Background: Disabled young people with complex needs face particular challenges when they reach adulthood and seek to move from school to employment or further education. There are potentially substantial personal and social costs arising from these challenges.
Methods: We sought evidence from recent UK research, policy and related literatures; undertook exploratory statistical analyses of birth cohort data; and analysed information provided by 30 disabled young people requiring high levels of practical and communication support.
Results: The personal, family and social costs that result from unsuccessful transition are substantial and wide-ranging. Health service and local authority expenditure are important elements, but do not allow young people to achieve the educational or employment goals to which they aspire, resulting in considerable costs for the state, whether through missing opportunities to contribute to the economy or through dependence on welfare benefits.
Conclusions: The considerable sums currently spent on disabled children and young people are clearly not enough, or not deployed appropriately, to enable those who reach adulthood to fulfil their ambitions, or to meet government policy intentions for young people to achieve economic well-being.