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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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Is there specific help that may be available to a disabled child and their family?

Yes. These are:

  • Direct payments
  • Personal budgets
  • Short breaks
  • Planning for adulthood.

Direct payments

Personal budgets and direct payments are available to disabled children or adults or their carers.

Click on the drop downs below to find out more

What are direct payments?

Direct financial payments (or vouchers) can be made by children’s services to the parent/carer of a disabled child to enable them to buy services directly themselves.

If children’s services:

  • Assess that a child as being in need, and
  • Agreed to provide support

then there is a right for the child and family to ask for direct payments.

The money or vouchers can be used to buy the services the child has been assessed to need.  This is instead of children’s services providing the support directly. In most cases children’s services should agree to give you direct payments.

Young disabled people aged 16 and 17 are also eligible to receive direct payments to buy in their own care support. Their carers can also be assessed for support which can be provided in the form of direct payment hours.

It is important that families have specialist advice about whether direct payments should be made to meet their child’s needs. See the Disabilities (including learning disabilities) section of our Useful Links page for some relevant organisations.

What is a personal budget?

A personal budget is an amount of money that is available to meet the services a disabled person is assessed as needing. There are different ways that a personal budget can be delivered. Direct payments are one way.

The following is important information about personal budgets and disabled children:

  • Local council’s should include information about their policy on personal budgets in their local offer.
  • Personal budgets are used by some local council’s to provide services to meet the needs of disabled children. There is nothing to prevent this. But the law does not require this, and
  • There is no right to a personal budget for a child under the age of 18
  • Personal budgets don’t alter the right of a disabled child to some form of assessment of their needs
  • The law does say that young people and parents of children who have EHC plans have the right to request a personal budget (see section 49(1) Children and Families Act 2014; and SEND Code of Practice at para 3.38)). Some children with EHC plans will be disabled children.

It is important that families have specialist advice about personal budget and direct payments – see Disabilities (including learning disabilities) section of our Useful Links page for details of relevant organisations. Education and special educational needs section on our Useful Links page.

What are short breaks for disabled children?

Short breaks are a range of services to support disabled children and their families. All children’s services departments must have short break services available in their local area.

There must be a choice of types of short break services available. And children’s services must set out how they decide who can have short breaks. This information must all be published in a Short Breaks Statement (Paragraph 5 of The Breaks for Carers of Disabled Children Regulations 2011).

Government guidance makes clear that children won’t normally need to be in a voluntary arrangement under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 to have short breaks. But a child can be provided with short breaks under section 20 if this is assessed to be right to meet their needs.

See our Children in care under voluntary arrangements page for more information.

What should happen when a disabled child is approaching adulthood?

Adult social care services should work with children’s services to ensure that there is a joined-up approach. This includes working together when carrying out assessments.

If a child is approaching 18 years old, their parent or carer may be entitled to an assessment of their needs as a carer under the Care Act 2014.

For further information about adult carer assessments see:

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