Category: Information & advice

Schools must follow certain procedures before making a decision to suspend or exclude a disabled child, such as increasing their SEN support or considering alternative disciplinary measures.

Similarly, local authorities have a legal duty to arrange suitable alternative education for a child who has been excluded.

But despite these requirements, exclusion continues to be a top concern for families who phone our helpline. Many parent carers call us feeling worried because their child was suspended or permanently excluded and want to find out about their rights or how to challenge the school’s decision.

Ask us anything at our Q&A on 7 March

That’s why we are running a special Q&A about school exclusions in England on Thursday 7 March, between 10-11.30am, in our closed (private) Facebook Group.

This will be a chance for parent carers in England to share their concerns and ask our education advisers any questions they may have about school suspensions and exclusions.

You might need more information or advice on:

How to take part in our Q&A

You must be a member of our Facebook Group for parent carers to take part in this Q&A session. Joining our group is easy: simply answer the 3 membership questions when prompted and one of our moderators will let you in.

At 10am on 7 March, Contact will publish a special Q&A post in the group where you can ask any questions in the comments. One of our education experts will reply to your comment with advice based on your situation.

The Q&A will be carried out entirely in writing – it will NOT include a video livestream.

Can’t make it on 7 March?

Don’t worry: after the session is finished, you will still be able to read through all the questions and answers shared during our Q&A at a time that suits you.

You can also take a look at our school exclusions webpage for more information on your child’s rights, the policies schools must follow, and how to challenge decisions.

If your child is facing exclusion and you need urgent support, you can also get in touch with our helpline team for expert advice.


Rare Disease Day banner 2024


Today, Thursday 29 February, is Rare Disease Day 2024, the globally-coordinated movement on rare diseases (conditions).

We support Rare Disease Day each year. The event is as an opportunity to raise awareness and generate change for the 300 million people worldwide living with a rare condition, their families and carers.

Our work supporting rare families

Throughout our history, we have worked with families with rare conditions, bringing them together, providing advice and support, and highlighting the unique issues they face.

Here’s a look at some of the things we’re up to at the moment.

Upcoming online workshops

We run a range of online workshops tailored to families with children who have rare conditions.

We have a number of upcoming sessions running from now until May, on topics such as understanding diagnosis, managing sleep, parent wellbeing and supporting siblings.

Browse and book your place now on Eventbrite.

Contact Scotland Rare Information drop-in day in Glasgow

Our team north of the border are holding a rare information drop-in day on Friday 8 March, 10am-3.30pm at The William Quarrier Scottish Epilepsy Centre, Glasgow G51 4QD.

Find out about rare condition support and information, updates on developments, and a wide range of services and grants available to you and your family – all in one place.

Come and meet Contact, plus local and national charities including Office for Rare Conditions Glasgow, Genetic Alliance UK, TSC Support Scotland, Rare Revolution, Family Fund and many more.

Rare advice and support

Visit our rare conditions page for information on getting support for your child and your family.

Our A-Z of Medical Conditions has information on hundreds on conditions, including information on symptoms and possible treatments. It also includes details for support groups, which can be an invaluable source of condition-specific information and support.

Rare Conditions Network toolkit for support groups

Thanks to funding from Pears Foundation, we created the Rare Condition Support Group Network.

Now, we have created resources to support the charities who are part of our Rare Group Network. Our Rare Conditions Network toolkit includes advice on managing volunteers, guidance on using social media, and our group action pack.

We’ve created a new animation for families caring with a child with hemiplegia to share with their child’s school and other people that work with them to help them understand the condition better.

Watch the animation now.

HemiHelp – the charity that supported families with children who have a condition called hemiplegia – became part of the Contact family in 2018.

Since then, Contact has continued to support families living with hemiplegia with vital information and resources.

Sign up to receive our free HemiHelp e-newsletter full of the latest information and news for families caring for a child with hemiplegia including our upcoming parent workshops and family events.

Our families describe Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – or Child Disability Payment in Scotland – as a “life-changing” benefit for disabled children. But claiming it can be tricky, and there are still a lot of myths and confusion about who is entitled.

As a result, many families in the UK are missing out on these vital benefits which are there to help meet the extra costs of being disabled.

So to help, we’re running a special Q&A session on Thursday 22 February at 10-11.30am in our closed (private) Facebook Group for parent carers.

If you’re new to DLA or Child Disability Payment, this is your chance to ask our helpline advisers any questions you might have — such as who is eligible, how to claim it, or how best to describe your child’s needs in the form.

How the Q&A will work

To take part in the Q&A, you must be a member of our Facebook Group for parent carers. Simply request to join, answer the three membership questions when prompted, and one of our moderators will let you in!

The session will be carried out in writing – it will not include a video livestream. This means you can stop by our Facebook Group at any point between 10-11:30am on Thursday to write a comment with your question under our special Q&A post, and then come back later to read our team’s reply.

Can’t make it on Thursday?

If you can’t attend the session, don’t worry! The Q&A post will remain available to read in our group after the session is over, so you’ll be able to flick through the questions and answers anytime.

We also have lots of information and advice about DLA and Child Disability Payment on our website to help you claim.

You can also take a look at our comprehensive DLA parent guide, check out our top tips and expert videos to help you complete the DLA form, or watch our introductory DLA videos to learn more about this important benefit.

If your child is awarded DLA, this could also lead to an increase in your other benefits and help you qualify for certain entitlements for the first time. Our website has more information on the extra financial support you could become eligible for as a result of getting DLA.

Parents in England eligible for 15 free childcare hours for their two-year-olds from 1 April 2024 are advised to apply before 28 February to ensure they get the offer in time.

The recommended application window runs from 15 January to 28 February 2024. You can apply outside of these recommended dates, but you might not receive your code in time. You must have a valid code by the end of the month before a new term starts.

Note: Disabled two-year-olds may already be eligible for or receiving 15 hours’ free childcare – see more below.

What is the new free childcare offer?

In March 2023, the government announced plans to expand the existing 30 hours’ free childcare offer for working families of three- and four-year-olds, for 38 weeks a year, to working parents of children aged between nine months and three years.

This will roll out in phases:

Who is eligible?

Eligibility will match the existing 30 hours offer for working families of three- and four-year-olds.

There are income-based requirements to meet, with exceptions around disability and caring responsibilities. We have information on our paying for childcare website.

How do I apply?

Apply for the scheme via the gov.uk website, where you’ll also find details of existing government schemes.

You can also find out more from Childcare Choices.

What if my family isn’t working?

Free childcare for all three- and four-year-olds

In England, all three and four-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of free early education/childcare for 38 weeks of the year, regardless of their parents’ work and income.

Free childcare for disabled two-year-olds and those in low-income households

Some two-year-olds in non-working households are also eligible for 15 hours’ free childcare. This includes any two-year-old receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or who has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.

A two-year-old also qualifies if their parents are in receipt of certain means-tested benefits, or not eligible for benefits due to their immigration status, but with limited income and savings.

I live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. What help is there for me?

We have information on the childcare schemes available for the devolved governments on our Paying for childcare page.


Contact would like to see an increase in the amount of money disabled households can get towards adapting their homes.

Currently families can claim up to £30,000 through the Disabled Facilities Grant if they are assessed as needing adaptations to their home, such as installing a stair lift or putting in a downstairs bathroom. This amount has been capped since 2008 and due to the increased cost of equipment and building work, it is now worth a lot less in real terms.  

Shortfall

Anna Bird, Chief Executive at Contact, said: “This is an area of huge frustration for families. We hear from many having to make up the shortfall through fundraising. Many are carrying on with inappropriate housing – carrying children up and down stairs, bathing children in paddling pools in their living room.

“Our research found that over a quarter of families with disabled children say that their home makes their child’s condition worse or puts them at risk. This can send families into crisis, and we know the costs of helping families at that point are much, much higher. Getting the right equipment and environment so families can look after their child at home, saves money in the long run.”

Longer-term solution needed

An external review commissioned by the government in 2018 recommended that the upper limit of the Disabled Facilities Grant should rise in line with inflation. The government did put an additional £100 million into the pot for Disabled Facilities Grants in 2023 for two years, but Contact believes a longer-term solution is needed.

One family, Contact is in touch with through our Decent Homes campaign, has been waiting two years for adaptations to give Finlay, aged 17, the independence he needs. Although the family has been assessed as needing adaptations, the council will only pay £40,000 towards the costs, which are £94,000.

He can’t access the kitchen

Mum, Alexa, said: “I work full-time as a teacher and we are maxed out on our mortgage, so we can’t meet the shortfall. The house doesn’t work for Finlay, he can’t get into the kitchen, he can’t get to the fridge. A local company gifted us a festival toilet which is a portakabin on the back of the house. We are really grateful but it’s not a long term solution, as it’s freezing in winter.”

The parliamentary group, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee, has recently launched a parliamentary inquiry looking at housing for disabled people.

The aim of the inquiry is to look at ways to ensure disabled people have access to accessible and adaptable housing in England.

The third installment of the government’s support package for low-income households goes out to most eligible recipients from this week.

Most people on Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits will receive a £299 payment between 6 February – 22 February. People on tax credits and no other low-income benefits will receive the payment between 16 February – 22 February.

This is the final installment of a £900 payment package the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt pledged to low-income households in his 2022 autumn statement.

Am I eligible for the payment?

Households on the following means-tested benefits will receive the £299 payment:

You will not get a payment if you get new-style ESA, contributory ESA or new-style JSA unless you also receive Universal Credit.

To get the payment, you must have been entitled (or later found to be entitled) to a payment of one of the means-tested benefits listed above during the period between 13 November 2023 and 12 December 2023.

How do I get the payment?

You don’t need to do anything. If you’re eligible, you’ll be paid automatically in the same way you usually get your benefit or tax credits.

This includes if the government finds you eligible at a later date. From 23 February, you’ll be able to report a missing payment.

Last week, our family finance advisers ran a special Facebook Q&A on claiming Universal Credit (UC) for a disabled young person in education – and it’s safe to say it was our busiest session yet.

More than 100 parent carers stopped by our Facebook Group to ask questions and get expert advice on how to help their disabled child claim UC in their own right while still in education.

Though most young people in education are prevented from being able to get Universal Credit, some are able to qualify despite these rules. But the rules are complex, so countless parents took part in our Q&A to get advice.

To help those who weren’t able to take part in the Q&A, we’ve rounded up the five top questions asked during the session — have a look below!

You can also visit our Facebook Group to read through the rest of the Q&A, or take a look at our online advice for more information about claiming Universal Credit for a disabled student.

1. My daughter is 17 and in full-time education. Can she claim Universal Credit now?

There are rules that prevent most young people from being able to get Universal Credit while they are still in education. This includes most students in full-time advanced education, and most young people in full-time non-advanced education who haven’t yet reached the September after their 19th birthday. So it is unlikely that your daughter will be able to get Universal Credit at this point. The only way that she could get UC now would be if she had already established a limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA) before she started receiving education in her current course. It is no longer possible to qualify as a disabled student by establishing a limited capability for work during your course.

However, even if there is little point in her trying to claim UC now, you should definitely help her to make a credits-only claim for new-style ESA as soon as possible. By making this claim, you will force the DWP to carry out a work capability assessment so that they can establish whether your daughter has a LCWRA. If she can establish a LCWRA now, this will rule her out of having any work-related conditions attached to her Universal Credit claim in the future.

Establishing a LCWRA now won’t help her get UC while she’s still on her current course. But it will help her to successfully claim UC later on if she either stops her current course and moves onto a new course, or if she decides to stay in non-advanced education beyond the August after her 19th birthday. It also means that once she is awarded Universal Credit, she will receive an additional payment (called the LCWRA element) from the start of her claim rather than having to wait three months for this extra amount to be added.

It currently takes an average of five months for a work capability assessment to take place, so it’s a good idea to get things started now by making a credits-only claim for new-style ESA as soon as you can.

2. My son is 16 and in non-advanced education, so I still get benefits for him. Should I wait until these payments stop before I help him claim UC in his own right?

If your son is in full-time non-advanced education and only aged 16, it is highly unlikely that he will be able to claim Universal Credit. It’s almost certain that he will be refused on the basis he is ‘receiving education’. The only exception to this will be if he has changed course since turning 16 and has already established a limited capability for work between turning 16 and starting any new course. In these very limited circumstances, a successful Universal Credit claim could be feasible.

However, even then it may not necessarily be a good idea, because if he gets Universal Credit in his own right this would bring to an end any payments you get for him as a dependent child – such as Child Benefit, child tax credit or child elements as part of a family Universal Credit claim. You would need individual advice about whether this would leave your household better or worse off.

Assuming he has not already established a limited capability for work, then what you should do at this stage is help him make a credits-only claim for new-style ESA. In fact, we recommend doing this as soon as possible after a child turns 16. Doing this will not affect any benefits you get for him as a dependant. This is because your son won’t actually qualify for new-style ESA itself (unless he has worked and paid sufficient national insurance contributions in the last two years), so the credits-only claim will not lead to any payments of ESA. Instead, making this claim will merely force the DWP to carry out a work capability assessment to decide if he has a limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA). Since he won’t qualify to get paid ESA, the credits-only claim won’t impact on the money you get for him as part of your claim as a family. Take a look at our online advice for detailed guidance on how to make a credits-only claim for new-style ESA.

If the DWP agrees that your son has a LCWRA after carrying out a work capability assessment as part of the credits-only claim, that decision will also be binding on Universal Credit. This means that if he decides to claim Universal Credit in his own right in the future, the DWP will not be allowed to attach any work-related conditions to his claim. This will make it more likely that he’ll be able to successfully claim Universal Credit as a student later on – for example, if he decides to stay in non-advanced education beyond the August after his 19th birthday, or if he moves from one education course to another.

3. My son has already established a limited capability for work, but he’s still in education. When can he apply for Universal Credit?

You can apply for Universal Credit for your son at any time from now if he starts a new course or has a break in his education. This is because he has already satisfied a work capability assessment before starting a new course. Disabled students who get DLA, PIP or their Scottish equivalents can claim Universal Credit in their own right as long as they have established a limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA) before starting their course.

Different rules apply once your son has passed the August following his 19th birthday. At that point, he could make a claim for UC regardless of whether he has started a new course or is continuing on the same course. This is because having a LCWRA will rule him out of having any work-related conditions attached to his UC claim, so his claim would not be considered incompatible with his course.

Whether he should make a claim now or after the August following his 19th birthday depends on what payments you currently receive for him (such as child benefit or child tax credits) and how much UC your son would get. For example, you could be better off as a household if you stayed on your current benefits for now and only claimed UC for your son once he is no longer a dependant in your own claim. You should get in touch with a local welfare rights advice service (such as your local Citizens Advice) or contact our helpline to get individual advice based on your family’s circumstances.

4. My daughter is 21 and studies full-time at an SEN college. Could she claim Universal Credit?

As your daughter has already passed the August after her 19th birthday, she could qualify for Universal Credit if she does not have capital or income over certain limits. The only way she can be refused is if the DWP staff member dealing with her claim decides that the education course she’s currently on is incompatible with any work-related conditions attached to her UC claim. In other words, the chances of her UC claim being successful will depend on the DWP staff member that deals with her claim and whether they are willing to use their discretion to switch off any work-related requirements (or to apply only minimal work-related requirements). If they are willing to use their discretion in this way, then she should get UC. This is because there should be no incompatibility between her course and her UC claim if it has no, or only minimal, work-related requirements. If they aren’t willing to use their discretion in this way and decide to apply significant work-related conditions to her claim, then there is a risk she will be refused Universal Credit as someone treated as “receiving education”. You can ask for a review of this decision.

However, there is something that you can do now that should guarantee that your daughter’s UC claim is accepted: that is to make a credits-only claim for new-style ESA. This is a way of forcing the DWP to carry out a work capability assessment and to make a decision about whether your daughter has a limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA). If she establishes that she has a LCWRA, this will guarantee that she should qualify for Universal Credit. This is because the DWP are not legally allowed to apply any work-related conditions to a UC claim made by someone with a limited capability for work.

My advice is to make a UC claim now and, at the same time, make a credits-only claim for new-style ESA. This way, even if her initial claim for UC is unsuccessful, she should be able to make a second successful claim for UC once she has established a LCWRA after undergoing a work capability assessment as part of her credits-only claim for new-style ESA. This second Universal Credit claim should definitely be successful. The difference with this second claim will be that as someone who has both passed the August after her 19th birthday and who has established a limited capability for work, your daughter will have a legal right to have no job-seeking conditions applied to her claim (rather than this being left to the discretion of DWP staff).

5. My sons credits-only claim for ESA was refused, but the letter didn’t say anything about his capability for work. What should I do?

It sounds like you have made a credits-only claim for new-style ESA and received a decision that your son is not entitled to ESA. Don’t be worried by this. A refusal is what you are expecting. Remember: you are NOT making a credits-only claim to actually get ESA, but simply to trigger a work capability assessment.

Now that the DWP has sent your son the decision refusing ESA, they should start the process of organising a work capability assessment for him. They should send you a work capability questionnaire to complete. If you still haven’t received a questionnaire within a couple of weeks, phone the number on your ESA letter. Ask them to confirm that they intend to organise a work capability assessment and how long this is likely to take. If they tell you that they won’t carry out an assessment, seek urgent advice.

Once you’ve completed and return the questionnaire along with any other supportive evidence you have, the DWP need to decide whether to make a decision about your son’s capability for work based solely on the paperwork. They may decide to ask for an interview over the phone/video call, or for your child to have a face-to-face consultation with a health professional. It can take several months – five months on average – for them to make a decision on your son’s capability for work. Eventually, they should contact you to confirm their decision in writing. If they accept that your child has a limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA), it will say this in the letter. This decision will also be binding on Universal Credit when your son eventually decides to claim UC at a later date.

Unfortunately, establishing a LCWRA now will not allow him to claim Universal Credit while he is still on his current course. But it will help him to get Universal Credit if he moves courses or if he remains in full-time non-advanced education beyond the August after his 19th birthday.

The parliamentary group, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee, have recently launched a parliamentary inquiry looking at housing for disabled people.

The aim of the inquiry is to look at ways to ensure disabled people have access to accessible and adaptable housing in England.

As part of the inquiry, the LUHC Committee has opened an online survey to gather disabled people’s views and experiences of finding or adapting suitable housing. The survey includes questions relating to:

The Committee will also be looking at how far the government can provide for disabled residents who do not live in new-build homes and whether the DFG system adequately supports housing adaptations.

The closing date for responses is Thursday 15 February.

Watch our excellent Facebook Live session with a leading paediatric respiratory specialist on protecting vulnerable children from winter illnesses. 

If you missed our excellent Facebook Live on protecting children from winter illnesses, you can still watch it watch it back on Facebook. 

The session with Dr Martin Samuels, a Great Ormond Street paediatric respiratory consultant, is ideal for parents of clinically vulnerable or disabled children who regularly get sick with respiratory infections during the winter months.  

From supplements and Covid to RSV and immunisation

In the 45-minute Q&A, Dr Samuels shares expert advice with parents on topics ranging from supplements to clearing mucus when a child finds it hard to cough and clear their lungs,  

He also answered questions on immunisations, Covid, prevention, and a new treatment for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) that may be available for children later this year.  

Dr Samuels said secondary infections were common in vulnerable children. “If a child is still getting high temperature over two weeks, there may be a superimposed infection on the original virus. Maybe a bacterial infection. It is common for vulnerable children with a virus to get a secondary bacterial infection that needs treating with antibiotics.”  

“I’ve seen a lot of RSV/bronchiolitis – a lot of nasty illnesses in 1-5s – this year. RSV fills out wards every year starting in August.” 

