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Safeguarding Children as they Become Adults Guidance

This guidance applies to young people approaching the age of 18 who are the subject of child protection plans or high level child in need plans who would not be supported through other transition processes (i.e. it does not apply to Looked After Children or children with Complex or Additional Needs or SEN as there are separate transition processes for these young people). This guidance applies to young people at risk who are approaching their 18th birthday and will cease to be supported through Children’s services. It will also apply to Young Carers.

Young people under 18 years old at risk of significant harm receive a package of multi-agency support in order to keep them safe known as a Child Protection Plan or a high level Child in Need Plan which is coordinated by a Children’s Services Social Worker.

Young people at risk or with safeguarding issues in their lives should be appropriately supported into adult life; this does not always mean they will receive a service from an Adult based agency. The correct approach may be to support the young person towards independence and knowing where to access the right advice and support themselves as they become adults.

Adult Safeguarding arrangements apply to adults aged 18 or over who have needs for care or support (whether or not the local authority is meeting any of those needs) and is experiencing or is at risk of abuse or neglect and as result of those care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from either the risk of or the experience of, abuse or neglect.

It is vital to share information between services in a proportionate and timely way so that the young person approaching 18 receives the access to guidance, information and advice they will need as an adult. The young person should be involved in the decisions around information sharing.

The Care Act 2014 says that if a child, young carer or an adult caring for a child (a ‘child’s carer’) is likely to have needs when they, or the child they care for, turns 18, the local authority must assess them if it considers there is ‘significant benefit’ to the individual in doing so. This is regardless of whether the child or individual currently receives any services.

When either a child or a young carer approaches their 18th birthday, they may ask for an assessment. A parent or carer may also ask for an assessment as the child they are caring for approaches 18.

As in all assessments, local authorities will need to consider the needs of the person, what needs they are likely to have when they (or the child they care for) turn 18, and the outcomes they want to achieve in life. They should consider what types of adult care and support might be of benefit at that point, and also consider whether other options beyond formal services might help the individual achieve their desired outcomes.

A successful transition to adult care and support needs the young person, their families and professionals to work together. This is crucial. The Act gives local authorities a legal responsibility to cooperate, and to ensure that all the correct people work together to get the transition right.

The six key principles (Care Act 2014) that underpin all adult safeguarding work will be central to the way that transition is managed:


People being supported and encouraged to make their own decisions and informed consent.

  • I am asked what I want as the outcomes from the safeguarding process and these directly inform what happens.


It is better to take action before harm occurs.

  • I receive clear and simple information about what abuse is, how to recognise the signs and what I can do to seek help.


The least intrusive response appropriate to the risk presented.

  • I am sure that the professionals will work in my interest, as I see them and they will only get involved as much as needed.


Support and representation for those in greatest need.

  • I get help and support to report abuse and neglect. I get help so that I am able to take part in the safeguarding process to the extent to which I want.


Local solutions through services working with their communities. Communities have a part to play in preventing, detecting and reporting neglect and abuse.

  • I know that staff treat any personal and sensitive information in confidence, only sharing what is helpful and necessary. I am confident that professionals will work together and with me to get the best result for me.


Accountability and transparency in delivering safeguarding.

  • I understand the role of everyone involved in my life and so do they.

If a young person is the subject of a child protection plan or similar process at the point of their 17th birthday then the key worker (children’s social worker if they are the subject of a child protection or child in need plan) should ensure that a dialogue happens with Adult Services to ask for guidance and information about what support or approaches could be taken to support the young person as they move into adult life and are becoming more independent.

From the age of 17, supporting the young person into adult life should become part of the standard agenda for review child protection conferences, core groups, child in need meetings and Sexual Exploitation and Missing meetings. Where appropriate or helpful, a representative from Adult Services should attend the relevant meeting to help with the discussion and ensure the right advice is given. The Child Protection Plan (or equivalent) should be updated to include specific actions that support transition into adult life.

Transition should be carried out in partnership with the young person so that they are fully engaged in decision making.

Where it is agreed that a young person will transfer to receiving support from Adult Services then a lead professional should be appointed to support the transition process.

Information must be provided and in an appropriate format to help young people understand the information provided, and communication tools should be deployed to facilitate this where needed.

Some young people experience difficulty when involved in transition to adult life; therefore consideration must be given to their cognitive and physical development, their emotional maturity and their health needs. Consideration should be given to the need for the young person to access an advocate if appropriate.

Progress with the transition process must be documented within the minutes of the multi-agency meetings and core groups; with details about referral, eligibility decisions, key worker details, meeting the young person, attention to capacity and consent, and future protection plans.

The plan should be updated to reflect the progress made and amended if required. This information should be shared with the young person in an appropriate format.

Last Updated: January 8, 2024