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Independent living

When you reach the age of 16, you can make your own decisions.  The law gives rights to young people who are over 16 and no longer of compulsory school age. In the law and guidance these people are called ‘young people’. Young people can make decisions in their own right about the support they receive. This includes taking control of their own Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan if they are able to. This page gives information about your rights and the laws that help make sure you are supported.

  • How will you know if your review/meeting or assessment is person centred?

    • A person centred approach should capture the voices of young people and adults, to empower them to be in control of their lives. People should be put at the centre of planning and decision-making. Putting the young person at the centre of planning and decision-making allows them, and others, to plan what is important to them. Such as: what they are interested in, what makes them happy and what their aspirations are. Also, the support young people might need to stay healthy and safe, and to be a valued member of the local community and society.

    The Person Centred Approach

    • As a deputy, you’ll be authorised by the Court of Protection to make decisions on their behalf. There are 2 types of deputy: 1) property and financial affairs, eg paying bills, organising a pension 2) personal welfare/health, eg making decisions about medical treatment and how someone is looked after
    1. Have you been prepared to participate in the meeting, planning or review?
    2. Do you know what ‘the point’ of the meeting is? What is the plan?
    3. Do you know and can you express when things are going well and when they are not?
    4. Have your communication needs been addressed?
    5. Have you been asked what your views are? Are they different to your family?
    6. Do you feel your views have been heard and recorded?
    7. Do you feel that the review/plan/assessment is reflective of your whole life?
    8. If people are helping you to make certain decisions, do they understand what is important to you?
    9. Who is helping you to make decisions, and about what?

    • Rights

      Everyone has a right to have wishes, feelings and aspirations for the future. Everyone has a right to have a voice and feel their views are heard. All people should be treated fairly and there is a law called the Equality Act which helps to make sure this happens.

      Making Decisions in Advance

      When you are not well sometimes it can be left to other people to make decisions about your life and your care. You can make your decisions and wishes in advance, to help other people know what works best for you.

      The following pointers may help:


      The person seeing you should explain how any information you give them might be shared, and about your right to talk to someone on your own.


      The person seeing you should check that you agree with the help they are suggesting and explain the possible choices if you do not agree.


      If you or your family need help from an interpreter or want information in a certain way, then the health/social care practitioner, or the person working with you, should try and organise this for you.


      If you are not happy with the help you have received.

      Advocacy Duty

      The Care Act 2014 says that: ‘the advocacy duty will apply from the point of first contact between a person and their local authority and at any later stage of the assessment, planning, care review, safeguarding enquiry or safeguarding adult review. If it appears to the authority that a person has care and support needs, then a judgement must be made as to whether that person has substantial difficulty in being involved and if there is an appropriate individual to support them. An independent advocate must be appointed to support and represent the person for the purpose of assisting their involvement if these two conditions are met’.

      SCIE (2015) Independent advocacy under the Care Act 2014 

      • ‘Mental capacity’ is the ability to make decisions. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 applies to everyone aged 16 or over.

        Click here for an easy read guide to the mental capacity act.

        What is meant by ‘capacity’?

        Capacity refers to a person’s ability to make a particular decision at a particular time. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 says that a person’s capacity to make a decision may fluctuate based on their wellbeing at a particular time. If there is doubt that a person has ‘capacity’ to make a particular decision at a particular time, a mental capacity assessment will be undertaken by either a health or social care practitioner, depending upon the nature of the decision.

        The Mental Capacity Act 2005 sets out five key principles in determining whether someone has ‘capacity’ to make a decision or not:

        1. It should be assumed that everyone can make their own decisions unless it is proved otherwise. No one should assume that a person can’t make a decision because they have special educational needs or a disability.
        2. Do not treat people as incapable of making a decision unless all practical steps have been tried to help them. A person should have all the help and support possible to make and communicate their decision, before it is decided that they are unable to do so. If appropriate, this might mean delaying the decision.
        3. A person should not be treated as lacking capacity just because they make an ‘unwise decision.’ Disable people and those with special educational needs have the right to take risks if they understand the consequences of the decision; it is their decision to make.
        4. Actions or decision carried out on behalf of someone who lacks capacity must be in their ‘best interests.’ The Mental Capacity Act sets out a process to ensure that a decision made for people, who have been assessed as lacking capacity is made in their best interests. ‘Best interests’ means knowing about a person’s values, wishes, aspirations, and what you think they would choose if they did not lack ‘capacity.’ This includes decisions made by families as well as social workers and other health/care professionals.
        5. Actions or decisions made on behalf of someone who lacks ‘capacity’ should limit their rights as little as possible.

        A good example might be if a person was in a coma and a decision needed to be made about their care or treatment. A person must be able to: understand/ retain/ weigh/ and communicate their decision.

        Court of Protection, (court appointed) Deputyship

        You can apply to become someone’s deputy if they ‘lack mental capacity’ – this means they can’t make a decision for themselves at the time it needs to be made. They may still be able to make decisions for themselves at other times. People may lack mental capacity because, for example:

        • they’ve had a serious brain injury or illness
        • they have dementia
        • they have severe learning disabilities

        You can apply to be just one type of deputy or both. If you’re appointed, you’ll get a court order saying what you can and can’t do.

        Gov.UK (2016) Deputies: make decisions for someone who lacks capacity

        • If you are 16 or over you might be entitled to claim benefits and allowances in your own right. For eligibility and application process please see the links below:

          If you are unable to manage your benefits someone can become an appointee on your behalf.

          • Independent Living does not always mean being on your own. You can live in your own home on your own. You can live in your own home with a carer. You can live in your own home with family and friends.

            How do I rent a home?

            You can rent a home from:

            A council or housing association, a charity or voluntary organisation, a private landlord  or someone you know like a family member or friend.

