Investigating the lack of support for young adults with learning difficulties

Published: 9 Sep 2016

Author: Tracey Francis
Investigating the lack of support for young adults with learning difficulties

A significant attainment gap among young adults with conditions such as Autism and ADHD is going unaddressed, with families being left to fill gaps in support, according to a new report.

Only 15% of autistic adults in the UK are in full time paid employment, according to The National Autistic Society.

Life on the Edge of the Cliff, by freelance researcher Tracey Francis, follows an 8 week Travelling Fellowship enabled by The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Tracey travelled to Italy, Norway, and the Czech Republic to investigate best practice in preparing school-leavers with learning difficulties for higher education, employment or supported living.

Conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome and Tourette’s Syndrome, where the difficulties someone is living with may not be immediately apparent, can lead to significant barriers to social and economic inclusion, and potentially to long term, high level dependence on welfare and social services.

The report highlights a sharp decline in many areas of support after young people leave school, with a widening services gap for the 18-25 age group. These include a failure to think, plan and fund long term; a lack of understanding and specialist knowledge among service providers; as well as rigid systems and structures that act as a barrier to flexible provision.

It also found that families fulfil a range of support roles including subsidising adult children financially, researching employment opportunities and helping with applications, finding accommodation and taking responsibility for domestic matters. Some parents leave work to meet the support demands at this stage.

“Intelligent young people with high levels of ability are missing out on the chance to achieve their potential and live independently because they aren’t receiving the support they need once they leave school and enter adult services. For every one of them, there’s a whole family living with the financial, social and emotional pressure of providing lifelong support. It’s unsustainable in the long term” - Tracey Francis.

In all the places Tracey visited, she witnessed professionals, practitioners and families eager for change. Supporting young people to find their place in the wider world, with all this implies in terms of financial stability, physical and mental health, and personal fulfilment, frees resources for those less equipped to make the same transition. Tracey believes failing to provide this support contributes to long term dependency that is undesirable, unaffordable – and largely avoidable.

Tracey will be speaking about the findings of her Fellowship at the XI Autism-Europe International Congress at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (16-18 September).

Read Tracey's report here

Notes to editors

  • Most people with the conditions listed in the report have an average, or sometimes well above average, IQ.
  • Autistic spectrum conditions, including Asperger’s Syndrome, affect more than 1 in 100 people in the UK, meaning 2.8 million people have a relative on the autistic spectrum.
  • ADHD is generally perceived as a childhood disorder affecting around 500,000 children in the UK, but research suggests up to 65% continue to experience difficulties into adulthood.
  • Tourette’s Syndrome is estimated to affect around 300,000 children and adults in the UK.
  • Around 30% of the prison population is estimated to have a learning difficulty (Prison Reform Trust).

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