Local Authorities have had duties to provide care and support for disabled people since 1948. Currently there is separate legislation for children and adults, with some transitional provision for children on moving to adult services.
For those under 18, the key piece of legislation is the Children Act 1989.
For adults, it is the Care Act 2014, though parts of earlier pieces of legislation remain in force as well.
Both statutes place a duty on the Local Authority to assess the individual’s need and in some circumstances to make provision to address those needs. There is also provision in both to assess the needs of family carers, which grants unpaid carers a right to an assessment regardless of the involvement of the disabled person.
We frequently encounter parents who have been refused a proper assessment of need for their children or where an assessment has been conducted and there is no suitable offer of services to address the individual’s needs. As Social Workers have little undergraduate training in disability and are very heavily child-protection focused in their work, the very real needs of families struggle to cope with their disabled children often get ignored. Families appear to be “coping” and either no services are offered or the services that are offered are inappropriate or too limited to properly support the family. Informally this often seems to be “prejudice against the middle class” – an ability to have a reasonably decorated and moderately tidy and passably clean home taken as a substitute for a family that has no need for state help. Often by the time people have come to us they are in or close to a state of crisis caused by being worn down by long term failure on the part of Social Services to support them.
There is no need to wait until things are desperate; Local Authorities have a duty to support disabled people (whether adults or children) and we can help you achieve a suitable level of the right sort of services to meet your child’s needs. If you wish to avoid a residential educational placement for your child, it is particularly important to have adequate social care input in place as soon as it is needed, so that the situation at home is sustainable in the longer term.
Sometimes Social Services will offer services that are not suited to your child’s particular needs eg. a holiday club intended for children with severe learning difficulties to a child who has high functioning autism. It is therefore helpful to be aware that it is possible to obtain Direct Payments from Social Services that you can spend on services to meet the assessed needs. This can be helpful where it enables you to employ somebody who can provide you with consistent support, which can be important for many children with different needs who don’t cope well with being supported by lots of different people.
We are experts in helping families through the process of obtaining an assessment of their and their children’s needs from social services and in challenging assessments that are wrong (either via Judicial Review where matters are urgent or via the Local Government Ombudsman).
We know how to help when individuals are transferring from children’s to adults services and about the interaction between social services help and that available under NHS Continuing Healthcare.
Sometimes families are able to manage without social care support whilst their offspring are children, but as part of planning for long term provision for them as adults it can become necessary to involve social services, because without the “education” element of the day, there is no built in break from caring each day. We can assist in getting the Local Authority to put in place services that either support you in continuing to care at home or in helping your son or daughter move to more suitable long term accommodation, depending on what works best for you as a family.