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Transitional Safeguarding

Transitional safeguarding is defined by the Department of Health and Social Care (2021) as; an activity that falls outside the traditional notions of safeguarding and transitional planning.

Transitional Safeguarding is an ‘approach to safeguarding adolescents and young adults fluidly across developmental stages which builds on the best available evidence, learns from both children’s and adult safeguarding practice and which prepares young people for their adult lives’. (Holmes & Smale, 2018). It focuses on safeguarding young people from adolescence into adulthood, recognising that transition is a journey not an event, and that every young person will experience this journey differently.

Young people experience different risks from earlier childhood safeguarding issues. These risks are not necessarily from families, but may be from peers, partners, and risks from the wider and global community. Many of the environmental and structural factors that increase a young person’s vulnerability continue into adulthood. Bridging the Gap: Transitional Safeguarding and the Role of Social Work with Adults states that Transitional Safeguarding is not simply transition planning for people moving from children to adult social care services. The key principles of a Transitional Safeguarding approach are that it is:

  • Evidence-informed;
  • Contextual - moving beyond a child, young person and their family, and considering the wider systems, contexts and spaces in which a young person experiences harm and safety issues; including sexual exploitation outside of the family, relationship abuse and domestic abuse;
  • Developmental - understanding the distinct developmental needs and strengths of this life stage and creating services and pathways that reflect the individualised nature of transition to adulthood. It encourages greater fluidity between children and adult safeguarding processes and requires an active effort to align systems to create a smoother more holistic offer for people being supported;
  • Relational - being person-centred;
  • Participative; and
  • That it attends to issues of equalities, diversity and inclusion.

In Hertfordshire we recognise that Transitional Safeguarding is a shared responsibility across our Education, Health and Care Support Systems. Our Safeguarding Children’s Partnership and our Safeguarding Adults Board both recognise and provide governance to support the system to meet local Transitional Safeguarding need.

Children’s and Adults’ professionals share a common aim of protecting young people from harm, but are governed by distinct practice, policy and statutory frameworks. For young people under 18yrs, safeguarding duties are intended to protect all those at risk of harm. Adult safeguarding focuses on people with care and support needs who might find it more difficult to protect themselves from abuse or neglect because of those care and support needs. These individuals may meet eligibility criteria under Care Act (2014). In Hertfordshire, Connected Lives Framework is the model used for social care assessment, care and support planning

Young adults can experience a ‘cliff-edge’ due to different thresholds for access to services. For example, adolescents entering adulthood may not meet adult mental health criteria, and young people with moderate special educational needs who received support while at school may not meet eligibility criteria for care and support from adults’ services. Harm and their effects do not abruptly end at 18yrs, and evidence from research and practice suggests that a more fluid approach is needed in order to help young people be safe during this transitional life stage.

A transition assessment must be undertaken to assess a child’s/young person’s needs when they are likely to have needs for care and support under the Care Act 2014 when they transition to the adult system. Where a Connected Lives assessment is required, these are usually completed by either 0-25 Together Service or HPFT Adult Community Mental Health Service.

Chapter 16 of the Care Act Statutory Guidance sets out directives for transition arrangements when it appears a young person is likely to have social care needs upon reaching adulthood. In summary:

  • Transition assessments should take place at the right time for the young person or carer and at a point when the local authority can be reasonably confident about what the young person’s or carer’s needs for care or support will look like after the young person in question turns 18yrs. There is no set age when young people reach this point; every young person and their family are different, and as such, transition assessments should take place when it is most appropriate for them. However, it is beneficial to prepare young people and their families before the young person reaches 16yrs of age, in regards to the implication of legislative changes around consent;
  • The transition assessment should support the young person and their family to plan for the future, by providing them with information about what they can expect. All transition assessments must include an assessment of:
    • Current needs for care and support, and how these impact on wellbeing;
    • Whether the child/young person is likely to have needs for care and support after they become 18 years of age;
    • If so, what those needs are likely to be, and which are likely to be eligible needs;
    • The outcomes the young person wishes to achieve in day-to-day life, and how care and support (and other matters) can contribute to achieving them.

