I have kept this post back for a while as it is a depressing read. Nevertheless with the news today that more than 75% of our unemployed young people do not feel they have anything worth living for, I think it’s time I share what I have learnt about 16 + provision.
In the last few months we’ve been exploring post 16 options for our son. This has involved various trips to mainstream and specialist colleges and talking to our specialist careers advisor about what is available. On paper there appears to be lots on offer (including support) as long as your young person can cope with the FT nature of college courses. If someone can’t keep up their attendance they’re thrown out. For my son this is a problem. Due to the unpredictable nature of his ASD the professionals (and us) do not think he will manage such a course, even a course in a specialist college. There is a slim chance that the sixth forms at the local MLD schools may be able to provide an individualised programme but my son refuses to engage with that. He has made it clear that he doesn’t want to go to a special college but neither has he expressed any interest in going anywhere else or doing anything. I think the transition to post 16 is troubling him a lot and his response to that uncertainty is to shut down and not properly engage.
For now we don’t know what to do. I think it’s important that he goes somewhere outside the house, even if it’s for only a day or two in order to build up his confidence and to prevent his anxiety becoming worse but there doesn’t appear to be anything set up for people with ASD/mental health issues. I asked our careers advisor what happens to people like my son and her response was that many of them end up on ESA (for those of you unfamiliar with this, ESA is an employment support allowance for ill or disabled people who are unable to work).
I couldn’t believe what I had heard, that in effect there is so little provision that young people like my son end up at home and on benefits. Seriously, if this is what is happening I am sickened and beyond angry that the country has in effect given up on these young people. What sort of life will my funny, practical and creative boy have if he is dumped on benefits at the age of 16? It is totally wrong in my opinion and a situation I will not accept. My son has to do something even if I have to create something myself.