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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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What should children’s services provide as part of the council’s local offer for disabled children and children with special education needs?

Children’s services have a duty under the Children Act 1989 (see schedule 2, paragraph 6) to make provision for disabled children in their local area. And this duty includes providing local services to:

  • Minimise the effect on disabled children of their disabilities
  • Give disabled children the opportunity to lead lives which are as normal as possible
  • Support someone who is caring for disabled child by giving them breaks from caring.

The support they can provide should be explained in the local offer that councils have to publish. It is The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 that say the published local offer should include:

A local threshold document should explain the measures used in the local area to decide what help children can receive. The threshold document (or the measures in it) may be called eligibility criteria in some local areas. And it is the local threshold document that helps social workers decide if a child is likely to get any help or services. Slightly different measures or ‘thresholds’ apply in different parts of England.

See our Child in need page for more detailed information about local threshold documents.

Some children’s services departments have separate social work teams for disabled children and children with special educational needs. But for many families first contact with be with a multi-agency safeguarding hub or a duty social work team. From that first contact, children’s services can link a child and family in with the correct team, depending on the situation.

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