Exploring the Inequalities and Diversities in Disabled Young Adult Transitions

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Geog, Politics and Sociology


Disabled young people face many challenges as they move through adolescence into adulthood, while some disability studies work has explored the issues around transitions between paediatric and adult health and social care, the wider landscape of transitions has been given much less consideration. Youth studies has a more expansive approach to researching transitions, but has done little to consider the significance of disability as a key source of inequality and diversity in transitional dynamics. Research focused on influencing policy has tended to approach transitions as a step-by-step linear process with a clear endpoint, based on normative assumptions about adulthood. These are unhelpful for youth in general and disabled young people in particular. Too much of the focus in this work is on the individual and how they can be encouraged and supported to make the right choices and undertake the right activities to reach the right adulthood goal. If we are to properly consider disabled youth transitions (and other youth transitions) we need to move beyond individual and uncritical understandings of the values of independence, choice and responsibility to engage with the social, cultural and economic constraints that shape transition experiences. This is vital to do because youth transitions in general have been altered by social and political change in areas such as employment, education, technology, and welfare systems. Much of these changes have made transitions more precarious and reliant on family resources. However, research across disability studies, youth studies and policy and practice has not kept up with these changes meaning that our understandings of what shapes disabled youth transitions is lacking. It is important to understand in more depth what happens for disabled young people as they move towards adulthood, both to understand the challenges and possibilities they face, but also for what that tells us about the nature of transitions in a contemporary British society marked by welfare austerity, neoliberalism and now Covid-19.

This research, co-developed and co-produced with disability organisations and disabled young people, located in Glasgow and Newcastle and their rural outskirts, will work with disabled young adults aged 16-29, the family members of other disabled young people and organisations who support them and advocate with them. Glasgow and Newcastle are areas of above average levels of disability, significant economic deprivation and are both areas that have been particularly affected by Covid-19. A range of qualitative methods will be applied to examine change over time, sources of inequality, barriers and enablers to positive transitions, and diversities in the presents and futures being worked towards. 2 qualitative narrative interviews over 16 months will be undertaken with 60 disabled young people. One qualitative narrative interview will be undertaken with 30 family members of other disabled young people and 30 with key informants from disability organisations. A range of individual and collective workshop based creative activities will be developed with the disabled young participants that will occur in between the 2 interviews, providing an additional data point between them. Discursive policy analysis will be undertaken of key policies that influence disabled young people's lives at the local, devolved and national level.

As well as producing academic outputs the project will produce - throughout its lifetime - policy and practice materials aimed at practitioners and policy makers and third sector and disabled people's organisations. They will be accessible and aim to promote changes in services so they are rights based and are genuinely person centred. The project will be overseen by a Project Advisory Group made up of disability organisations and disabled young people.


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