Needs assessments are the process social services use to decide if extra help is required to meet your family's needs. Social services departments have teams for children with disabilities who deal with requests and carry out the assessments.
Note that where we refer to the local authority social services department, this also includes the Social Work Department in Scotland and the Health and Social Services Trust in Northern Ireland.
What to expect from an assessment
During the assessment a social worker will usually come to your
home to talk to you. They should ask you for information about your
child, for example sleeping patterns, eating habits and how your
child communicates, and whether you have any other children to look
after. The assessment should always be based on your needs and
those of your child, rather than what services are already
You can prepare for an assessment by making a list of questions before you meet. You are entitled to have a friend or advocate there with you.
For information about the process and timescales, or to request an assessment, contact your local authority. You can also ask your GP, health visitor, community nurse, paediatrician or a voluntary organisation to contact social services on your behalf.
Our helpline team has produced a template letter for you to use to request a needs assessment:
- Needs assessment request - template letter (England) [DOC]
- Needs assessment request - template letter (Scotland) [DOC]
After an assessment
If the local authority agrees that services should be provided, they should draw up a plan that sets out who is going to do what, where and when to help your child.
In England, if a child has an Education, Health and Care plan then the type of support, who will provide it, including use of direct payments, should be included.
The local authority 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.
All parent carers have a right to ask for an assessment of their needs at any time. The aim of a carer's assessment is to give you a chance to tell social services about the things that could make looking after your child easier for you. This may result in getting services to meet your own assessed needs.
Find out more about carers' assessments.
Refused an assessment?
If you've been refused a needs assessment - or you have any other complaint about a service - visit our page on the complaints process.
On that page, you can find a template letter for parents who have been told that their council will not assess their disabled child in relation to a specialist service. This is for the system in England and Wales only.
- Download our factsheet Carers' Assessments - help for parent carers in England [PDF].
- Read our parent guide Getting social care services when your child has additional needs - England [PDF].
- Wherever you live in the UK, you can call our freephone helpline (Monday-Friday, 9.30am-5pm) on 0808 808 3555, ask us a question by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or post a query on our Facebook page.