Moving into adult services

The information on this page is for families in England only.
I live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

Disabled people over 18 years old have their needs met by adult care and support. This means that a disabled child receiving support from children’s services will be transitioned to adult care and support when they turn 18.

In this article

The Care Act

In England, the Care Act was introduced in April 2015 to ensure that there is no gap in services when a young person makes this transition.

It is important to note that the general rights of parents and disabled children under 18 remain the same. This means that parents still have the right to request an assessment of their child’s needs and the local authority is still under a duty to arrange support and practical assistance in meeting those recognised needs subject to criteria.

The Coronavirus Act 2020

The Coronavirus Act, brought in during the first lockdown, enabled temporary changes to the law for adult social care and young people moving to adult services. 

The Act temporarily eased the obligations under the Care Act 2014, Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 and 1989 Children Act around young people’s transition to adult services.

If your child is turning 18

If a child is likely to have needs when they turn 18, the local authority must carry out a “child’s needs assessment” before then to determine what these will be. The local authority will carry out the assessment if it considers it a “significant benefit” to the child to do so.

These assessments will give you an idea of the help that you and your child can expect when they move into adult care and support. After the assessment, the local authority should draw up a care and support plan; this may include a personal budget or direct payments to meet some of their needs.

When can you ask for an assessment?

There is no specific age or time before the child’s 18th birthday at which the assessment must take place.

Instead, the statutory guidance suggests that these assessments take place when it is easier to understand what the needs of the child and carer will be beyond the age of 18.

For children with Education, Health and Care plans, it is likely that they will take place during the transition process, from Year 9 onwards.

We have a template letter you can use to ask for an assessment for your child.

An assessment of your needs as a carer

The local authority must also carry out a “child’s carer’s assessment” where there is “likely need” for support when their child turns 18 and when it is of “significant benefit.”

A child’s carer’s assessment will look at the carer’s ability and willingness to continue caring for their child when they turn 18, the outcomes they hope to achieve (such as paid work or study) and the support they might need to do so.

The local authority should draw up a care and support plan for the carer; this may include a personal budget or direct payments to meet some of their needs.

This guidance provides stronger legal rights to parent carers during the transition period.

The needs of young carers turning 18

Young carers who provide support to their disabled sibling under the age of 18 can access support under the Children and Families Act 2014.

Young carers who are approaching the age of 18 are eligible for help in their own right under the Care Act. This is regardless of the age of their sibling.

When a young carer approaches their 18th birthday, they can ask for an assessment of their needs to find out what support can be put in place to help them achieve their aspirations, for example to go to college or work.

When a child turns 18

The Care Act is intended to prevent a gap in services when a child turns 18.

For this reason, the act makes clear that any children’s services a child is receiving before their 18th birthday will continue after their 18th birthday until adult care and support takes over.

The same is true of a carer receiving support from children’s services when their child is under 18. The local authority must not allow a gap in care and support when young people and carers move from children’s to adult services.

If a carer is not currently receiving services when they receive a child’s carer’s assessment, the local authority can choose – but is not legally required – to meet a carer’s needs before the child reaches the age of 18.

The rights of disabled adults and their carers

If a disabled adult has been assessed as having needs for care and support from the local authority, they will receive a care and support plan and advice about decisions on how to meet their needs. They might have some of their needs met via direct payments.

The Care Act provides much greater rights for carers of adults aged 18 and over. The needs of a disabled adult’s carer are treated in the same way as the needs of the disabled adult themselves. Carers can ask for an assessment if they ‘appear’ to have needs for support. This is a low threshold and entitles most carers to an assessment.

The assessment takes into account the carer’s wellbeing, any outcomes they’d like to achieve, whether they are willing and able to care for the disabled adult and whether they would like to access work, education or training.

Responsibility over decisions for young disabled adults

Where possible, efforts should be made to involve disabled adults and young people in making decisions about themselves. This might require the services of an independent advocacy organisation to ensure the views of the disabled person are heard and taken into account when making key decisions about their lives.  

Under the Mental Capacity Act in England and Wales, young people aged 16 and over are presumed to have mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. Where a disabled young person lacks capacity, any decisions made in relation to them must be made in their best interests. The young person’s, views, wishes and feelings, as well as the views of anyone caring for the young person or interested in their welfare, must be taken into account when deciding what is in the person’s best interests. See more about parental responsibility and mental capacity beyond 16.

Mencap have produced a Mental Capacity Resource Pack for parent carers, which sets out the principles of the Mental Capacity Act and what it means for parents of disabled young people.

In Scotland, equivalent law applies. Further advice and information about The Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 can be found on the website for the Office of the Public Guardian in Scotland.

Information for parents in Scotland on transition to adulthood, can be found on our microsite Talking About Tomorrow

In Northern Ireland, equivalent legislation exists, but the Mental Capacity Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 is not due to be fully implemented until 2020.

Paying for services for an adult

Once a young person is 18, any charging by social services would be under the rules governing charging for adult care services under the Care Act. It is the young adult’s income that will be assessed, not the income of the parents.

The way this generally works is as follows:

Information for families in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Visit the Money Advice Service for advice in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, or: