'If children and young people with SEN or disabilities are to achieve their ambitions and the best possible educational and other outcomes, including getting a job and living as independently as possible, local education, health and social care services should work together to ensure they get the right support.' (SEND Code of Practice 2015, 1.22)
The Suffolk Local Offer is the place to find information about Social Care Services and provision for children and young people with SEN or disabilities, including:
- leisure activities & short breaks
- moving from child to adult services
- living independently, and finding accommodation
- help finding work
Help should be given to children who need it as soon as possible, this is known as 'Early help'.
The Early help team may become involved following completion of the 'Common Assessment Framework' or 'CAF'.
Usually this would come about following discussion with school, though other agencies can complete this with you, or you can make a request directly.
A setting might suggest completing a CAF if they think you or your child needs some extra help around their behaviour or emotional wellbeing. If your child's difficulties are solely with their behaviour in school this may not be the appropriate next step, see also SEN Support. Talk to the setting firstly so you have the opportunity to explore all options for support.
As part of the assessment process, you will be asked what's working well, what isn't and what might need to change. Your child's views, wishes and feelings are put at the centre of the process.
Read also SEN Support - supporting children with SEN in education settings.
Under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, local authorities have a duty to assess 'children in need' for any services they may need.
A child in need is defined within the Act as:
- a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development;
- a child whose health and development will be significantly impaired, without the provision of services, or;
- a child who is disabled (the Children Act considers a child disabled if the child is blind, deaf, non-verbal, suffering from a mental disorder of any kind, substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed)
This means that if your child is disabled, the local authority must carry out an assessment of their care needs, though there is no prescribed process they must follow. There may not therefore be a formal assessment, and needs could be identified as part of the work the Early Help service provides, for example.
The SEND Code of Practice says:
Where a child or young person has been assessed as having social care needs in relation to their SEN or disabilities social care teams:
- must secure social care provision under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (CSDPA) 1970 which has been assessed as being necessary to support a child or young person’s SEN and which is specified in their EHC plan (SEND Code of Practice 3.49)
Local Authorities may take into account their resources when deciding whether it is necessary to meet a person’s needs under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (CSDPA), however, if they decide there are needs, these must be met regardless of cost.
You can request assessment for your child by completing an online request with Customer First, or you can call them on 0808 800 4005. You could request this be carried out at the same time as an Education, Health and Care needs assessment - see dropdown 'Social care & EHC plans'
The local authority decides what level of support is needed, follow these links to find out more about the various teams and support they provide:
See the next dropdown to find out also about assessment of your needs.
You may request a parent carer needs assessment with the local authority, provided your child is defined as a 'child in need' - see previous dropdown.
This assessment must consider:
- whether you have needs for support and what those needs are
- your wellbeing (wellbeing is defined in the Care Act 2014)
- whether it is appropriate for you to provide, or continue to provide, care for your disabled child, in light of your needs for support and other needs and wishes
- the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of your child, and any other child for whom you have parental responsibility
This may be combined with the assessment carried out for your child.
You can find out more about assessments for disabled children and their families by reading the Carers UK factsheet (pages 17-22)
Contact have a template letter for making a request
The legal duty is contained within:
The SEND Code of Practice says:
Where there is an EHC needs assessment, it should be an holistic assessment of the child or young person’s education, health and social care needs. EHC needs assessments should be combined with social care assessments under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 where appropriate. (10.18)
In seeking advice and information, the local authority should consider with professionals what advice they can contribute to ensure the assessment covers all the relevant education, health and care needs of the child or young person. (9.49)
This means that as part of an EHC needs assessment, the family services team will seek advice from social care about their previous involvement and assessments for your child.
If their response is 'not known to service' - you might want discuss with your family services co-ordinator, or ask social care, to carry out an assessment (or re-assessment) of care needs.
Section H1 within an EHC plan includes:
Any social care provision which must be made for a child or young person under 18 resulting from section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (CSDPA), such as:
- practical assistance in the home
- clubs and activities outside the home
- assistance in travelling or helping your child to take part in activities
- equipment or adaptations to the home
- non-residential short breaks
- any identified provision for parent carers of disabled children
Section H2 of an EHC plan includes any other provision related to your child or young person's SEN that isn't covered within section H1, for example residential short breaks or support with finding employment or housing.
From year 9 onwards Annual Reviews of an EHC plan should consider support needs around preparation for employment and independent living,
Packages of support across 5 days:
The SEND Code of Practice 2015 says:
Where young people have EHC plans, local authorities should consider the need to provide a full package of provision and support across education, health and care that covers five days a week, where that is appropriate to meet the young person’s needs. (8.39)
It can also include health and care related activities such as physiotherapy. Full-time packages of provision and support set out in the EHC plan should include any time young people need to access support for their health and social care needs. (8.40)
Section 58 of The Care Act 2014 places a duty on local authorities to carry out an assessment of a child's needs where this would be of 'significant benefit' to the child, and if it is likely they will have care and support needs when they turn 18.
The local authority has to provide support to enable you to plan ahead as your child approaches their 18th Birthday, so there are no gaps in services.
You, or your young person, may request an assessment at any time ahead of their 18th Birthday. However, the local authority can be flexible with the timing of the assessment, and they decide whether and when there is 'significant benefit' to assessing needs.
If your child has an EHC plan, it is expected that preparation for adulthood begins from year 9 as part of their Annual Review.
The Local Authority have a legal duty within section 47 of the Children Act 1989 to investigate if they suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.
Anyone can make a referral to Children's Services, including a parent, wider family member, friend, doctor, teacher or health visitor if they are concerned about a child.
The Local Authority will then decide whether there should be any action taken to safeguard the child’s welfare.
If someone has raised concerns about your child by contacting social care, you may find it useful to read through the guidance from Child Law Advice, which explains what happens and how to prepare for questions you and your child will be asked.
If you are unhappy about how you have been treated, or with the assessment process or outcome you may complain to the local authority
If you have followed the local authority complaints procedure and are still unsatisfied, you could complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
If you believe the local authority have acted unlawfully you may consider Judicial Review, though as this is a formal legal route, it is strongly advisable to seek legal representation if you are considering this option.
Read more about this within our raising concerns page.
Disagreement resolution services around the EHC process
If you have a concern about the social care needs assessment or provision as part of the EHC process you can request disagreement resolution services. In Suffolk these are provided by Anglia Care Trust.
You can request mediation about the social care needs or provision in an EHC plan. This will take place within 30 days, and arranged by Anglia Care Trust.
Appealing an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan:
If you are appealing the education sections of a plan, you may now also include the sections relating to health or social care needs or provision.
Though the tribunal will not be able to make legally binding orders on health and social care, it is expected that their recommendations will generally be followed.
Local authority services & policy:
Activities Unlimited (short breaks and leisure activities) or call 01473 260026
Customer First (to request support for care needs) or call 0808 800 4005
Local Offer (what's available locally for children and young people with SEND)
Threshold grid - to see levels of support based on need
Legislation & statutory guidance:
Carers UK factsheet (page 17 to 22 are about assessments for disabled children and their families)
Services and support from your local authority (Contact information booklet)