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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Personal budgets

A personal budget is a sum of money provided to meet needs set out in a child’s education, health and care plan. The budget is worked out by the local authority. It allows the child, young person and their family to make choices about how the money is spent. The parents of any child with an education, health and care plan can ask for a personal budget. A young person can ask in their own right once they reach age 16. Receiving a personal budget is optional. Parents do not have to have a personal budget if they do not want one.

A personal budget can be used to buy certain social care, education and health services. The need for them must be set out in the education health and care plan. What can be provided through a personal budget will vary between local authorities. For example in relation to health services. The NHS should work with the local authority to agree which services lend themselves to personal budgets. For health services, this will normally be through a personal health budget.

There are three different methods for delivering a personal budget:

  • Direct payments. The money is given to the parents so they can buy the service themselves. Or the money may be given directly to the young person themselves.
  • Third-party arrangements. Parents or the young person can choose someone else to manage the personal budget on their behalf. This can be an individual or an organisation. Some charities offer a personal budget management service, for example.
  • A ‘notional’ arrangement. The local authority or school holds the money on behalf of the parents (or young person). They commissions services, as instructed by the parents (or young person).

Personal budgets may also be delivered through a combination of these three methods.

Local authorities must provide information about personal budgets in their Local Offer for special educational needs and disabilities.

This should include:

  • A local policy on personal budgets. The local policy should be drawn up in partnership with families. It should set out which education, health and social care services are available through personal budgets.
  • The methods that will be used to make funding available to families.
  • What the eligibility criteria are.
  • How decisions will be made.
  • Local organisations that can advise families on how to apply for and manage a personal budget.

For more information see:

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