Families with a disabled child may require additional support from social care services.
Our Disabled Children’s Service (DCS) offers support as well as advice and practical help. The type of support families could receive depends on the individual needs of your child and family.
We identify needs through an assessment. This just means that we talk to you to gather information about your child and family to make sure you get the right help, at the right time and in the right place.
The support available
There are four levels of support available for disabled children and their families. They are:
- universal services that all families can access
- early help
- targeted support from our DCS (including short breaks)
- specialist support from our DCS (Social Work Team support)
Universal services are those services that anyone can use. They are open to everyone across Devon, regardless of whether they are disabled or not.
Most families will get the support they need by accessing universal services. Any professional who knows your family, for example, a health visitor, teacher, school nurse, or GP can help you explore the universal services available in your local area.
You can also search online:
- Pinpoint Devon – an online directory of care and support services in Devon.
- Devon County Council’s Education and Families website – information for all parents and carers in Devon, including those who have a child with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
- DIAS – Devon Information Advice and Support offer free, confidential and impartial information about special educational needs and disabilities.
These services can help families where your child:
- has additional care needs that are being met by you and your family
- requires support to broaden their experiences or prevent a build-up of stress in your family or both
- has a sensory impairment or learning disability that does not impact significantly on their care need
- has emotional or behavioural difficulties or both which are not linked to a chronic and enduring disability
Examples of universal services include:
- primary care services (including GPs)
- health visitors
- school nurses
- dental practices
- early years settings
- voluntary sector services
- faith groups
- library and information services
- further education
- benefits agencies
You can also find more information about specific universal services available in early years.
In addition to universal services and early help, targeted support is available for children and families that have been assessed as having eligible support needs.
Targeted support (including short breaks) may be appropriate where your disabled child:
- requires intensive help and support to meet their needs – the majority of children with complex needs will already have been receiving support through the Single Assessment Framework and early help process
- has a clinical diagnosis with complex needs
- requires night-time supervision
- has an autistic spectrum condition with severe learning disabilities or behaviour which is very challenging or behaviour associated with other impairments, for example, global development delay or health condition
- displays behaviour that is challenging to manage and/or self-harm linked to a chronic and enduring disability
- has complex health conditions which are likely to be life-limiting
- has sensory impairments
- requires the provision of targeted support in order for you, as parents/carers to meet their additional needs
When we look at what support your child needs through the assessment, we also consider the needs of the rest of your family. For targeted support these needs might include:
- sibling needs – your disabled child’s needs are impacting on their siblings’ opportunities to some extent
- parent/carer needs – your disabled child’s needs are impacting your wellbeing and personal life to some extent
- parenting – you are able to meet your child’s needs but may benefit from specific and time-limited advice, information or support
If your assessment shows your child is eligible for targeted support, your child’s social worker or community care worker will work with you to put together a support plan. They will discuss what you think would make the most difference to your child and family and how best to access that support.
This level of support can include short breaks, which give disabled children and young people an opportunity to enjoy different experiences, meet new people through social and leisure activities to help them form friendships, feel part of the community and build skills in preparation for adulthood while giving their families a break from their caring responsibilities. Find out more about short breaks.
Short breaks may be appropriate if your disabled child:
- needs help to regularly access services to support their health and development and/or alleviate stress in the family which may lead to needing targeted or specialist support
- needs extra help to participate in community activities to aid their social and emotional development
In addition to short breaks, your child’s plan could also involve some signposting or referring to relevant support services for your family. This may include:
- SEND support
- Devon Early Years Complex Needs Service
- childminding (including special needs childminders)
- therapeutic physiotherapy
- occupational therapy
- ROVIC service
- speech and language input and associated aids
- community nursing
- voluntary sector provision as part of care package
- early help
- signposting to charity support
- Parent Carer Forum Devon
In addition to universal services, early help and targeted support (including short breaks), specialist support is available for those children and families that have been assessed as eligible.
Children and young people who require specialist support will have an allocated social worker who will coordinate a multi-agency support plan.
Specialist support may be needed where your disabled child:
- has very complex needs which means they require intensive support and supervision to stay safe, they require prolonged frequent night-time attention and can’t be cared for easily at home without the support of additional services
- has an autism spectrum condition and their behaviour regularly means they harm themselves or others, which means they could be at risk of requiring physical intervention
- requires services to prevent further risk of significant impairment that would affect their growth, development, physical or emotional health and well-being or to prevent/postpone the need for them to go into care
Specialist support will be required where a child or young person has experienced serious forms of abuse and/or neglect or is likely to experience serious forms of abuse or neglect or both without support, which means they need protecting.
