‘Connexions failing young people with learning disabilities’

Young people with learning disabilities are not being involved in key decisions about their future by Connexions staff and social workers when they leave out-of-county residential schools and colleges, say researchers.

This has led to many young people moving straight into the family home or continued residential education, without supported accommodation or employment being considered as a possibility. 

The Bristol University study found there was poor communication between host and home Connexions services when young people moved back into an area, leaving many to return home as a “blank sheet”. 

In principle, the host service should transfer information to the home Connexions service about the young person and their wishes, but in reality this was not happening, said one of the researchers.

“There is very good transition planning in the classroom, where young people state their preferences, but it doesn’t transfer into the transition planning meetings,” said Pauling Heslop, a senior fellow at the Norah Fry Research Centre. 

This meant that key people, who were looking after the transition planning and future placements, were not aware of what the young person actually wanted.

Heslop added that she was surprised to find that staff involved with transitional planning had low expectations of the service users’ future capabilities.

“There aren’t many options for moving young people into employment. It’s high up on the government’s agenda but it’s not a reality on the ground,” said Heslop.

The government’s 2001 Valuing People white paper aims to improve the lives of young people with learning disabilities by promoting independence, choice and inclusion.

But out of the 15 young people surveyed, only one attended a course which could lead to employment after leaving the residential college. The remaining 14 moved back to the family home or onto another residential placement.

Heslop argued that most of the study group was “capable” of working, with support, but it had not been thought of as an option. 

The study also found that many colleges did not think it was their responsibility to take young people to look at future accommodation options and parents were restricted during weekend visits. 

“We’ve got young people who have less experience and are expected to move but don’t know what the range of options are,” said Heslop.

The study, Help to move on: transition pathways for young people with learning disabilities in residential schools and colleges, was sent to government departments, the Learning Disability Partnership Board, Connexions, and the Learning Skills Council.

More information

Help to move on: transition pathways for young people with learning disabilities in residential schools and colleges

Norah Fry Research Centre, University of Bristol


Learning and Skills Council

Young People Speaking Up: Special schools and mainstream schools compared

Is Valuing People working? Andrew Holman and Jo Williams debate the issues

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