Transition from children to adult services “like falling off a cliff edge”

The following is a news story from Hafal’s Big Lottery-funded Young People’s Information Hub. To access the Hub please visit:

The potential impact of the Social Services (Wales) Bill on children and young people with a serious mental illness was discussed at conference recently held in Cardiff.

The aim of the Bill is to give people who receive care a stronger voice and “real control” over the social care services they use and the conference, which was held at City Hall on March 26th, heard from a range of speakers on how this could be done including Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services Gwenda Thomas AM and Dr Mike Shooter CBE, Chair Children in Wales.

One of the biggest problems facing young people with a serious mental illness is the transition to adult mental health services. Speaking about this issue in relation to children’s services in general, the Deputy Minister said young people she had met told her the transition was “like falling off a cliff edge”.

The Deputy Minister said: “The Bill will provide freedom for people to maintain a level of continuity in their care when they move from location to location through the introduction of portable assessments. The Bill will also tackle the postcode lottery and improve consistency of services.”

Conference Chair Dr Shooter, who spoke at Hafal’s groundbreaking May 2010 seminar for young people, “Growing up and Serious Mental Illness”, told the Hub he thinks the Bill is good news for young people in Wales with a serious mental illness.

He said: “Young people do not live their life in separate compartments. What happens in the family, in school, in their friendships and in the community all affect each other. Physical health and emotional health go hand in hand. The move from childhood to adolescence and on into adulthood builds on what went on before. In other words, social services, education and health services must work in long-term cooperation to help young people in trouble. If they wait to pass them around like a relay baton in a crisis they risk compounding their problems rather than healing them.

“The voice of young people needs to be heard and acted upon wherever possible both in the design of services and in their individual treatment. Young people are experts in their own lives. They need to be helped to sort out their life-problems not treated as patients with a diagnosis to be fobbed off with a pill. They should be active partners in the process not passive recipients of what adults feel they need.

“The Social Services (Wales) Bill is based on these twin principles of integration and empowerment, in continuity across the life-span. At the moment there are different groups helping to formulate the Bill and helping to devise ways of improving Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. If they work together around the principles in the Bill we have a real chance of improving the well-being of young people in Wales. If they remain separate and are deaf to the direct voice of young people then nothing will change.

“I am optimistic. Wales was the first country in the UK to sign up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and we have a rights-based government. We were the first country in the UK to have a Children’s Commissioner, a Children’s Minister and a Standing Committee on children’s issues. We are the first country in the UK to have counselling services in all our schools. And I’m sure we can get this Bill right for young people too. It’s why I’m proud to have lived and worked here for most of my life.”

Consultation on the Bill will last until 1 June. The Bill will then be introduced in October.

To view presentation slides which were shown at the conference please visit:

To view a report of the “Growing up and Serious Mental Illness” conference please visit:

Consultation on the Bill will last until 1 June. The Bill will then be introduced in October. To download a copy of the young people’s guide to the Bill please visit: