How to access services

3 mins read

You have a right to have your child and family’s needs assessed by social services. The process social services use to decide if extra help is required to meet your family’s needs is called a needs assessment.

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.

Read this page to find out about asking for an assessment, or find out about:

What to expect at an assessment

Your needs as a carer

Personal budgets and direct payments

In this article

How do I ask for an assessment?

Although you can ask for an assessment verbally, it is best to ask for an assessment in writing. You can do this yourself, or a professional who is helping you can do it for you.

Social services departments have teams for children with disabilities who deal with requests and carry out the assessments.

If you’re not sure with local authority you come under, type your postcode into the search bar at

Our helpline team has produced a template letter for you to use to request a needs assessment:

Getting information about the assessment

The local authority should provide information about the process and timescales. You should also be told how the assessment will be carried out and be given information about what services are available – not just those that are provided by social services departments (for example, a local play scheme).

What if an assessment has been carried out in the past

When services are already being provided, the assessment should be reviewed regularly. But if your circumstances have changed, you can ask for a re-assessment or review in the same way you ask for an assessment.

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.

What will happen at the assessment?

Find out what to expect from a needs assessment.

Your needs as a carer

All parent carers have a right to ask for an assessment of their needs at any time. This is called a carer’s assessment, and it’s aim 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.

Did you find this advice useful?

This information was written by our invaluable helpline team. Although all our information is free to access, we depend on donations to keep our charity going. If you can, please donate to our Lifeline Appeal to help us continue to fund our helpline team.