He said children’s wards could “look very different next winter” if the Department of Health introduces nirsevimab, a new treatment for RSV.  

Dr Samuel’s key messages for parents

Vitamins and supplement   

Childhood immunisations and vaccines  

Clearing mucus  

More information on winter illnesses

Visit our website to find out more about the signs of common winter viruses in babies and children and getting the flu vaccine for you child. 

The Civil Mediation Council and the College of Mediators in England is consulting parents and professionals on a new set of requirements that mediators must meet to become a SEND Accredited Mediator.

Mediation is a way of resolving problems with the help of an independent person. The mediator is trained to help each side express their views and reach an agreement.

If you want to appeal a local authority decision about your child’s EHC needs assessment or plan, most of the time you need to contact a mediation service first. While you don’t have to use the service, many parents do.

You might want to respond to this consultation if you have any thoughts to share from a mediation experience.

You can read the proposed standards and respond to the mediation standards consultation online.

Our education advice

You can find lots of information and advice around your child’s education on our webpages.

Families in England and Wales should have received letters confirming entitlement for the Warm Home Discount Scheme by early January.

Most families on lower incomes with higher energy costs are eligible for and automatically receive the payment as a £150 deduction from their fuel bill. Unfortunately, due to rule changes in December 2022, suppliers no longer have discretion to offer the discount to families who get disability benefits but no means-tested benefits.

You might receive a letter telling you to call a dedicated helpline to provide further evidence. This is so the government can decide whether or not you qualify.

You can find out more about the scheme on our webpage, Help with fuel bills. You’ll also find advice for families in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Top tips for reducing your bills this winter

If you saw Martin Lewis’ programme last night, you’ll know that the money saving expert dedicated the show to Bill Busting.

From exploring broadband, water and energy social tariffs to getting Council Tax discounts and help with rates in Northern Ireland, we have lots of advice on our website to keep the costs down this winter.

Visit our money and debt and benefits and tax credits pages to find out more.

Government support for cost of living

And finally, we have up-to-date information on the various government support schemes to help low-income, older and disabled households this year.

You can find all of this on our cost of living advice page.

There is still time to book your free place on one of our online workshops coming up this January designed for London parents caring for a child with autism. Simply click the workshop links below to find out more and book your place.

Moving from primary to secondary school, Tuesday 16 January, 10-12: Support for you to support your child during this sometimes tricky and significant change.

Understanding your child’s behaviour, Thursday 18 January, 7-9pm come along to this workshop to explore your child’s behaviour and ways you can support them.

Supporting children with disabilities in mainstream settings, Tuesday 23 January, 10-12

Anxiety, Thursday 23 January, 7-9pm: Learn more about the causes of anxiety and how it makes your autistic child feel alongside strategies to help you support your child when they are feeling anxious.

Find out more about workshops coming up this January and February alongside the other support we offer families caring for someone with autism in London and the Midlands. These workshops are part of the Autism Central, a programme that offers families and carers of autistic people high-quality and accessible autism information, education and support and is co-delivered by autistic people, families and carers.

Contact manages the London and Midlands regional hubs for the programme but there are workshops available across other regions too. Find out more about what’s on offer across England.

The rules that govern when a young disabled person in education can claim Universal Credit are extremely complex . That’s why advisers from our Family Finance Team are inviting you to ask any questions you have about this at a special Q&A session on Thursday 18th January between 10am – 11.30 am on our Facebook Group.

How to join our Facebook group

Joining our Facebook Group is easy. Just answer a few simple questions to register and you’re in!

Join us there on Thursday 18th January from 10am-11.30am when our team of Family Finance advisers will be waiting to answer your questions. Put the date in your diary!

The Universal Credit rules

The benefit rules prevent most young people in education from getting Universal Credit. However, some disabled students can qualify for Universal Credit. This includes young people who either:

Get advice before claiming Universal Credit

Even if your child falls into one of these groups and can claim Universal Credit it’s not always a good idea to do so. This is because they will stop being treated as a dependent child and as a result any Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit or other payments that you receive for them as dependent child will stop.

