Change, made easy

PublishingBureauSCLD Publication

In June ARC Scotland launched Principles into Practice and a digital application, Compass, with the aim of transforming experiences of young people with additional support needs and their families as they make the transition to adulthood.

Tracey Francis, Policy and Development Worker at ARC Scotland, tells us more.

Tracey Francis

Ask anyone – becoming an adult is one of the most complex transitions any of us make. And if you have additional support needs, or you support someone who does, it’s particularly tricky.

Familiar things come to an end, along with established relationships, services you rely on and settings you are used to. All too often young people and families don’t know what will take their place, and face a struggle to find the information and planning they need.

The knock-on effects can be huge. Changes or gaps in support aren’t a temporary inconvenience – they fundamentally limit young peoples’ abilities to find and embrace opportunities others take for granted.

It’s not easy for professionals either. Recognising long standing problems is one thing, fixing them quite another. The challenges are well documented, and their scale and complexity can feel overwhelming to those in the front line.

Principles into Practice, and the new digital application Compass, finally give us a chance to tackle issues we have grappled with for years, and to track our progress using the only measure that really matters – what young people, parents and carers, and professionals think about their experiences.

Young people and families have told us consistently what makes the most difference to them, and it isn’t rocket science. Being listened to in discussions that affect their lives; having access to reliable information; processes that flex to meet their needs, not the other way round; planning that takes the bigger picture into account.

It’s a pretty reasonable ask.

We also worked with sector leads from 19 local authority areas, to explore what would best help them focus on action and changing practice for the better.

The result is a fully tested framework and tools, based on the seven Principles of Good Transitions, and ready to be used nationally. Because we have worked closely every step of the way with each of the groups most involved in transitions, we can be confident these not only scratch where people are itching, but that the guidance they offer is relevant, practical and workable.

Compass helps everyone understand the transitions process better, and find useful information at the right time. All three versions – for young people, for parents and carers, and for professionals – are tailored to the user, based on their responses to questions asked within the tool.

Compass supports young people to explore what matters to them, and share their thoughts with people they trust. It gives parents and carers a transitions timeline that shows where they are in the process and points them to key actions at each stage. The professional tool has guidance on the statutory duties that apply to transitions, and clarifies responsibilities. All three versions link to the best sources of information currently available, and are specific to Scotland.

The other thing Compass does is collect direct feedback about experiences of transition and how things are going. This is completely anonymised, so no one – not even ARC Scotland – can identify individuals or families. But over time, this will be invaluable in providing vital information to help improve services and support in the future.

The reaction has been warm and welcoming across the country. As one professional involved in the trials said: “The time is right for this work.”

Or in the words of a parent who tested Compass: “Oh my goodness … you know the thing that everyone knew was needed but never ever appeared as it was insurmountable? Well, you’ve done it.”

Neither Principles into Practice nor Compass are designed to sit on a shelf gathering dust. They are part of an ongoing, evolving improvement framework to support young people and families better through the transition to young adult life.

So please – use them, share them, and help make the change happen!

For more information on Principles into Practice and learning from the trials, or to download the Impact Reports and the Principles of Good Transitions, visit the website at

 Anyone in Scotland can use Compass free of charge, whether your local authority area is using Principles into Practice or not. To sign up to the right version for you, go to:

About ARC Scotland: ARC Scotland wants communities to celebrate difference, respect, listen to and include everyone. We believe all people with additional support needs, and their families, are experts by experience. We bring people and organisations together to work for change.

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