Finding support services before your child is diagnosed
Knowing how to find local support when you’re getting a diagnosis for your child can be difficult. Especially if you’re not sure when you’ll get a diagnosis or what sort of support you’ll need and what you can get.
Help from your local authority
If your child has additional needs, you can apply for support services from your local authority. They have to provide these services under the Children Act 1989 (legislation.gov).
The law defines ‘children in need’ as children under 18 years who either:
- will not meet or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without local authority support
- are disabled
You can still get support without a diagnosis of a specific condition if your paediatrician or doctor has identified your child's additional needs.
Your child may have a mix of conditions, which can make diagnosis difficult. You’ll still need and be entitled to support and local services.
Contact your local authority.
The local offer and finding support services
Local authorities must publish all services available to support disabled children, and their families in the area. This is called a ‘local offer’. It covers education, health and social care services.
Find your local offer.
What services and support may be available
The services available vary between local authorities. They may include:
- daycare facilities for children under 5 and not yet at school
- short break services and holiday play schemes
- financial help
- care at home
- advice, guidance and counselling
- social, cultural or recreational activities
- sport and leisure support
- family centres
- some home aids and minor adaptations, such as hand rails
- transport help, such as a disabled parking spot or local transport services
- laundry facilities
In England, if a child is away from home for at least 3 months, such as in a hospital, care home or residential school, your local authority may provide extra services. These may include:
- advice, guidance, counselling
- family visits to the place of care
- visits home
- help to organise a holiday for family members to be together
SENDirect can also help you find local services and activities. You can:
- compare results
- review and share recommendations with other families
- add information to a personalised dashboard
- talk to providers about your child’s needs online
Warning Searching for services near you
SENDirect is continually adding to its services database. If you cannot find services in your town, try a larger nearby town or city.
How to get support for your child
Contact your local authority to ask for a needs assessment for your child. A member of the team will talk to you face to face or on the phone to assess your child’s and family’s needs.
The assessment should consider what’s needed to make daily life easier. You will then get recommendations for services and support. You can ask for a review if something’s missing, such as a bathing aid.
Warning Try general enquiries
The responsible department can vary in each local authority. If you’re not sure who to contact, call general enquiries and ask to be transferred to the team in charge of needs assessments for children.
How to get local support as a parent carer
Some organisations and charities also have support services for parents of disabled children. These can include:
- sleep services
- support groups
- mental health and wellbeing support
- parent carer forums and online communities
Parent carer forums can be helpful for finding information about services or reading similar experiences or questions. Facebook support groups or pages can also be a good source of information from other parents.
Read more about support groups.
Find your local offer to search for local support groups.
Browse Scope’s online community for support from advisors or other parents.
Getting educational support in your area
If your child is not in school yet, speak to your local authority for guidance on Special Educational Needs (SEN) support services and special education schools.
Some areas provide home visits for preschool children with Special Educational Needs.
Check if your area has a portage service.
If your child is at school, ask the SEN co-ordinator (SENCO) about the school’s SEN policy and what support your child can get. Schools must make reasonable adjustments for your child.
If SEN support cannot meet your child’s needs, ask for an Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessment from your local authority. Doctors, health visitors and teachers can also ask for the assessment if they think it’s necessary.
If your child is eligible, they will get an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP) reflecting their current needs and future aspirations.
Find out more about support for children with SEND.
Therapies and medical support
Talk to your paediatrician or doctor if your child needs therapies, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy or physiotherapy. They will be able to refer you for treatment.
Last reviewed by Scope on: 25/05/2018