Jill Hughes and Natalie Lackenby are part of a Young Adults Team in Worcestershire that has a dedicated focus on supporting young people with disabilities through the transition to adulthood. As the authors of Achieving Successful Transitions for Young People with Disabilities, Jill and Natalie briefly describe their experiences as transition social workers from their unique point of view.
Transitions Social Work
We are part of a Young Adults Team in Worcestershire that has a dedicated focus on supporting young people with disabilities through the transition to adulthood. We are fortunate to work as a team that has a co-ordinated approach to transition, but recognise that not all workers are so fortunate and some have to navigate these complex issues alone. Having been in this position previously, we know how lonely and bewildering transition can be and we looked for a comprehensive text that would support our practice in this area without success!
Transitions has traditionally been a service area which has been overlooked and under-resourced, and often seen as an add-on to the work of adult teams. However, in these times of financial austerity there is a growing realisation that resourcing these complex pieces of work in a timely and efficient manner is actually cost effective.
The implementation of the Care Act 2014 has placed a framework of duties on Local Authorities for social work with young people in transition. This has brought the whole area of transitions into focus with clear roles and responsibilities.
In Achieving Successful Transitions for Young People with Disabilities we included practical case studies so as to highlight some of the challenges faced by workers, and offer suggestions of how to overcome such challenges. The importance of empowering young people to be more informed about the transitions process is essential, but equally we need to ensure that practitioners are equipped with the knowledge to successfully support young people to navigate the transition process and make their own decisions about their future.
Social work is generally considered to be a tough job and as a newly qualified social worker in a learning disabilities team I felt ready for the challenge ahead. When I applied for the job, I remember thinking what a vital role this was and I was sure that there would be a wealth of information and resources to draw on. I was fortunate to be in a supportive and friendly team when I started my career almost 12 years ago, but what I soon found to be the most challenging part of my job surprised me somewhat.
I was different; I was the transition social worker. Unlike the other social workers in the team, my role focused on supporting young people from 14+ to think about adulthood and support them through a transition from children’s to adult services. It became evident that the issues faced by the young people I worked with differed from those faced by clients other team members worked with. Similarly, the challenges faced by my colleagues in their roles, were significantly different to the challenges I experienced in mine. I looked for guidance and found lots of information aimed at parents and carers but limited practical information for professionals about navigating the transition process.
I often found myself as a lone voice in a large school review trying to explain a number of systems, processes and policies to anxious parents and young people. In fact it was pretty lonely as a transitions worker.
My colleagues remained supportive, offering and advice and information where they could, however, I always felt that my role was unique, combining traditional social work, with a strategic approach that identified a need for future service provision. In 2012, the council recognised the need to have a strategic approach to transition and developed a county wide transition team to which I was transferred, the Young Adults Team.
I moved to the Young Adults Team in 2012, as it was being set up. My background was primarily older people, but I had also worked with younger people with a physical disability. Prior to social work training I had also worked as an advocate and support worker to adults and children with a learning disability.
I was very apprehensive initially about a move into team where I was unfamiliar with the specific work, in an area that is often complex, with the added complication of it being a brand new team. When looking for textbooks or practice guidance to support me with the move, I was surprised that there was nothing available to guide practitioners, and this left me further in the dark about what transitions actually meant, both to the workers and the young people experiencing it.
As a newly set up team, we all grappled with the challenge of transitions, but luckily we were in the position of learning from each other, and sharing experiences both positive and negative.
Jill Hughes is an Advanced Social Work Professional in the Young Adults Team in Worcestershire, UK, which manages transitions for young people with disabilities and complex health needs between Children’s Services and Adult Services. She has led on Practice Development Groups, facilitated reflective and interactive supervision in both one-to-one and group sessions, and she has a particular interest in personalisation and person-centred planning. Jill also provides sessional lectures to students completing access courses, BA and MA studies at the University of Worcester and Heart of Worcestershire College.
Natalie Lackenby is a social worker in the Young Adults Team in Worcestershire, supporting young people with physical and learning disabilities through the transition to adulthood. Natalie has worked as a Transitions Social worker since 2003, and prior to joining the Young Adults Team, she worked as part of the community learning disability team. Natalie has a BA in vulnerable adults and community care, and she has given lectures around learning disability, legislation and policy and the transitions process to undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Worcester and Heart of Worcestershire College.
To learn more about Achieving Successful Transitions for Young People with Disabilities click here.