Support to access the community

You may think caring for your child is part and parcel of parenthood, things that are ‘extra’ can quickly become incorporated into your daily routine. You almost forget that this is something other parents are probably not having to do. You may not think of yourself as a carer, but you will find that you will need a break from time to time, just as much as any other type of unpaid carer.  To find out more info on accessing support so that you can have a bit of space away from caring for your child, see here.

You might also find that other children in your home are impacted by the needs of one or more of your children and they may also require support. Your child with additional needs may also require support to access the same activities as their peers – clubs and activities in the community for example.

Local Authorities have a legal responsibility to provide practical support both inside the home and outside it to families with disabled children. In Bristol, this support is provided via the Disabled Children Social Care Team.

What support can I expect for my child and family?

Local Authorities have a duty to provide certain services to disabled children. The kind of services that may be offered includes

1. Early help services which tend to offer support such as signposting and information on local clubs and activities that would be suitable for your child’s needs. See here for more info on the early or universal services all families can access.

2. Targeted services, these services are for children and young people (0-18 years) who are disabled and need support to take part in social and play activities. See here for more info on the support that is offered,

3. Access to specialist services are required to support a ‘child in need’. To access these services an assessment will be required to determined which sort of support will have the most impact for the child, young person or family. The types of support on offer include:

> Support to access holiday clubs

> Personal assistants to support your child in community activities

> Family-based overnight and day care /respite

> Residential overnight short breaks

> Access to holiday clubs with the correct type of support for your child, including transport if needed

> Support at your child’s education setting, (this could also mean home-based education or funding for the personal care requirements of students so they can study)

> Services from the Bristol Autism team

> A personal budget and direct payments.  You do not need an EHCP to access this; there is more info here.

What is the disabled children’s social care team?

We find that many parent carer do not know what social care means or what support social care services could offer. The word ‘social’ can be very worrying for many families but it’s vital that parent carers reach out and access the support that they are entitled to.

The Disabled Children Service provides a range of assessments and services for children with disabilities. These assessments are epically carried out by social care practitioners

Who can get support from the Disabled Children’s Service?

Children’s Services and the Inclusion Team are expected to provide help and support to children in their area as part of a graduate support approach. You can click here to view visual guide of what this graduated response looks like.

Support for parents and carers

It can be confusing for families to understand if they are a carer, as often the type of caring parent carers carry out for disabled children, can feel like an extension of parenting. The extra mile you go can quickly become normalised. The carers support centre has useful information here including videos for Ethic Minortised families in their community languages.

You might be eligible for services to help you as a carer but in the same way that children and young people can have different needs, parent carers also differ in their capability to respond to and meet their child’s needs. There is a template letter here to help you make the request.

To work out what your needs are, the Local Authority will need to carry out a carer’s assessment. This is something you will likely need to request in writing using this letter and sending it to the Inclusion Service at or by calling 0117 903 8250. Please be aware, your child doesn’t need to have a diagnosis.

Contact has some very helpful resources on this which you can view here and here and the Carers Support Centre has info specific to Bristol here.

What is early help?

In Bristol, early help is delivered by:

1. Families, Local Offer, Resources and Advice who can be contacted as soon as you think your child has additional needs and before any assessment. 

2. The Bristol Children’s Disability Register, which offers a free discount card (known as a ‘pink card’) when you sign up and updates on what’s happening in your area. Click here to register.

3. Universal services such as ​​play schemes, holiday activities, after-school clubs, youth clubs, beavers and scouts, brownies and guides, libraries, playgrounds and parks.

What is a child in need?

Children’s Services have a duty under section 17 Children Act 1989 to provide services to ‘children in need’ in their area. ‘Children in need’ is a definition that isn’t always agreed upon as all children and young people are unique and have differing needs.

Generally, a child will be considered in need if one of the below applies:

1. They have a disability (includes blindness, deafness or dumbness, mental disorders and permanent illnesses or injury, congenital deformities, specific learning difficulties like Dyslexia and neurodivergence such as Autism or ADHD);

2. They are unlikely to achieve or maintain or to have the opportunity to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services from the Local Authority

3. Their health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision of services from the Local Authority

4. They are a young carer, under 18 years old, who provides emotional and/or practical support and assistance for a family member who is disabled, physically or mentally unwell or who misuses substances.

If your child falls into any of these 4 categories they are likely to be a ‘child in need’. To determine what sort of support your child will need, they will require a Section 17 assessment. See the next section for more info.

Requesting a section 17 assessment for a child of young person

If your child is a ‘child in need’, parent carers will have to request this assessment in writing and they should mention their child’s needs, any diagnosis they have or any waiting list they are on. It is also helpful to mention the type of support which is required.

A parent, carer or young person can also ask a doctor, GP, or health visitor to contact Children’s Services on their behalf if they require support in making this request. There is also a guide here.

There is a template letter that you can use here and you need to send the letter to Disabled Children Services, 5 Knowle West Health Park, Downton Road, Bristol, BS4 1WH or via email to:

You can also contact the inclusion service at or by calling 0117 903 8250 if you need more information and support.

Support for young carers or siblings of disabled children

If you’re a young carer, (for example, a sibling of a disabled child that provides a substantial amount of care)friends and relatives are often the first people to turn to for help with problems. Talking things through with them can be really helpful. There is also a member of specially trained staff available in each school settings to help make sure you get the support you need and you can find out more info here.

As well as talking to people, there is practical help that should be provided by your local authority. In England, the law says that assessment for a young carer is triggered where there is an ‘appearance of need’.

That means it is not necessary for the young person to specifically request this help, so any assessment of you or your disabled child should take into account any brothers or sisters and whether they are providing care

If this assessment has not taken place, the best way to find out what help and support is available is to request a Section 17 assessment by contacting the inclusion service at, by calling 0117 903 8250, you can use the letter here from Contact.

The Carers Support Centre also have lots of information and advice which you can see here

Adult Social Care transition

Just before your child turns 18, you might need support to prepare for the transition to adult services. Under the Care Act 2014 in England, you can ask for a “child’s needs assessment”.  This assessment will give you an idea of the help that you and your child can expect when they move into adult care and support. After the assessment, the local authority should draw up a care and support plan; this may include a personal budget or direct payments to meet some of their needs.

You should request this support using a template letter which you can find here. Note that this assessment should take place when it is easier to understand what the needs of the child and carer will be beyond the age of 18.

The Local Authority must also carry out a “child’s carer’s assessment” where there is a “likely need” for support when their child turns 18 and when it is of “significant benefit.” This means an assessment to decide on the support of the young person’s parent carers and their family.

There is more information on adult social care here.

What do I need to think about before meeting with the social care team?

It can be useful to make a list of questions before you meet, and you are entitled to have a friend or advocate there with you if that would be helpful. There is more information on the section 17 assessment here and here.

Who can help me get the support I think we are entitled to?

If you have sent off a letter and have been told that your child does not qualify for an assessment, it can be very confusing for parents and carers to know what to do next. The first step would be to use this template letter on page 4 to raise your concerns with your council.

There are also several organisations that can offer you help and support to solve this common problem.

Carers Support Centre: Click here
Contact advice line: Click here
For EHCP related social care issues contact SEND and You and the Peer to Peer Facebook Support Group

If you need any further information please get in touch with us.