In law, a disabled child is considered a ‘child in need’ and as such a duty is placed upon the Local Authority to provide services and support to meet their needs. There are several routes for accessing this support and these should be explained to you. You should be offered an assessment of your child’s needs (Needs Assessment) and your needs (Carers Assessment). A needs assessment looks at your child’s needs to determine whether additional provision is required to meet them (link to needs assessment). Whilst the family’s needs are taken into consideration during this process, a carers assessment should also be requested as it looks directly at the impact that caring for a child with additional needs has on you (carers assessment link). These assessments can act as a basis for receiving the support your child and your family need and are entitled to. This can include shortbreaks, home and community based support, equipment and adaptions to your home.
Some support and services can be accessed without an assessment via the Local Authorities Core Offer. The Core Offer (https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/health-and-social-care/st-quintin-centre/core-offer) , provided by St Quintins Children Centre, enables all children with a disability and their families to access support without the need of a care plan. This includes access to a keyworker, access to a social worker for short term work and some shortbreak services. For some families this option is a preferred choice as it does not require an assessment, is less formal and services can often be accessed quicker. However, a limitation of this is that there is no guarantee that this support will adequately meet your child’s needs or that it will continue to be maintained.
If a child is assessed as having ‘eligible needs’ the Local Authority has a duty meet these needs. The Local Authority should not apply a blanket policy to what they can provide and should not use a lack of money as a reason for not being able to provide the support required for an assessed need or for limiting the amount of support they can give i.e. ‘we only fund a maximum of two weeks’ respite per year’.
Once an assessment of needs is completed, if a care package is put in place it cannot be reduced or significantly changed unless the Local Authority completes a reassessment. They would then need to provide evidence as to why this care is no longer needed (for example because the person’s condition has substantially improved).
In a 2012 complaint against Lambeth Council, the Ombudsman held that where a council is providing care services (such as respite care), then the presumption is that it should continue to provide this level of care, until such time as it undertakes a new assessment and provides a revised care plan indicating that different care support is required. In the absence of such action any reduction in support by the council may constitute maladministration.
The Local Authority should contact you for an assessment once they become aware that you are caring for a ‘child in need’. However, in reality parents usually need to make a request for this themselves by contacting the Duty Social Worker on 0207 598 4921. A Needs Assessment and Carers Assessment can be applied for at any time.
Cerebra have created a fantastic ‘Accessing Public Services Toolkit’ which aims to support disabled people and carers, as well as their families and advisers, who are encountering difficulties with the statutory agencies in relation to the provision of health, social care and education support services. It can be downloaded by clicking here http://w3.cerebra.org.uk/help-and-information/guides-for-parents/problem-solving-toolkit/
If you require any support or further information, please contact Full of Life on 02089629994.