How Can I Get Support For My Disabled Child During The School Holidays?
The Law Of… Supporting Your Child's Needs
Finding adequate and affordable childcare during the school holidays is a struggle for many parents. In the case of disabled children, your options can be even more limited and the costs can be even higher.
Often, parents think that they have no choice but to give up their job and become their child's carer. But, did you know that you can ask your Local Authority for help?
Lenka Wall, Solicitor in Education and Community Care, explains what steps you can take to get support for your child during the holidays.
Is My Child A 'Child In Need'?
Local Authorities (LAs) have a legal duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need within their area by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's needs.
The definition of a 'child in need' is broad and generally includes children who need help from their LAs in order to maintain a reasonable standard of health or development, as well as disabled children.
Many children who have a physical disability or a learning difficulty will satisfy the definition.
What Type Of Help Is Available For Children With Disabilities?
Each Local Authority provides various services and must publish information about what support they can offer to children and their families.
Some of the services that Local Authorities can be required to provide for children in need include occupational, social, cultural or recreational activities and may even include assistance for the child and their family to have a holiday.
LAs also have a duty to offer services that have been designed to provide parents and other carers with breaks from caring, which is known as respite. For this purpose, many LAs run services such as weekend and holiday play schemes for children with disabilities as well as short break services.
How Can I Request Help For My Child?
You should approach your Local Authority's children's services department and request that they carry out a 'child in need' assessment. We recommend that you make this request in writing so that you have a record of it.
Within one working day of receiving your request, your LA must acknowledge the request and let you know how they are going to deal with the request. If they agree to carry out a child in need assessment, this must be completed within 45 working days.
If your LA refuses to carry out the assessment, or it takes longer than 45 working days to complete it, get in touch with our Community Care team on 0808 129 3320 and we can discuss your options.
What Does The 'Child In Need' Assessment Involve?
The assessment should be carried out by a social worker. As part of the assessment process, your Local Authority should consult and collate information from a range of professionals, such as your child's school or medical professionals.
The assessment will look at the needs of your child as a whole and may result in an offer of other types of support alongside holiday provision.
What Happens After The Assessment?
Once the assessment is completed, your LA will decide whether it agrees that your child is a child in need. If your child is found to be in need, then your LA will prepare a 'child in need' plan setting out what support they are going to provide for your child and family.
Parents can request that instead of the Local Authority arranging the support directly, they are provided with the direct payments. Direct payments give parents the ability to choose the service providers they wish to use. But, the payments must only be spent on the services identified in the 'child in need' plan.
If you are not happy with your LA's decision, we can review your case and let you know what steps you can take next.
What If My Child Has An Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)?
An Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA), which must always be carried out before an EHCP is issued, includes an assessment of your child's social care needs and the provision required to meet those needs.
EHCPs are designed to be holistic documents that are individual to each child with special educational needs and/or disabilities. They set out all of the support your child needs from education, health and social care services.
Although the EHCNA is carried out by your LA's education department, information from social services must be obtained in each case. If your child is already receiving support from social services, whether on the basis of a 'child in need' plan or otherwise, this should be recorded in the EHCP.
Unfortunately, a request for an EHCNA will not automatically trigger a 'child in need' assessment. If your child is not already receiving support from social services, you may then consider making a request for a 'child in need' assessment to be carried out at the same time as the EHCNA.
How Can Simpson Millar's Community Care Team Help Me?
Although it's the most anticipated time of year for many children, the school holidays can be stressful for parents, especially if you're unable to find childcare that's appropriate for your child's needs.
If you're unsure about what support your LA can offer or it isn't offering your child the support that you've requested over the holidays, speak to our Community Care team as soon as possible.
As specialists in the area, we can advise you and help get the right type of provisions in place for your child.