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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). 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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Child in need

A child in need is a child who is thought to need extra support or services to help them to achieve or maintain ‘a reasonable standard of health or development’. All disabled children are classed as children in need.

Children’s services should carry out a child in need assessment to:

  • Work out whether a child is in need
  • Decide whether the child is in need enough to get services in that local area, and
  • Find out what extra support and services may most help the child and their family.

Child in need assessments

These questions explain more about child in need assessments. They aim to help families understand what an assessment involves. And how to request one. They also look at whether parents can refuse an assessment.

After a child in need assessment is completed

The FAQs in this section look at what may happen after a child in need assessment is complete.

Child in need plans and extra support

If a child is a child in need and help and support is going to be provided a child in need plan should be drawn up. These next FAQs provide more information and advice about these plans. And what help and services might be provided.

Children thought to be at risk of harm

If children’s services suspect a child is suffering significant harm or is likely to suffer significant harm, then they must investigate. This is called making child protection enquiries. When children’s services make child protection enquiries they aim to:

  • Gather information about the child and their family
  • Assess the family’s situation
  • Decide whether they think the child is suffering ‘significant harm’
  • Decide whether they think the child is likely to suffer ‘significant harm’
  • Decide whether they should take any action to keep the child safe and promote their welfare.

See our Child protection page for more information and advice about the child protection process.

Young carers - taking on caring roles

A young carer is a young person under the age of 18 years who:

  • Provides care to another person, or
  • Intends to provide care for another person, and
  • Is not providing that care as part of their paid employment or formal ‘voluntary work’.

This definition of a young carer comes from section 17ZA of the Children Act 1989.

The four FAQs below provide more information about young carers. And about the duties of children’s services have to help and support them.

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