Last week the Shadow Minister for Children and Young People, Sharon Hodgson MP, and local MP Catherine McKinnell met a young person we support at his home near Newcastle.

We wanted them to see the important work that United Response does with young people at 'transitions age'.

'Transition' is the term used to describe the process of growing up and planning that takes place from ages 14 to 25 as young people with a learning disability move from children's to adult's services.

The right support at this age is vital to help young people move towards adulthood with the right skills and the ability to live more independent lives.

Living full lives in the community

Joe lives in a beautiful house on a quiet street in the village of Dinnington, north of Newcastle, with two other people we support. There's a friendly and warm family atmosphere in Joe's house. He and his housemates receive support from United Response to live full lives together in the community.

18-year-old Joe is studying for a construction qualification at a nearby mainstream college. He is also a member of the local rugby team and feels that his confidence has grown hugely since he began being supported by United Response.

Joe told the MPs about a duck pond and fence he has built as part of his course, and how he's hoping to move towards living on his own in the future with a job in construction or grounds keeping. The staff who support Joe are helping him to get his construction qualifications, and to learn skills like cooking, cleaning and managing his finances so that he can realise this dream as he gets older.

Providing the right support

We believe that transition should be about progression, inclusion and stages towards agreed goals: starting with the end in mind. This means supporting young people to grow up so that they play a full part in the local community and move successfully towards the workplace.

Without the right support, there is a danger that other children and young people like Joe can lose out on gaining these key skills.

Our Development Coordinator and Head of Transitions Amie Dobinson spoke to Sharon and Catherine about our transitions model of support, and how it has helped other young people move towards the workplace. United Response wants the availability of these services to expand to become part of the norm, rather than the exception.

You can learn more about our transitions model in this video:

Sharon saw how important transitions support is to children and young people, and for a plan for the future to be in place for all children with learning disabilities. She wants to work towards more apprenticeships and jobs being available for people with a learning disability as they move out of transitions age.

Catherine is a member of the House of Commons Education Select Committee. She promised to raise the issue of transitions and, specifically, more apprenticeships being available to people with a learning disability within the select committee.

The MPs learned from Joe how important it was for schemes to be available for all young people and, importantly, that they do not present barriers to people with learning disabilities who want to move into the workplace.

Proper funding is essential

As well as the vital transitions work that United Response does, Joe's support workers told Sharon and Catherine how important it is that his support is properly funded.

Good social care is a vital element in the lives of tens of thousands of people with disabilities. But there is currently a huge strain on the social care system, which has faced successive years of funding cuts.

In Parliament on the 11th March, MPs will debate the NHS and Social Care Commission Bill, which calls for the establishment of a commission to examine the future of both the NHS and social care system.

We are calling for MPs across the political spectrum to stand up for social care and to call for a system that is properly funded, and which will ensure that young people like Joe can have the best future possible.

You can follow our campaigning and policy work in this area by following and sharing the information we post on United Response's social media channels.
John JC Cooper, campaigns and public affairs manager.