Both child and adult safeguarding services share the aim of protecting people from harm. Despite this, they are governed by different practices and standards that impact how they carry out their work. The disconnect between services can leave some at-risk young people to fall through the gap [1].

What is the difference between adult and child safeguarding services?

Adult safeguarding – Focuses on people with care and support needs who may find it difficult to protect themselves from neglect or abuse because of those needs.

Child safeguarding – Services are there to protect all children under the age of 18 from harm.

It is because of this difference that young people need to be supported in the transition from child to adult safeguarding services to ensure they continually receive the care and support they need. We heard from Claire Mawby of Birmingham City Council on their successful transitional service that supports people aged 14-30 to ensure they are getting the safeguarding support they need. [2]

Preparation for Adulthood

The Preparation for Adulthood service is a collaborative service that works across Birmingham, managed by Adult Social Care services and Birmingham Children’s Trust. It’s a voluntary option for young people to support them in the transition between services. The service begins supporting people from an earlier age than the official transition between services at 18. Benefits of this include both improving the outcomes for those transitioning and reducing the overall cost of the transition.


The approach is centred around the individual and what help they may need to achieve future goals. All support given encourages co-production from the individual and drives the improvement of outcomes in the transition. Outcomes are measured in 4 key areas:

• Health – Helping individuals to manage their own health as they move into adulthood.
• Employment – Showing individuals where to find apprenticeships and employment and offering practical guidance for the job searches.
• Housing – Helping individuals explore the housing options available to them, assisting with both the housing search and learning the skills to live independently.
• Friends, relationships and communities – Helping individuals explore activities they are interested in to help build networks and relationships in their new community. [3]

Communication is key throughout the transition process. By listening to the young people and their families, both strengths and weaknesses in the process can be highlighted so the Preparation for Adulthood service can be continually improved.


The service is person-centred and provides individual support networks to those who may not have a support network around them. They hold regular group sessions to discuss transition options with young people, parents, carers, and professionals to ensure all are educated on the preparation for adulthood. The work conducted by the service works to influence wider change within the safeguarding sector, piloting schemes to improve support nationwide. The aim is to improve the outcomes for children transitioning to adult services.


Facilitating a safe transition
  • Provide support from an earlier age – Getting involved earlier builds individual strength so the young person is in a better position to move forward when they reach adulthood.
  • Take a person-centred approach  – Identify what support is right for the individual to build their strength and voice so that they can move forward into adulthood.
  • Ensure the correct circle of support is given – The correct circle of support is vital to helping the individual move forward.
  • Build healthy and honest relationships  – It is important that the circles of support around the individual are healthy and honest to help them get the support they need with safeguarding concerns.
Transitions in Different Services

Transitions do not happen at the same time across different services, making early intervention difficult in some cases. Early intervention is vital to support the individual in their transition to adulthood. It is important to know the different ages at which the official transition occurs in education, health, social care and criminal justice to ensure young people receive the support they need. The Preparation for Adulthood service in Birmingham works hard to ensure that all service providers are sharing information and communicating with one another to improve outcomes.


In education, the transition is guided by Education Health and Social Plans and a review students have in year 9. The ECHP is reviewed when students reach 16 or 18 and in some cases 25 depending on what course the young person is completing.


In health, the transitions are led by NICE guidance for transitions. These guidelines are also used in social care. Transitional ages in the health sector are mostly 18 apart from dental and sensory impairment services where the age is 16.

Social Care

Health and Social Care transitions are informed by the Care Act 2014 and the Leaving Care Act 2000. Care leavers transition from children’s care at 16, though discussions regarding the transition can start from 14 onwards.


Transitions in justice are led by the transition from Youth Offending Services to probation at 18 and the guidelines set in the National Protocol for Transitions in England.

Communication between these services is key to delivering a successful transition between child and adult services. By working collaboratively across sectors, young people can be directed to the support systems or advice they need.


The Preparation for Adulthood service measures its success by the quality of outcomes achieved for the young people it supports. They have seen reductions in negative outcomes and marked increases in positive outcomes. Demonstrating the impact of this joined-up approach on care leavers in Birmingham.

Reductions in:

  • The number of young people not in education or employment and training
  • Young people re-offending or entering the criminal justice system after transitioning
  • The number of people being referred to safeguarding teams
  • The number of people being exploited

Increases in:

  • The number of young people returning to education
  • Care leavers entering training, volunteering or employment
  • The number of people accessing the right services and support
  • Engagement with positive activities that help improve the individual’s future

[1] Department of Health and Social Care, Bridging the Gap: transitional safeguarding and the role of social work with adults, (2021)
[2] Claire Mawby, Birmingham City Council, (2021)
[3] Birmingham City Council, Preparation for Adulthood, (2021)

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Child and adult safeguarding services share the aim of protecting people from harm, however, they are guided by different practices. There needs to be more guidance in place to help ease the transition between services and streamline practice when a person reaches adulthood. This case study looks at how Birmingham City Council Preparation for Adulthood service helps young people with this transition.

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