The 1989 Children Act sets out conditions where a disabled child may be considered to be a ‘Child in Need’. It also explains that in certain cases it is the responsibility of the local authority to provide services to help a Child in Need.
In practice it is very difficult to explain who might receive a service and who will not. Social workers undertake in-depth assessments looking at a wide range of factors in a child’s life - not just the disability or diagnosis - but also the family situation. The child’s age, understanding and views are also seen as important factors.
In all cases it is the responsibility of Children’s Services to put the child’s needs first. Usually this means supporting the family to ensure that the disabled child can continue to live at home. Social workers will work alongside parents and other important people in the child’s life to make sure an agreed care plan is put in place and adhered to. The purpose of this plan will be to meet the needs identified in the assessment. In many cases this will mean arranging for extra support for the parent, carer or the young person. This can include providing aids and adaptations, providing Direct Payments for the parent, carer or young person (over 16) to arrange their own support or respite (Short Breaks) with a foster carer or local specialist care provider.
In a few exceptional circumstances, where a child’s needs cannot be met within the home situation Children’s Services can find alternative arrangements such as an adoptive family, a foster placement or a specialist residential home. Most families are able to care for their own child with support. In extremely rare cases disabled children may also require protecting or safeguarding from harm. In these situations Children’s Services can make use of various legal powers to protect the child or remove them from harm.