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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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Will children’s services agree a child with ADHD or autism is a disabled child and prove support?

The Children Act 1989 definition of a disabled child includes those who suffer from a mental disorder of any kind. This is set out at section 17(11) of the Children Act 1989 which says:

A child will be considered disabled if:

  • They are blind, deaf or dumb (unable to speak because of a verbal impairment)
  • They suffer from a mental disorder of any kind
  • They are substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity (a deformity present at birth).

A mental disorder is a disorder or disability of the mind. ADHD is recognised as a mental disorder. So a child who has ADHD should be considered to meet the definition of disabled that is in section 17 of the Children Act 1989.

A child with autism should be accepted as meeting the definition of disabled in the Children Act 1989 if they suffer a mental disorder of any kind.

Information about the child’s disability from anyone working with them or their family will be useful to share with children’s services. This may be a letter from a teacher, support worker or doctor for example.

If a formal diagnosis is available it will be helpful for this to be shared with children’s services. But, the Children Act 1989 does not require there to be a formal diagnosis of a condition in order for a child in need assessment to be carried out. So an assessment should never be refused on the basis that a formal diagnosis is not available.

Even if it a child is not accepted as being disabled, a family can still request extra support and for a child in need assessment. Remember, children’s services departments:

  • Must provide a range and level of services available to help children in need and their families (section 17(1) Children Act 1989).
  • And they should carry out a child in need assessment where the parent or carer requests this if they think a child may be a ‘child in need’.

See our Child in need page for more information.

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