What is social care?

4 mins read

This advice applies across the UK.

Some disabled children and their families will need practical support both inside the home and outside it. Local authorities and trusts have a legal responsibility to provide this extra help.

In this article

What is social care?

Social care is a term that generally describes all forms of personal care and other practical assistance for children, young people and adults who need extra support.

Who provides social care?

In England and Wales, local authorities have a duty to provide certain services to disabled children.

Health and Social Care Trusts provide social care services in Northern Ireland, .

In Scotland, local authorities provide social care services. Health and social care services function together in a single, integrated system in Scotland, which means that local authorities will partner with local NHS services in “local integration authorities” to ensure services are joined up.

What services can I expect for my child and family?

Local authorities have a duty to provide certain services to disabled children. The kind of services they may offer include:

The local authority/trust may provide other services, such as advice and guidance, laundry services and financial help in exceptional circumstances.

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

Find your local authority in England, Scotland and Wales at www.gov.uk/find-local-council. Find contact details for your local Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/contacts/health-and-social-care-trusts

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).

How do I get social care services?

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

The main route involves undergoing an assessment of your child and family’s needs.

You might also be eligible for services to help you as a carer. To work out what your needs are, the local authority will carry out a carer’s assessment.

Paying for services

Although local authorities in England don’t usually charge for services they provide to children, it’s important to know that they can under the Children Act 1989 and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act.

Local authorities/trusts in Northern Ireland and Scotland also have powers to charge under similar legislation. In Wales, although the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 says that local authorities can charge a carer for services they provide to disabled children, the code of practice and regulations preclude this.

If it does charge, each local authority/trust will have its own charging policy, and it is usually your income and savings as a parent that would be taken into account. Your child’s Disability Living Allowance (DLA) shouldn’t be taken into account, and you should not be asked to pay more than you can afford. 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.

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

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.