Get ready for adult life

A hundred young people have co-produced and feature in a bright, clear guide to adult life. This and careers events may give them new ideas on what to do, say Dan Wilkins and Abbie Mines

Jade Miles serving in shop

To be ready for adult life after school or college, you need the right information
– and this should be accessible, useful and interesting.

Young people had been critical of Wiltshire Council’s previous guide on preparing for adulthood. It was “boring” and had “too many words”, they said. They found it confusing and could not easily find the information they needed, plus it did not provide the details they wanted.

They wanted colours, photos and information shared in a more accessible way.

The right language

We wanted to co-produce a resource to support young people to move on that used the same language they did.

In Wiltshire, 5,315 people have education health and care plans. Our preparation for adulthood team visited mainstream and special schools and colleges.

Students looked at a draft guide and gave feedback verbally or were supported to complete a written feedback form.

We overhauled the guide and changed it from a dry, wordy document into a colourful, accessible resource. A key result of the feedback was that the language was made clear and relatable.

Our Growing Up and Moving On guide helps young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) consider what they want to do after school. It features some of the 100 young people who helped shape it.

It includes tips on money management, benefits, independent living, clubs, activities and volunteering, taking care of health as well as help and support and local, independent providers of this.

Wiltshire is by no means the first organisation to use co-production, but we think how we engaged with young people to develop the guide is unique; they had full ownership and it reflects their language.

For example, the word “transition” is traditionally used to describe the move from children’s to adult services. This term is ambiguous and can describe many different events.

The word transition was replaced with “growing up” in the guide – because that is fundamentally what it is about.

Considering careers

The document, which is now just over a year old, has been shared in SEND and mainstream schools.

Based on the guide and the work to produce it, Wiltshire Council will hold its second Growing Up and Moving On event for young people with SEND in October at the Civic Centre in Trowbridge.

The aim of these events is to allow young people to see for themselves what is on offer. They can meet professionals and services, ask questions and get information so they can make decisions about their future.

Last year’s event at the Corn Exchange in Devizes was attended by around 100 students, along with teachers and support staff. There were 17 stalls hosted by various professionals, including those in the fields of education, social care and employment.

Speakers included a young woman who talked about her education, her work as a massage therapist and her plans to work for Victim Support.

Students from Fairfield Farm college spoke about their learning experience, what they wanted for the future and what they would like to find out about.

We hope young people will gain knowledge from the events and the guide and put it into practice, recognise their potential and go on to lead independent and fulfilling lives – and maybe consider options that had not occurred to them previously.

Dan Wilkins is head of adult social care transformation and quality at Wiltshire Council; Abbie Mines is transitions coordinator at the 18-25 Moving On Service at Wiltshire Council