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Looking after a disabled child?

If you look after a disabled child or children, and have parental responsibility for them, you may benefit from having some extra support to help you manage.

You could arrange to have a parent carer's assessment to see if your own needs are being met. This assessment can be combined with one for the disabled child, and could be carried out by the same person at the same time.

The local council must also be satisfied that the child is a child in need (meeting the terms of the Children's Act).

The local council or trust must then assess:

  • whether you have any needs for support and what those needs are
  • whether it is appropriate to provide, or continue to provide, care for the disabled child, in the light of your needs for support.

The parent carer's assessment must also consider:

  • your wellbeing as the parent carer
  • the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child cared for, and any other child you look after. 

We have recently produced a transition guide to help with the process of moving from child to adult social care services.

More information

Local councils have a duty to assess a 'child in need' under the age of 18 for any services that they or their family may need.

A 'child in need' is defined as one of the following:

  • a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by a local council

  • a child whose health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision of services

  • a child who is disabled.

Note: The Children Act considers a child disabled if the child is blind, deaf, non-verbal, suffering from a mental disorder of any kind, substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed.

The assessment considers all the help that your disabled child needs, the needs of any other children in the family and the help that you may need to care for them.

You can read more about Children Act assessments in our assessments factsheet (available for England, NI, Scotland and Wales). The charity Contact also has useful factsheets on the rights of disabled children and their families.

If your child is moving into adulthood 

As a parent carer, you will no doubt want to be as well informed as possible about what your child's options are, especially as they move into adulthood. 

The charity Contact has launched an information hub including the key topics you may wish to think about as your child reaches this new stage of their life. These topics cover a wide range of areas from managing benefits and money to making decisions, getting a job and dealing with relationships.

There is also a handy FAQs section, developed by Contact, to help address any concerns you may have about this transitional phase and to outline what support is available.

Disabled children become entitled to a Child's Needs Assessments 'in transition'. Carers of disabled children (either with or without parental responsibility) become entitled to a Child's Carer's Assessment 'in transition'.

These assessments must be carried out by the local council (or trust in Northern Ireland) where it considers that the  disabled child or carer of a disabled child is likely to have care and support needs after the child becomes 18 and there is a 'significant benefit' to having an assessment carried out.

For more information to help you understand the process of transition, see our transition guide for carers

Local councils can charge for services provided under the Children Act 1989. Each local council will have their own charging policy for this.

If your child is under 16, it will be your financial situation as a parent that will be taken into consideration when working out whether there is a charge for the relevant service and if so, what this will amount to.

If you child has Disability Living Allowance, this should not be taken into consideration and the local council should not charge you more than you can reasonably afford.

If you get Income Support or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit, or Child Tax Credit (paid at a rate above the family element), you should not be charged for Children Act services.

When a child reaches 16 years of age, they are assessed in their own right. This means it should be their ability to pay that is taken into account and not yours.

This toolkit offers guidance for parents and carers to make financial decisions on behalf of young people aged from 14 to 25 who may lack the ability to make decisions themselves.

The guide also provides guidance on how to prepare to make decisions from adulthood if the young person is under 18. 

See the toolkit (produced by the Ministry of Justice).

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