The following support or services will help ensure that young people receive the right support at the right time:

Transition to Adulthood Panel – a multi-agency risk management panel for vulnerable young people who are transitioning into adulthood and have complex needs that require complex coordination and a multi-agency response. Hertfordshire Social Work Procedures Manual, Care Leavers and Transition to Adulthood

Online referral to 0-25 Together Service

CYPMHS have a transition pathway to Adult Community Mental Health Service

Where a young person is at risk of Criminal Exploitation, Joint Agency protocols are established. Arrangements are not limited to sexual and criminal exploitation both of which intersect with risks and vulnerabilities such as missing, trafficking within and across borders, county lines, modern slavery, gangs and youth violence.

Multi-Agency Child Exploitation (MACE) Panel

Hertfordshire’s Multi Agency Child Exploitation (MACE) Panel provides an operational panel to discuss children and young people where there is known exploitation, encompassing criminal and sexual, and those individuals identified as vulnerable to exploitation due to missing episode(s) or other behaviours/incidents which identify them as at high risk.

MACE is designed to facilitate effective, timely and efficient multi-agency information sharing and individual safety planning, as well as learning and best practice.

See also: MACE 1 ToR and External Referral Form Herts MACE Panel

Many young people may not need or meet the thresholds to access statutory safeguarding services when they become an adult at 18

Multi Disciplinary Guidance Complex Cases (PDF 413KB) supports multiagency practice where a person 18yrs or over may need involvement of different services. The guidance explains about complex case work including calling professionals’ meetings and lists different frameworks that can support adults with complex needs or circumstances.

There are preventative services that can help with different issues.

Carers in Hertfordshire

No More Service

Missing People

Modern Slavery

Herts Help

Prevent Radicalisation in Hertfordshire

Herts Young Homeless

Autism Herts

Domestic Abuse Partnership

Herts SARC

Change Grow Live

Services for Young People

Referral enquiries about young people’s wellbeing aged 0-25yrs can be made via 0300 123 4043

Chronological age is not always an indicator of a young person’s abilities. Whilst a young person will inherit new rights and responsibilities as they turn 18yrs, we also understand that young people who have experienced trauma, neglect and abuse, their age may be meaningless in defining what a young person can do, and the responsibilities they can in reality take on. Social networks and support are important at this time. Also, the young person may not be aware of their difficulties, and be resistant to accepting support, even though they may need this help and guidance.

Transitional Safeguarding uses aspects from both adult and child/young person approaches to offer more tailored support as a young person moves into adulthood. Thus, whilst the applicable legal safeguarding framework in a particular case will necessarily reflect the chronological age of the young person, underpinning principles from both systems may be used to devise the best approach for safeguarding that young person.

In the case of under 18yrs, whilst the safeguarding procedures will be based on provisions such as the Children Act 1989 and Working Together to Safeguard Children, principles underpinning the safeguarding adult’s procedures such as the Care Act 2014 and accompanying statutory guidance, may be used to tailor the support for that young person.

Making Safeguarding Personal is a person-centred and rights-based approach to adult safeguarding, which was incorporated into the Care Act 2014 guidance. Making Safeguarding Personal and Transitional Safeguarding emphasise the importance of professional curiosity, relationship-based practice, and a multi-agency approach, around support. It engages the young person in a conversation about how best to respond to their safeguarding situation in a way that enhances their involvement, choice and control as well as improving their quality of life, wellbeing and safety.

The adult safeguarding duties under Care Act 2014 sections 42-47 apply to an adult who:

  • Has needs for care and support (whether or not the local authority is meeting any of those needs;
  • Is experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect;
  • As a result of those care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from either the risk of, or the experience of abuse or neglect.

Local authority statutory adult safeguarding duties apply to all adults with care and support needs regardless if those needs are being met by the local authority or not.

Care and support needs arise from or are related to physical or mental impairment or illness. This can include conditions as a result of physical, mental, sensory, learning or cognitive disabilities or illnesses, substance misuse or brain injury. (Care and Support (Eligibility Criteria) Regulations 2014).

