GUEST BLOG – ILF Scotland

Good transition planning – a vital first step

October 2020

A good transition plan takes care of the essentials while giving young people room to try new things, says IAIN WILSON of ILF Scotland

Photo: Phil Wilkinson for ILF Scotland (used with permission)

I would guess most of you might have heard of Benjamin Franklin?

Ben was a very clever chap. In the 1700s he was one of the Founding Fathers of what became the United States of America and contributed to the Constitution – the document on which the US government is still based today. He was a prolific public speaker, wrote books, made scientific discoveries, invented bifocal glasses, swimming flippers and even the flexible urinary catheter! And among his many pearls of wisdom is this:

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Bear with me. I am, in some circumstances, a strong advocate of “winging it”, of letting fate take me where it chooses and taking the less obvious road.

And how is that working out? Well, I’m still here so the consequences haven’t been too drastic, although if we go for a meal as a family, everyone knows not to order what I do as I tend to go for the less obvious – with varying degrees of success! Similarly, I buy music because I like the cover. I like to live on the edge sometimes.

But the risks I take are managed. I don’t make rash decisions when it comes to the big things in life.

If I’m buying a car, I’ll do my research and make sure that I’m getting exactly what I want at the right price. If I’m booking a holiday I make sure all the arrangements work together, the flights/accommodation/tickets are prearranged and they meet all our needs.

It’s okay to wing it on the smaller decisions. If you choose the beef in wasabi sauce and it’s not what you hoped for, you can always have a bag of crisps later. Trying to live with a 3 wheeled car in vivid pink for years might be more challenging.

And so it is with transition planning. The planning process really needs to cover the bigger issues – while allowing smaller issues to be more flexible.

The ILF Transition Fund can help with both.

For those of you that don’t know, at the Transition Fund we can provide a Young Person’s Planning Grant – money that can be used to engage a professional planner to facilitate the creation of a Person Centred Plan for the young person, to look at their life, speak to the people around them who know them well, see what they want from their life, and then work out how to work towards that.

After that, we can provide a further grant to enable the young person to put their plan into place. You can find out more about some of the ways young people have used their grants here: https://ilf.scot/fund-case-study/

Young people with additional support needs leaving school have not traditionally had a good service. Where transition worked well, it tended to be down to a determined parent, a good school worker and a good social worker getting together and making the process work.

In the current COVID-19 related times, that level of contact and tenacity hasn’t been possible. Many young people have left school with no plan and no support and that is likely to have far reaching consequences.

The usual transition processes have been almost entirely absent: with services being shut down and local authorities concentrating on crisis intervention, the opportunity for meaningful planning with young people has been very limited, and looks likely to remain so for some time.

But good transition planning can be the first step to a really successful future.

As a father of children who have gone through their own transitions to adult life, I have seen them struggle to find their place in the world, and I know how stressful this time of change can be for everyone concerned.

From my experience, young people with additional support needs frequently have no idea what they want to do with their future, or if they do, it can seem that the first steps are extremely daunting and difficult to make without support.

One of the great things is giving young people a chance to try something new. How many of we adults who went through our own transition knew what we wanted at 16 or 18? Many of us still haven’t worked it out!

If the first thing a young person tries doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean the plan’s a failure. In the military there is a saying: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”. It’s a chance to learn, review the plan and take account of this by ruling that option out for the future.

Plans need the flexibility to change as circumstances and experience dictate. If my initial plan from my early years had worked out, I would have been a pilot in the RAF. If the plan I had when I left school had succeeded, I’d be in a chemistry lab working on a vaccine for COVID-19. I did neither. The lack of a plan can mean the young person and their parent(s) don’t know where to turn for the next stage. But having one allows the young person to determine what to try next.

As they say, any plan is better than nothing at all. Transition is not a time to be winging it and ending up with gravy on your sponge pudding!

The Transition Fund has had to adapt throughout COVID-19 and be more flexible about how outcomes for young disabled people can be reached when the country is in full or partial lockdown. We have seen a significant increase in young people and families seeking support to plan and implement plans for young people. Similarly, we can respond to changes in what a young person wants to achieve with their grant. Just ask us and we will always try to assist.

So back to Ben. He was right. If you don’t plan properly, you increase your risk of getting a poor outcome. Occasionally my spur of the moment decision making comes off, but when I plan my actions and base my decisions on facts, the options available and my current situation, then it’s much more likely things will turn out the way I want.

Transition for young disabled people is such a vital time. The importance of access to good planning, particularly when a young person may not be able to determine their own direction for their future, is not in any doubt. The future starts now.

As Ben also said:

Lost time is never found again.”

Iain Wilson is Social Work Manager for the ILF Transition Fund. The Transition Fund is open to any young person aged 16-25 and living with a disability in Scotland. For more information on the Fund and/or person centred planning grants, including advice on applying, visit www.ILF.scot/Transition-Fund or call 0300 200 2022.