What is social care?
Some disabled children and their parents will need practical support both inside the home and outside it. Local authorities have a legal responsibility to help families with disabled children.
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.
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.
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, such as help with the personal care of your child, for example help getting in and out of bed
- Recreational equipment such as a TV, radio or computer
- Leisure facilities (this could mean outings or a day centre placement)
- Education facilities (this could mean home-based education or funding for the personal care requirements of students so they can study)
- Travel and other assistance, scuh as travel to and from a day centre
- Home adaptations and disabled facilities, such as handrails or hoists
- Holidays and short breaks
- 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.
- Read our parent guide Services and support from your local authority - 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.
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.