Social care assessments for disabled children and parents: Your Top 5 questions

6 mins read

Wednesday 26 October 2022

Tags: carer's assessments, social care, facebook q&a

Our helpline advisers ran a busy Q&A session in our Facebook group last week for families who were new to the social care assessment process in England.

They answered nearly 30 questions from parent carers about both Carer’s Assessments and Needs Assessments, all of which are available to read in our private Facebook group for parent carers.

Below are 5 of the most popular questions asked during the Q&A – but you can also visit our social care webpages or read our Services & Support guide for more detailed advice and downloadable template letters to help you request a social care assessment for yourself or your child.

1. Our local authority said they don’t offer Carer’s Assessments. Is this allowed?

All parent carers and young carers in the UK have strengthened legal rights to request a Carer’s Assessment under the Children and Families Act 2014.  Additionally, the assessment should be carried out if it appears to the authority that the parent carer may have needs for support. Take a look at our Carer’s Assessment factsheet for more information on what the law says.

Unfortunately, it is quite common for families to hear statements like: “We don’t do carer’s assessments in this local authority.” But these statements are unlawful, and you should have good grounds for a complaint. We have advice about how to make a complaint on our website and from page 39 of our Services & Support guide.

Some local authorities also tell parents that there’s no need for a separate assessment, as their child’s assessment already took their needs as a carer into account. Whilst the needs assessment for a disabled child should be ‘holistic’ by taking into account the needs of carers and other family members, you still have the legal right to a separate Carer’s Assessment which focuses specifically on you. The assessment should consider the impact caring has on your wellbeing and other aspects of your life, such as work and relationships.         

2. My autistic daughter was refused an assessment because she doesn’t have learning difficulties. I complained, but nothing happened. Are they within their rights?

If your child is disabled and in need of services, you can’t legally be refused an assessment. Social service departments have a general duty under Section 17 (10) of the Children Act 1989 to safeguard and promote the interests of ‘children in need,’ and to promote their upbringing by their families. The law recognises disabled children as being in need. See page 7 of our Services & Support guide for information on how the law defines who is a disabled child.

Unfortunately, we have heard before about local authorities who say they will not assess the needs of a child with a specific condition. This is incorrect. In fact, you don’t even need to have a diagnosis for your child to get an assessment or help from social services.

You mentioned that you have already made a complaint. Make sure that you have gone through all stages of the local authority’s own complaints process, which outline in detail on page 39 of our Services & Support guide. Once a complaint has been through the local authority’s review panel, if you are not happy with the panel’s decision then there are various other options – such as taking the issue up with your MP or complaining to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

3. My son’s needs were assessed based on a safeguarding toolkit. I believe his disabilities were downplayed. What can I do about an insufficient assessment?

The starting point of an assessment should always be your child’s needs, regardless of whether services exist to meet them. The Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance emphasises the importance of the assessment being both child-centred and family-centred. The approach should consider the needs of the whole family and those of the wider community. So, as well as your child’s disability and health needs, social services should also consider other aspects of your child’s life, such as education and religious or cultural needs. On page 17 of our Services & Support guide, we explain the ‘Assessment Framework’ that all local authorities must follow during an assessment. This is a detailed framework which is included in the government’s statutory guidance.

If you believe the assessment was insufficient or disagree with how eligibility and assessment criteria were applied, you can complain to the children’s social services team. For advice on the complaints process, take a look at page 39 of our Services & Support guide or visit our webpage on making a complaint.

4. Is it true that a Carer’s Assessment might not lead to support? If so, how can I make the most of it?

While local authorities must legally carry out a Carer’s Assessment if a parent carer in the UK requests one, it unfortunately may not always result in increased levels of support. However, it is a chance to tell social services what could make looking after your child easier for you. Though it may not always result in extra help, without this assessment a carer would not have an opportunity to explain what would make supporting their disabled child a more positive experience for them and their wellbeing.

To prepare for the assessment, we suggest thinking about how you are coping with caring and about how your caring role affects your day-to-day life. For example, your child might not sleep well at night and you may be finding it difficult to cope with this. Think about how your caring role affects your wellbeing, mental and physical health, relationships, employment, education, leisure or interests. During the assessment, give as much detail as you can about these things to help ensure your family gets the support you need. We have more information in our Carer’s Assessments factsheet and from page 20 of our Services & Support guide.

After social services have carried out an assessment, they may decide there is no need for services, which could result in your case being closed with no further action taken. If you disagree with this decision, you can challenge it using the local authority’s complaints procedure.

5. How much detail should be included in a Needs Assessment?

The needs assessment must paint an accurate and detailed picture of your child’s and your family’s needs. Take a look at government guidance which sets out (from page 27) what constitutes a good assessment and what social workers must take into consideration.

If you’re not happy about some of the information in the assessment, or about any information that has been omitted from the assessment, you can give feedback to children’s services about this. You can ask that the assessment be edited or request that any information you think is relevant should be included. You can also make a formal complaint about any aspect of the assessment.