Moving into adulthood
This guide highlights the major life changes that you may experience as a disabled teenager - including choices in education, health and independent living.
As you get older, you may start taking more responsibility for your health. You may choose to see your doctor and other health professionals on your own, instead of with your parents or carers.
All health professionals must keep everything you tell them confidential - they can't tell your parents anything you don't want them to know.
Moving from children's health services to adult health services
Around age 16 to 18, you will often need to move from children's health services to adult health services, although this can vary depending on where you live and which services you use. You can keep seeing your local doctor (GP), but you may start seeing a different team at your local hospital or health and social services department.
The timing of the move to adult services should take your health needs into account, and the move itself should be a process, not a single event. There should also be a detailed exchange of information about you between the two teams. You should not be discharged from children's health services until your care has been successfully transferred to adult health services.
Sometimes, paediatricians (doctors who specialise in treating children) continue to see their patients after they become adults, especially if the patient has a rare condition about which the doctor has developed specialised knowledge.
Mental health services
As a young adult, your life may be changing rapidly and you may want to speak to someone in confidence about any issues that are worrying you. There are a wide range of mental health services available to young people which you can access through your GP. A directory of services available in your area is available on the Minding your Head website.
You may also be able to see a counsellor at your school or college. You can find out more about mental health support services on nidirect, or visit the website of Young Minds, the national charity for children and young people's mental health.
When you turn 16, you have the right to decide where you want to live. Some options include:
- continuing to live at home with your parents or carers
- applying for supported temporary accommodation through the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) or relevant NI Housing associations
- moving into private rental accommodation, alone or with friends
- applying for a Housing Executive or housing association house or flat
For some people, sheltered housing may be a good introduction to independent living. Sheltered housing enables people to live independently - sometimes in shared flats - with a warden to call on in emergencies. Some sheltered housing schemes are designed specifically for disabled people and may have specialised facilities and staff.
Home adaptations and disability equipment
If you want to move away from home, you may need some disability equipment or adaptations to your new home. You should contact social services for a new assessment of your needs, and explain that you are looking to leave home.
The assessment will consider what equipment and home adaptations you need to enable you to live independently, and whether you need any care services to replace care you may have received at home - from family members, for example. You may be able to get a Disabled Facilities Grant to help with the cost of these.
- Additional information on Disabled Facilities Grant - Northern Ireland Housing Executive website
- Your home, adaptations and equipment (people with disabilities section)
If you want to move into private rental accommodation, think about whether the property is suitable for your needs. Private landlords do not have to make adjustments to their properties for disabled tenants, although you may be able to make (and pay for) an adjustment yourself with your landlord's permission.
This may be on the condition that you remove or reverse the adjustment at the end of your tenancy.
You can find out more about your rights as a tenant from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Another option is to apply for a housing executive or housing association flat or house. These properties are sometimes called social housing.
To get a place in social housing, you need to be on a waiting list. Priority is given to people who already live or work in the area, so it makes sense to apply locally. Your first step should be to discuss your housing needs with someone in the Housing Executive.
Staying at home
If you decide to stay at home, ask your local social services for a new assessment of your needs as you approach adulthood. You may be able to do some tasks for yourself that others may have done before with the right support or equipment.
You can find out more about the choices available to you for staying on at school or going into further education or higher education in the general 'Education and learning' section of nidirect. You can also find advice specifically for disabled students in the 'Education and training' section.
- 14 to 19: your options in education, employment and training (education, learning and skills section)
- Learning and education (people with disabilities section)
When you have turned 16 and completed year 12 at school, one of the choices open to you is to leave school and start work. While you are still at school, you can get advice about finding a job from your school careers adviser.
You can get help to gain new skills, find a job or stay in work from a range of organisations, including Jobs & Benefits offices/JobCentres, careers services and voluntary organisations.
If you are have a disability you can get advice and practical help with finding a job or gaining new skills from a Employment Service Adviser at your local Jobs & Benefits office/JobCentre. These advisers give skilled advice at every stage of your search for a job and can make sure you know which benefits or allowances you're entitled to claim.
- Help with finding work (people with disabilities section)
- Find your local Jobs and Benefits Office/JobCentre (employment section)
- Find your local Careers Office
Learning to drive
Having a disability or medical condition does not necessarily mean you cannot learn to drive. However, there are some medical conditions and disabilities that you must let the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) know about.
You can learn to drive when you are 17. However, if you get the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, you can begin at 16. It is recommended that all new drivers should have professional driving lessons. As a disabled driver, you may prefer an instructor who has experience of teaching disabled people.
Disability Living Allowance
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit for children and adults who need help with personal care or getting around. If you are under 16, your DLA will be paid to your parent or carer. When you turn 16, it can be paid directly to you, or to someone who can manage your money for you if necessary.
The rules about who can get DLA change at age 16. From age 16, you no longer have to show that you need more care or supervision than another person of the same age.
This change may mean that you're entitled to a higher rate of DLA than before, or that you can receive DLA for the first time. If you are already entitled to DLA before you turn 16, your claim is likely to be looked at again around the time of your 16th birthday.
If you weren't entitled to DLA before age 16, make a new claim when you turn 16 if you think you qualify as an adult.
You can receive DLA even if you have a full-time job. Your DLA will not affect any benefits your parents receive.
Employment and Support Allowance
If you’re over 16 and have an illness or disability which affects your ability to work, you may be able to apply for Employment and Support Allowance.
You’re usually only able to claim this if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions during your working life. However, you may still receive it if you’re under 25 and satisfy certain conditions.
If you live with your parents, your entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance may affect your parents' benefits if they get any of the following:
- Child Benefit
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Jobseeker's Allowance
- Pension Credit
If someone is claiming Carer's Allowance for caring for you, this will not be affected by your claiming any benefits in your own right, as long as your carer still meets the conditions for receiving Carer's Allowance. However, their claim to Carer's Allowance may affect the amount of benefit that you receive.
Direct payments are local Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust payments for people who:
- have been assessed as needing help from social services
- would like to arrange their own care and support services instead of receiving them direct from the local trust
If you are under 16, your parents or carer(s) will manage your direct payments for you. When you turn 16, you have the right to manage your own direct payments. This means you can choose which services you want to use and who provides those services, as long as the local HSC agrees that the services you have chosen meet your assessed needs.
You may also choose to use your direct payments to employ a professional carer, if necessary.
- Direct payments - arranging your own care and services (people with disabilities section)
- Employing a professional carer or personal assistant (people with disabilities section)