Moving into adult services

7 mins read

This advice applies to England only. See advice for Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

Disabled people over 18 years old have their needs met by adult care and support. A disabled child receiving support from children’s services will transition to adult care and support when they turn 18, but this process can start some time before that.

In this article

The Care Act

The Care Act ensures that there is no gap in services when a young person transitions to adult social care.

It is important to note that the general rights of parents and disabled children under 18 remain until this point. Parents still have the right to request an assessment of their child’s needs. The local authority is still under a duty to arrange support and practical assistance to meet those needs, subject to criteria.

The transition process up to 18

The child’s needs assessment

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.

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 (EHC) plans, this is likely to be during the transition proces, 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 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 could help them achieve their aspirations, for example to go to college or work.

When your child turns 18

Preventing a gap in child and adult services

The Care Act aims 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.

Receiving disabled adult services

If your disabled child needs care and support from the local authority beyond 18, 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 act treats the needs of a disabled adult’s carer 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, disabled adults and young people should be involved in making decisions about themselves. This might require the services of an independent advocacy organisation. They can 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 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. This sets out the principles of the Mental Capacity Act and what it means for parents of disabled young people.

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 the local authority will assess, not the income of the parents.

How this works

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: