What is preparing for adulthood?

Young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) may need support to achieve greater independence and employability. This support needs to start early, and should centre around the young person's own aspirations, interests and needs.

All professionals working with them should share high aspirations and have a good understanding of what type of support helps to enable young people to achieve their ambitions.

Preparing for adulthood means preparing for the following outcomes:

  • Higher education and/or employment – this includes exploring different employment options, such as support for becoming self-employed and help from supported employment agencies
  • Independent living – this means having choice, control and freedom over your life, the support you receive, your accommodation and living arrangements
  • Having a life - participating in society – including having friends and supportive relationships, and participating in, and contributing to, the local community
  • Being as healthy as possible in adult life

(SEND code of practice, 2015)

This video explains more about each outcome:

(Video used with permission from Helen Sanderson Associates).


It is never too early to think about preparing for adulthood. Preparations for transition from compulsory school education towards adult life should start in school from Year 9 as part of the annual review process. This will help young people and their families to start exploring and preparing for what support their young person might need as they transition towards adulthood.

For those young people with disabilities and complex needs who are also looked after children (LAC), there is a separate leaving care pathway.

Where there are overlaps in the two pathways, these should be merged for the benefit of all. The leaving care pathway takes precedence.


Leaving school and moving into adulthood can be a challenging time for all young people and particularly for those with disabilities.

Young people and their families and carers may, however, be unsure about what to expect and where to get advice, support or information to help make decisions at this key time.

We have developed a children and young people with disabilities and complex needs - preparing for adulthood protocol, to help support and improve the transition process from childhood to adulthood.

The protocol has been co-produced with young people and Parent Carer Voice Herefordshire to ensure everyone works together for the benefit of the young person, their parents and carers.

The protocol outlines the preparing for adulthood pathway, including specific roles and responsibilities for all key agencies.