Paragraph 14.5 of the Statutory Guidance provides that where someone is 18yrs or over but they are still receiving children’s services and a safeguarding issue is raised, the matter should be dealt with through adult safeguarding arrangements. For example, this could occur when a young person with substantial and complex needs continues to be supported in a residential educational setting until the age of 25yrs. Where appropriate, adult safeguarding services should involve the local authority’s children’s safeguarding colleagues as well as any relevant partners (for example, the Police or NHS) or other persons relevant to the case. For young people over the age of 18yrs, with care and support needs, consider a referral following adults safeguarding procedures. Adults Safeguarding Procedures.

The Care Act 2014 Statutory Guidance sets out the following six key principles which underpin all adult safeguarding work.

1. Empowerment

A young personal should be encouraged and supported to make decisions for themselves and give informed consent to safeguarding, starting from the referral itself. Empowerment means giving a young person as much independence and power over decisions that relate to them as is reasonably possible. This is about discussing options and encouraging the young person to make an informed decision for themselves.,

2. Prevention

Preventing neglect, harm and abuse is the core function of safeguarding. Whenever possible, practitioners should take steps to prevent harm, abuse or neglect occurring rather than dealing with it after it happens. Careful planning is essential in achieving this principle. Having a solid safeguarding policy in place, and ensuring that all practitioners understand it, can help the team identify risks, and take action before their escalation. In addition, learning from previous incidents and safeguarding issues is also important. Access to local services in a timely manner can also help prevent deterioration of a situation.

3. Proportionality

Proportionality is deciding how to respond to a safeguarding issue, so that the least intrusive response is made in relation to the presenting risk. This applies to both preventing and responding to safeguarding issues which have already occurred. If young people are included in decision-making process and consulted, they are more likely to engage with safeguarding.

4. Protection

Protection refers to providing support and representation to the person when they are at risk. The service should also be aware of a young person’s ability to make a specific decision and if there are any control or coercive issues at play for the young person.

5. Partnership

Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility, and specialist services may be able to offer expertise and advice regarding the situation. It is important for practitioners to build relationships with the young person’s family, friends and professionals, to protect and support the young person. This will help to form a ‘safety net’ for the young person, providing more opportunity to identify risks, and enabling services to work more effectively for the young person, and the wider community.

6. Accountability

Practices should be accountable and transparent. All processes should be documented, and clear records should be kept.

The young person should be involved in the process at all times, and kept informed of what is happening, unless there are safeguarding reasons why this is not possible or advisable.

Information about Adult Social Care Procedures are available at: Hertfordshire Safeguarding Adults Board Procedures.

The Care and Support Statutory Guidance (2014) states that people “should not limit their view of what constitutes abuse or neglect, as they can take many forms and the circumstances of the individual case should always be considered”. Abuse could be physical, financial, emotional, sexual or neglect. It also includes domestic abuse, organisational abuse, modern slavery, discriminatory and self-neglect.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 is a statutory framework that:

  • Protects the autonomy of young people (from the age of 16yrs) who have mental capacity to make their own decisions; and
  • Protects people who lack mental capacity, by ensuring that they or their advocate are involved in decisions relating to them, and that any decisions made on their behalf are made in their best interest. It is important to note that mental capacity can be affected by the abusive situation the young person is in. It is key to consider the vulnerability of the young person in terms of any trauma, threats, coercion and/or coercive control they may have been and/or are experiencing.

If there are doubts about a young person’s ability to make a specific decision, then a mental capacity assessment under the MCA 2005 should be carried out. (See section 16/17 HERTFORDSHIRE POLICY ON MENTAL CAPACITY)

Section 12 Mental-capacity-act-code-of-practice.pdf (

Mental capacity assessment forms (PDF 196kb)

Anyone can be subjected to abuse, neglect, or harm. Yet, people we work with may have different needs depending on their gender, sexuality, race, religion, disability, culture and ethnic background. We should consider structural inequalities when safeguarding young people. For instance, some young people may have protected characteristics which may disadvantage them from having equal access to opportunities for support or may increase their potential risk of harm and abuse. Promoting inclusivity in safeguarding can involve using a different language, making reasonable adjustments, personalising support for people subjected to abuse or assurance around respecting their individuality. Safe, inclusive and respectful practice may encourage more people to report abuse, access support and actively engage with the process.

Last Updated: December 7, 2023