out

Making and keeping friends and relationships is an important part of growing up and becoming independent.

Keeping your friends when life changes

Starting to travel on your own

Being included and going out with friends

Talking about your impairment or condition with new people

Education and training

When your child turns 16, they could:

If your child has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, this should look at supporting them.

Disabled students helpline for post-16 education in England (Disability Rights UK)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 14/01/2022

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