Transitions to adulthood for disabled young people: literature review

A literature review, commissioned by the Scottish Government, of existing Scottish, UK and International evidence on the experiences faced by disabled young people during their transition to adulthood. The review also explores best practice in supporting disabled young people during this time.


This literature review has advanced a comprehensive and detailed summary and synthesis of the prevailing evidence on disabled young people's transition to adulthood. This section summarises and reflects on the key findings, while the following Gap Analysis outlines areas for further research.

We find a broad consensus within the literature in support of certain guiding principles, largely revolving around holistic, personalised and concerted planning, developed in collaboration with young people and their families, and underpinned by high-quality, well-resourced and well-staffed services, delivered in partnership.

The counterpoint to this consistency, however, is a high degree of duplication within the literature. A full gap analysis is outlined below, though we briefly point here to key knowledge-gaps.

Broadly speaking, there is a very consistent commitment to these guiding principles, with less granular detail on their practical realisation. This may be a result of insufficient research, the non-standardised nature of much service-delivery, and/or the multiplicity of possible outcomes and variables. There is a broad sense that existing monitoring and evaluation processes are inadequate for the purposes of identifying best practice. We, and other authors, also note that many of the established examples and lists of best practice have been developed on the basis of stakeholders' input and validation, and consensus among researchers and practitioners within the field, rather than more rigorous evaluation.

There is, however, variation within this. Institutional transitions appear to have enjoyed greater attention within the literature, and much of this is arguably of a higher standard. There appears to have been more progress within the field of healthcare to identify effective practice with regards to transitions.

With regards to life-course transitions, education and employment appear to have attracted significant attention, with well-documented experiences and shortcomings across the literature. However, there are a number of gaps within the evidence base on best practice in these fields.

Much less still has been written about independent living, personal relationships and 'active citizenship'. It is unclear if these are missing from practice as well as research, though there is some evidence that this may be the case.

Nevertheless, this literature review advances a cogent, accessible, yet detailed synthesis of the research to date on disabled young people's experiences and needs during the transition to adulthood. It is hoped that this document will provide an invaluable steer for practitioners and policymakers alike in devising and delivering effective supports.



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