Tracey Francis' Story
Tracey Francis travelled to Italy, the Czech Republic and Norway during 2015 and 2016 to investigate approaches to preparing school-leavers with learning difficulties for higher education, employment or supported living.
Tracey, whose professional background is in press and communications, has a longstanding personal interest in “hidden disabilities” – challenging lifelong conditions whose impact may not be easily recognised because the associated difficulties are neurologically rather than physically based.
Very often young people with these conditions do not have a learning disability, and may be highly skilled in some areas, but face major difficulties in understanding and engaging with the world around them. Without the right support many do not make the transition to independent adult living successfully: only 15% of people with autism are in full time paid employment in the UK, and well over half of adults with ADHD report that they struggle to find, and keep, a job.
On her Fellowship Tracey visited organisations and projects representing best practice locally, and met with senior executives responsible for service development and provision in education, health and social welfare at local and national levels. She also conducted interviews with 50 young people and their families to gather their views on the services they received, and to collect their thoughts on where improvements are needed.
The aims of Tracey’s Fellowship included considering what constitutes a “positive destination” for young people leaving school who are not yet developmentally ready to enter employment, education or training, to look at the factors that affect their ability to engage with services, and to create a source of reference on good practice.
Tracey feels her Fellowship was truly a game changer for her, both personally and professionally. Her report on the findings of her Fellowship has been received very positively, both in the UK and the countries she visited, and has generated invitations for further research opportunities in other European countries. It has been referenced in two high profile national publications backed by the Scottish Government, and led directly to Tracey’s appointment to lead on the development of a national resource for parents and families of young people with disabilities as they prepare to leave school.
Tracey has published articles and presented workshops for parents and professionals based on her Fellowship findings, and delivered a symposium on parents’ experiences at Autism Europe’s 11th International Congress in 2016. She was invited to become a founding Trustee of the Scottish ADHD Coalition, and continues to be an independent member of the Scottish Transitions Forum think-tank.
Tracey aims to make the website she set up on her return to the UK a hub for good practice, and she continues to explore other research opportunities. She remains in contact with many of the people she met during her Fellowship, including some of the young people and their families.