For families of children and young people with SEN and disabilities helpline 01273 772289

how to get social care

In Brighton and Hove most of the specialist health and social care services for children and young people are managed by the Child Development and Disability Service, based at the Seaside View Child Development Centre.

dailylife.howtoaccessFor general advice and queries this is a really useful place to start. Call them on 01273 265780/81 or find out more about the Seaside View on the council’s website or via the leaflet in our download box on the right.

In order to get services like short breaks or adaptations to your home, you will have to undergo some sort of assessment of need. You can ask any education, health or social care professional who knows you to complete a referral form for these kind of specialist services. This is based on the Common Assessment Framework or CAF.

What I realised after I’d asked for help was that my entire life had been out of control for ages. I thought I was coping – I thought I was keeping the lid on the pan.

Family CAFs and referral to additional and specialist services

Family CAFs (Common Assessment Frameworks) are used in the city as a way of pulling together extra help for families who need more than the universal services that are provided for all families and children. They are not specifically for families of disabled children, but you need to have a CAF before you can be referred for some services. You can ask any education, health or social care professional who knows you to start a Family CAF. Or you may find they suggest this to you.

The CAF happens whenever someone who works with a child or family thinks they are going to need extra help that goes beyond a single issue or involvement with just one service or professional. The aim is to coordinate what is planned and avoid you having to have lots of different assessments and meetings. You have to agree to the CAF and be involved from the start. There may be a meeting that draws together a Team Around the Family (TAF) of people from services that may be able to help. These will depend on your particular circumstances and could include schools, health visitors, nurseries, housing, substance misuse services, play and youth work, and services from the community and voluntary sector.

If a CAF goes ahead there are three stages:

  1. Assessment – you talk to a worker who knows you or your child, they find out more, fill in a CAF form and agree with you whether to go ahead with the CAF.
  2. Action plan – you, and the workers who can help, discuss how to support you and your child. Usually this will be at a TAF meeting. This is written up as an action plan and a lead professional is picked to follow it through.
  3. Review – you and everyone involved look at how the plan has worked and what comes next.

If it is clear that your child needs to be assessed at Seaside View you don’t have to wait for a CAF before being referred there, although a Family CAF may also be useful. And if you need a highly targeted type of support such as respite you will need to go beyond a CAF and get a social work assessment.

Getting help from a social worker

Social workers can be a great source of practical and emotional support including:

  • providing adaptations and special equipment
  • short breaks (respite care), which can be with another family, outreach or residential
  • help with filling in forms and getting financial help
  • support from family support teams

Many parents turn down the offer of a social worker when they first discover their child has additional needs. They can’t see how it is relevant to their situation or they think that social workers only deal with families where there is abuse or neglect, and where children are ‘at risk’. Some parents only ask for help when they reach crisis point and feel they can’t manage any more. A lot of parents realise, as they gradually get to know ‘the system’, that the backing of social workers is essential for getting the help they need.

I think you cope, you don’t really ask for help when you’re feeling articulate. You usually end up waiting until you’re not articulate and everything’s gone to pot, and that’s when you need these people.

By law, social workers have to put at the top of their list families where children are ‘in need’ (this includes eligible disabled children), ‘at risk’ or need protection. So, unless you make it clear just how difficult things are, it’s possible you may find your request for help falling to the bottom of the pile with a long wait ahead of you. If you need help now, say so, or try to ask for help before you reach crisis point.

Before you meet the social worker, try to think about how your life has changed and become more difficult as a result of caring for your child with special needs, and what kind of help you think you all need, now and in the future. Social workers have a legal responsibility to consider your needs as a carer of a disabled child.

Contacting the right social work team
What happens when a social worker visits you at home?
Tips for working with social workers


When families have many professionals involved in providing care for their child a keyworker can act as a main point of contact for all those involved and enable this care to be coordinated.  If your child has complex needs or multiple disabilities then this service may be suitable for you.

Usually to get a keyworker your child must have four or more specialist agencies involved in providing on-going therapies and services, some of them being from Seaside View. This does not include general services such as your health visitor or GP. There are a couple of designated keyworkers based at Seaside View, but a professional that is already working with you can be your keyworker in addition to their specific role with you. If your family has a named social worker, then they act as the family’s keyworker. You can apply to have a keyworker or ask another professional to apply for you. Read more in the Keyworker scheme leaflet.

Direct payments

If your child has been assessed as needing a particular social care service, that service will be free. However, if you have perhaps been waiting for a service for a long time or would prefer to arrange it yourself directly, you may be able to get Direct Payments. With Direct Payments, parents are given money to pay for and arrange services for their child, as an alternative to those the local authority offers. You can use Direct Payments to employ someone to care for your child, or to buy into a local service, like a day nursery, an after school club, holiday play scheme or even a residential short break unit.

Direct Payments for parents are managed by the Children’s Disability Service. If your child is assessed as needing a service, you cannot be refused Direct Payments if this is your choice. Local authorities have a duty to offer Direct Payments: the law says they must tell you about Direct Payments and support you if you wish to take these up.

For more information on Direct Payments see the relevant section in ‘money matters’.

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