Introduction to social care services

Every local authority must protect and promote the welfare of children in need in its area. You have the right to ask for support and have your child's and family's needs, as well as your own needs as a carer, assessed by social services.

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 services can I get?

Local authorities have a duty to provide certain services to disabled children. The kind of services that may be offered include:

  • Practical assistance in the home.
  • Provision of, or support in acquiring, a radio or television.
  • Support to access a library or similar recreational facilities.
  • Recreational facilities outside the home and help to use educational facilities.
  • Travel and other assistance.
  • Home adaptations and facilities.
  • Holidays and short breaks.
  • Meals.
  • Telephone and other related equipment.

Other services may be provided by the local authority, such as advice and guidance, laundry services and financial help in exceptional circumstances.

How do I get a service?

If you think you or your child needs any of these services, then you should contact your local authority.

The main route involves undergoing an assessment of your child and family's needs by children's services.

Finding out about services

You can find out about services by speaking to your local authority.

Families in England can find out about services on your local authority's website as part of their 'local offer' (which you can search for).

Our SENDirect service is a website where families of children with disabilities or special educational needs can search for and compare accessible support, activities and services.

Paying for services

Local authorities do have the power to charge for services they provide under the Children Act 1989 and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. Local authorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland also have powers to charge under similar legislation.

Each local authority will have its own charging policy and it is usually your income and savings as a parent that are taken into account. Your child's Disability Living Allowance shouldn't be taken into account, and you should not be asked to pay more than you can afford.

When a child reaches 16 years of age, it is their own ability to pay that is taken into account, not yours.

If you get Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit (paid at a rate above the family element) or Income Support or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, you should not be charged for Children Act services. You should also not be charged for advice, information and counselling services, regardless of your financial situation.

The same charging rules apply to services for carers of disabled children.

Making a complaint about services

Parents and carers can make a complaint if their council has refused to assess their child of if there are problems with the services they are receiving. Find out more about making a complaint about services.

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