WORK is underway to erode the “cliff edge” between children’s and adult services in Dorset  – although the council acknowledges there is still more to do.

Many young people supported by Dorset Council find the transition from one service to the other difficult and often upsetting.

One councillor, Toni Coombs, said for more than a decade the problem seemed to have been placed in the “too difficult pile” – and welcomed the fact that a strategy was now being developed to smooth the cliff edge between the two services.

Many young people transfer to adult services at the age of 18, although others, often with additional needs, make the change at 25.

A series of measures are currently being introduced at Dorset Council to help the transition process including changing to the way the authority operates, staff training to better understand the potential difficulties, involvement with stakeholder groups and new procedures – all of which should be in place by next April.

A background report to the people and health overview committee acknowledged: “Children and Adult Services recognise that the current operating model to support young people through the transition to adulthood across Dorset has not been delivering the outstanding service that our community require and we as an organisation aspire to….the current Transition to Adulthood model is not robust, is not consistent and more importantly is failing our young people.”

An inspection report from 2019 found that the council was not providing good information to young people preparing for adulthood and that transition arrangements were often not well-planned or completed in good time.

Up to three quarters of those supported by the council transitioning to adulthood services have a learning disability as the main reason for needing help. The committee was told that within this cohort there are 172 currently aged 18-25, costing between them £188,000 each week to support. Many of this group will need support for life.

Dorset Council currently has 400 children and young people waiting for specialist school placements under 16, a high proportion of which are expected to require future services from adult social care.

The committee heard that there remained a backlog of referrals although the numbers are being reduced.