Making a ‘credits only’ claim for new style Employment and Support Allowance

Contact recommends that disabled teenagers undergo a work capability assessment when they turn 16 to try to establish that they have a limited capability for work early on. Doing this can increase their chances of being able to claim Universal Credit at a later date if they either change courses or stay in non-advanced education past the age of 19.

But here’s the catch: if you simply ask the DWP to carry out a work capability assessment, they are likely to refuse. The only way to make sure an assessment takes place is by making a ‘credits-only’ claim for new-style ESA. Your child won’t qualify for the ESA payment itself, but the DWP will have to carry out a work capability assessment as part of the claims process and this may help them to get Universal Credit at a later date.

Can’t make 18 January?

We have lots of information about claiming Universal Credit for a young person, on our website.

This Sunday 14 January is the deadline for families in England applying for primary school places.

This deadline applies to all children who do not have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. This group of children go through the normal admissions system even if they have a special educational need or disability.

You must still apply by Sunday even if you are thinking of requesting an EHC plan or are currently undergoing the EHC assessment process.

More information on school admissions

Visit our admissions and school choice webpage to find out:

Visit our webpage on finding the right school to understand:

What happens after I’ve made my application?

Once you’ve submitted your choices, the schools you’ve applied to will each decide whether they can offer your child a place.

The local authority will consider these offers against your preferences, along with everyone else’s. And on National Offer Day – 16 April for primary schools – you’ll get a single offer of a school.

Our school admissions page has information on:

This information will also be useful to parents who applied to secondary school places last October. The secondary school National Offer Day is on 1 March.

Though most cases of common winter virus RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) are mild, this highly contagious virus can pose a serious threat to vulnerable children who are young or have certain health conditions.

To help you understand the symptoms of RSV and other winter viruses like Strep A, the flu and Covid, we’re running a live Facebook Q&A session with Great Ormond Street Hospital paediatrician Dr Martin Samuels on Thursday 11 January between 11am and 12pm.

Simply confirm your attendance here.

Children and babies with certain health conditions can be more susceptible to common seasonal viral and bacterial infections and their body may struggle to fight off the illness. Dr Samuels, tell you more about how to protect your child from winter illnesses especially if they have complex medical needs or communication difficulties.

Join us at our Facebook Live session with Dr Samuels on 11 January.

Can’t make the 11 January?

We have lots of information about RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and Strep A – two of the most common and contagious causes of coughs and colds in winter.

We also have information on your getting the flu and Covid vaccines for your child.

From all of us here at Contact, we want to wish all our families a very Happy Christmas!

We hope you’re enjoying the holidays. But remember, if you’re looking for help while our helpline is closed until Tuesday 2 January 2024, you’ll find lots of advice and support on our website.

Our Chatbot Charlie can help guide you through our online information and advice so you find the support you need quickly and easily, whenever you need it – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Look out for Charlie at the bottom of our website on the right hand side.

Happy Christmas everyone!

The government has finally responded to the recommendations of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review following the abuse of children with complex health needs and disabilities at residential homes in Doncaster run by the Hesley Group between 2018 and 2021.

The Child Safeguarding Review found a culture of abuse and harm. Looking at the experiences of 108 children and young adults, it found “systematic and sustained” abuse and neglect over a period of more than three years, with the safety net that should have protected them proving ineffective. The review set out far-reaching recommendations for central and local government and other agencies, proposing wide-ranging changes to policy and practice to improve the safety, support, and outcomes for disabled children with complex health needs in residential care.

The Government response published this week sets out the steps that the Government are taking to address the failings identified by the review and its views on the recommendations made by the review panel.

Meagan Leggett, Interim Director of Family Support at Contact said:

“This is a sad reminder of the avoidable suffering of disabled children, so gut-wrenchingly awful. Inevitably the timing of the response prompts questions about attempting to bury it on the eve of Christmas.

Whilst the government has accepted ‘in principle’ all recommendations it is disappointing there are no timescales for change.  We will want to see what concrete progress being made early in 2024 especially around strengthening of advocacy for children in residential care”

Read the full response on gov.uk