            Council and housing associations are also called social landlords. You normally get this type of housing by going on the council housing register and using Devon Home Choice scheme. If you want to live with a friend, family member or partner long term then you can apply for this type of home together.

            This can be a secure way of renting your own home, the rent is more affordable if you are working

            You may have to wait a long time before you are housed, you may not have much choice

            Renting from a charity or voluntary organisation

            Many charities that support people with learning disabilities have properties that they rent out. Some are shared with others and some are self contained.

            Renting from a private landlord

            You can rent from a private landlord in different ways, some people rent by going to an estate agent and choosing a home. Most councils help people access private rented housing by helping with the deposit or by having arrangements where the council or housing association lease from the private landlord and give you a tenancy

            Renting a flat in an extra care or supported living scheme

            Some housing providers have small groups of houses or flats clustered around some communal facilities, each person has their own self contained home.  There is usually support attached but you can get extra support from other sources if you need it Most extra care schemes are for people 55 years or older

            Renting from someone you know

            A relative or friend could buy a home to rent to you, or family or friends can build an extension on their home that they rent to you.

            More information:

            • Getting to school or college

              Please see the Devon County Council guide to Transport for children with special educational needs for more information about school and college transport. Devon publishes an Education Transport Policy each academic year, which sets out the travel arrangements we will make to support young people aged 16-19 and learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LDD) aged up to 25 to access further education.

              How do I access Transport in the community?

              Devon offers an Access Wallet which helps people with communication difficulties or disabilities to access transport. The access wallet does not give you free or discounted travel. If you are over 60 or disabled you may be entitled to free bus travel in Devon with a National Bus Pass.

              Disabilities which qualify someone for a National Bus Pass are those which are considered permanent, or which are likely to last at least 12 months. Such disabilities should have a substantial effect on the applicant’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

              There are seven disability categories:

              • Blind or partially sighted
              • Profoundly or severely deaf
              • Without speech
              • Severe difficulty in walking
              • Without arms or has a long-term loss of the use of both arms
              • Learning Disability
              • Unfit to hold a driving licence

              • It is important that you look out for your own safety, as well as looking out for friends and family. You can keep yourself and your friends safe by following some simple advice. For more information about staying safe as an adult (when you are 18 or over), contact Care Direct.
                How do I deal with emergencies? – Depending on how independently you are living, you will need to know how to respond and deal with emergencies or how to contact someone for help.

                1. Always tell someone who is close to you where you are and where you are going.
                2.  Try and remain calm – it really helps in an emergency.
                3. In an emergency, where life is in danger, people are injured, offenders are nearby or if immediate action is required, call 999.

                How do I keep myself safe?

                If someone makes you feel scared, threatened or hurt, don’t be afraid to tell a responsible adult or contact Childline 0800 1111 or the police on 101.

                Use this guide, produced by the home Office, to help you to keep safe, and remember these tips:

                • When you’re out with friends, always stick together
                • Always tell a parent or carer where you are going
                • Tell someone you trust if another person is making you feel scared or unhappy, even if the person who is making you feel unhappy is someone who is part of your family
                • Report any suspicious behaviour to a trusted person
                • Don’t take shortcuts, always stick to your normal safe routes
                • Only give trusted friends your personal details
                • Never accept a gift from someone you don’t know
                • Never get in the car with a stranger

                Sometimes, people with learning disabilities have so-called ‘friends’ who may exploit them. When someone pretends to be your friend but treats you badly, this is called Mate Crime. You can report this to the police.

                The Barnado’s app – Wud U? gives advice and guidance on how to avoid being sexually exploited and stay safe.

                Staying Safe Online

                Lots of young people use the Internet. It can be a fun thing to do but there are dangers that you need to be aware of to keep you and your friends safe from harm. You can find out more about how to stay safe by visiting the Devon Children and Families Partnership website or using this guide to staying safe online produced by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities.

                • How can I join in with leisure and social activities?

                  You can use Pinpoint to find out about social groups in your local area. there are a range of youth services and community facilities which you can access and will support young people with different needs.

                  Devon Voluntary Action (DeVA) can help you to volunteer locally. DeVA want to make becoming a volunteer as easy as possible for everyone, no matter who you are, what your age or background is or where you come from.

                  What help can I get to access social opportunities?

                  A Personal Assistant (PA) is someone employed to help a person live independently and achieve the activities they want to do. Devon Choice and Support Services for Independent Living can help you employ a Personal Assistant or an Enabler. This could be funded through Direct Payments.

                  You can go online and use the internet or social media, but make sure you stay safe online and protect yourself against cyber-bullying and exploitation – look at the ‘keeping myself safe’ section for more information.

                  Setting Goals

                  Think about the following questions:
                  •What do want to achieve with your life?
                  •Would you like to go to college? Further education? Would you like a job? What knowledge and/or qualifications do you need to do this?
                  •Do you want to volunteer some of your time to a good cause or get involved in local events, politics etc.?
                  • How would you like your home life to be in the future?
                  •Do you want to develop your skill in a certain sport or other physical activity?

                  Now you can make a (SMART) plan to achieve your goals

                  S – you will need to have a specific goal in mind
                  M – measurable is about how will you know when you have reached your goal?
                  A – make sure you set a goal that is achievable
                  R – your goal needs to be relevant and realistic. If you are looking for a skilled job you will not be able to achieve this without the relevant qualification or experience.
                  T – set yourself time limits to reach your overall goal or individual milestones

                  Time Management – you will need to learn to manage your work and leisure time well in order to achieve your goals.

                  You need to know the difference between what is urgent and what is important. The Priority Matrix, from, can help you decide what you need to do straight away and what can wait until later.