When we look at what support your child needs, we also consider the needs of the rest of the family. For specialist support these needs might include:
- sibling needs – where balancing the essential needs of all children in your household is difficult, resulting in likely significant impairment of your disabled child’s siblings health and/or development
- parent/carer needs – caring for your disabled child or young person is having a significant detrimental impact on your wellbeing and personal life
- parenting – you have your own additional areas of need for support which is significantly impacting upon your ability to meet your child’s needs; there is a risk of family breakdown if specialist support is not provided and/or you are struggling to meet your child’s essential care or medical needs and stimulation, despite support provided, leading to high risk of your child coming into care
Families assessed as needing specialist support are likely to have a child or young person who has complex needs and will require ongoing support through to their 18th birthday and beyond.
If your assessment shows your child needs specialist support your child’s social worker will work with you to put together a support plan, also known as a ‘Child in Need’ plan. They will discuss what you think would make the most difference to your child and family and how best to access that support.
Examples of services include:
- complex health care services
- specialist sensory therapy – see more on sensory impairment support
- specialist educational provision
- targeted outreach
- family support
- intensive behaviour support
- short breaks
- assessment for specialist equipment and/or adaptations
- occupational therapy access to specialist equipment and adaptations
- domiciliary care (in the home)
- Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), emotional well-being and other health services
- planned overnight short breaks
- specialist therapeutic residential placements
- foster care
Eligibility for assessment
In Devon, a disabled child or young person is eligible for an assessment if:
- they are aged 0 – 18 years
- they live in Devon
and their daily life is substantially affected by (one or more of the following):
- a hearing impairment
- a visual impairment
- a learning disability
- a physical disability
- a chronic or life-limiting physical illness
- a significant communication disorder (including autism, which substantially and adversely affects their ability to take part in normal day-to-day activities)
Parents, carers or any professional involved with the family, as well as the disabled young person themselves (providing they are over 16 years of age), can ask for an assessment if they feel that the above criteria apply.
If you do have an assessment it might show that you don’t need support from our DCS and by working together we may identify that your child’s support needs can be met by universal services or early help through coordinated family and community networks.
If this is the case, we will aim to provide advice and guidance to signpost you to the most appropriate services.
Request an assessment
Children being referred into the DCS should generally already have an established Early Help Assessment and Plan. If the child’s needs can’t be met at this level then it would be appropriate to consider a referral to the DCS.
If you think your child is eligible for an assessment, you or a professional who knows your child (such as a teacher or someone at your child’s nursery, a health visitor, your GP or a support worker) can contact our Pre-referral and Assessment Consultation (PAC) Line on 01392 385276 (option 1) to discuss.
Following this conversation, and to make a referral, you or a professional who knows your child well should complete the Request for Services form and return it either:
- by email to TSDFT.DevonSPA@nhs.net
- or by post to:
Children and Family Health Devon
Single Point of Access Team
1a Capital Court
Sowton Industrial Estate
If you need help completing the form or would like to discuss anything, please telephone the Single Point of Access (SPA) Team on 0330 0245 321 (8.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday).
Once your referral form is received, the SPA Team will talk to other professionals who know your child to gather information to support your referral. This process should take no more than 48 hours.
A qualified social work manager will review the information provided on the form to understand the needs that your child and family have. They will decide whether an assessment by our Disabled Children’s Service is required or will signpost you to other available services.
Short Breaks referrals
Thinking about making a referral for Short Breaks? Please contact our Pre-referral and Assessment Consultation (PAC) Line on 01392 385276 and select option 1.
We support parents, carers and any professional involved with the family as well as the disabled young person themselves (providing they are over 16 years of age). You can ask for a pre-referral and assessment conversation, discuss the outcome of an assessment, or talk with us about options and what is accessible in your community.
The assessment process
If your child meets the eligibility criteria for an assessment, this will be completed by a social worker or community care worker depending on our initial screening decision.
During the assessment, we will contact you, (as parent carers) other professionals and, wherever possible and appropriate, your child to gather as much information as possible to help us understand your child’s needs and whether our Disabled Children’s Service is able to support them.
When we look at what support your child needs as a part of the assessment, we also consider the impact on the rest of the family. An assessment is broken down into three parts:
- Strengths and needs of your disabled child or young person.
- Your strengths and needs as their parent or carer(s).
- Strengths and needs of your wider family, including your disabled child or young person’s siblings.
Your child’s allocated worker will use the information gathered during your assessment to determine the most appropriate services to support your family.
There are three possible outcomes following the assessment:
- You and your child’s needs can be met by universal services or early help and you are not eligible for support from our DCS.
- You and your child are eligible for targeted support (including short breaks) from our DCS alongside universal services or early help.
- You and your child are eligible for specialist support from our DCS.