Our helpline

As well as our online advice and information, we run a free helpline for parents and carers who want to talk through their issues with one of our expert advisers.

If you're thinking of calling our helpline, please take the time to read the information on this page first so you get the most out of your call.

1. Who is our helpline for?

2. Who we can't help

3. How our helpline can help you

4. What our helpline cannot do

5. Getting prepared for your helpline call

6. Facebook, Twitter and email queries

7. Confidentiality and data protection

8. Getting in touch with our helpline

9. How are helpline is accredited

10. How we improve our helpline


Who is our helpline for?

Our helpline is for parents and carers in any part of the UK with a disabled child aged from birth to 25. 

Your child can have any kind of disability or additional need, and you do not need to have a diagnosis.


Who we can't help

As we are a charity for families with disabled children, unfortunately our helpline doesn't have the resources to help everyone. We're unable to support:

  • Adults caring for adults over 25.
  • Young carers caring for people over 25.
  • Disabled adults.
  • Adults looking for information and advice on medical conditions and diagnosis - unless it is relevant to a child.
  • Parents of disabled children or young people living outside the UK - unless they are planning to return to or are relocating to the UK.

In the above situations we will signpost to alternative national helplines or websites where possible.


How our helpline can help you

We understand that life with a disabled child often brings unique challenges. Our helpline advisers can help you feel more confident and informed about tackling them.

We can give you advice, information and support about any concern or question you might have, including:


Getting a diagnosis and medical information

We can talk through how to get a diagnosis for your child. We also have reliable and trusted information on hundreds of conditions, including rare conditions. If you'd like us to, we'll put you in touch with national  and local condition support groups and introduce you to our online community, where you can chat with families across the UK affected by the same condition.


Services your family might be entitled to

We'll help you to understand how to ask the local authority for practical help and support for your family. This includes making requests for needs assessments and accessing short breaks.


Benefits and sources of financial help

We will help to find out what benefits you might be entitled to and identify other potential sources of financial help. Our parent advisers can provide initial advice on your benefit entitlement. They will assess your situation and may offer you a telephone call back appointment with our specialist welfare rights team.

A call back appointment might be offered for a benefits calculation, advice on challenging a decision, or dealing with a change in your family, including:

  • Where your child is going into hospital long term or residential accommodation.
  • The effect on entitlements after separation from a spouse or partner or a partner joining the household.
  • Overpayments or underpayments of tax credits or benefit payments.
  • Benefit checks, due to a change in circumstance of the family e.g. increase or decrease in working hours.
  • Families with a child aged 16-19 who could claim benefits in their own right.

 
Support in the early years

We have access to a range of resources that can help, including information on behaviour, sleep and toileting. We can also help you to understand about your rights to free childcare and how to find childcare places in your area.


Special educational needs

Our advisers can explain how special educational needs (SEN) are identified and assessed in England, and what to do if you're not happy about the support your child is getting. If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, we may provide information and signpost you to alternative sources of advice in those nations where appropriate.

Our education advisers can help:

  • If your child is struggling at nursery, school or college and you are not sure how to get the help and support your child needs.
  • If you need help about transport to  school or college.
  • If your child has health needs that affect their education or attendance at school.
  • If your child with SEND has other difficulties in education, including exclusion, bullying or discrimination.
  • We can also put you in touch with local sources of help and advice.


What our helpline cannot do

As a national UK-wide service, the helpline cannot help with the following:

  • Providing legal advice.
  • Providing medical advice about treatments or second opinions.
  • Casework or representation at meetings and tribunals.
  • Filling in forms, checking paperwork or writing letters on your behalf.
  • Attending meetings at the school or with the local authority.
  • Providing funds or grants for items or holidays.


Getting prepared for your helpline call

Demand for our helpline is high, so you may have to wait to speak to a parent adviser.

The busiest times of the day tend to be between 10am and 11.30am, lunchtime between 1pm and 2pm and between 4pm and 5pm.

It's helpful to prepare for your call:

  • Try to organise a quiet place where you can talk if possible.
  • Have a pen and paper to hand and any documents you wish to discuss.
  • As your call may take up to 30 minutes, please set aside some time.

During the call you will share and we will ask you for personal information about you and your child. You can find out more about how we use the information we collect in our privacy policy

As a result of your call, we may book you a call back appointment with one of our welfare rights advisers, or provide you with some follow up advice and information by email or post with your consent. 

Your call is confidential - see our confidentiality procedure below.


Facebook, Twitter and email queries

If you're contacting us through Facebook, Twitter or email, where possible please provide information such as the age of your child and the area you live in. This will help us to advise you better.

If your enquiry is particularly urgent, we recommend that you call our helpline.

If you email the helpline for the first time or contact us on Facebook or Twitter with just your phone number, we cannot call you back. Please keep trying to call our free helpline or contact us directly on Facebook or Twitter, including details of your enquiry.

 

Confidentiality and data protection

Our helpline is confidential. This means we will not share your personal details with anyone outside of Contact without your permission.

There are a few exceptional situations where we may have to breach confidentiality and pass on your details without your consent.

Situations where we might need to break confidentiality:

  • A child is at risk of harm.
  • A vulnerable adult is at risk of harm.
  • A terrorist threat has been made.
  • We have been ordered to share information with the courts.
  • A person poses a serious risk to others.
  • A person is threatening or abusing staff or preventing the helpline service from being delivered to others.

If a decision is made to break confidentiality, we will make reasonable effort to keep your informed of what we intend to do.

We are committed to protecting your privacy. Whenever you share personal data with us we aim to be clear with you, and not to do anything with your data that you wouldn't reasonably expect us to do.

We will never sell your personal data to other organisations and will only ever share it in appropriate, legal or exceptional circumstances. View our privacy policy.


Getting in touch with our helpline

  • Freephone: 0808 808 3555
    9.30am-5pm, Monday-Friday, free from UK landlines and UK mobiles.
    Press 1, to speak to an education adviser, press 2 for all other helpline enquires.
    Access to interpreters from Language Line Solutions.
  • Facebook: facebook.com/contactfamilies
    (Response within two working days)
  • Twitter: @contactfamilies
    (Response within two working days)
  • Email: helpline@contact.org.uk
    (Response within 10 working days)


How our helpline is accredited

Helplines Partnership

We are a member of the Helplines Partnership, and our helpline is accredited to their quality standard. Visit the Helplines Partnership website to find out more.


How we improve our helpline

Twice a year we conduct a survey on our helpline and online services, including our website and social media pages.

In our survey of March 2018:

  • 100% of helpline users said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the service.
  • 99% of website users said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the service.

Find out how to make a compliment or complaint about any of our services.