Under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, local authorities have a duty to assess ‘children in need’ for any services they may need.
A child in need is defined within the Act as:
- a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development
- a child whose health and development will be significantly impaired, without the provision of services, or
- a child who is disabled (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)
This means that if your child is disabled, the local authority must carry out an assessment of their care needs, though there is no prescribed process they must follow. There may not therefore be a formal assessment, and needs could be identified as part of the work the Early Help service provides, for example.
The SEND Code of Practice 2015 says:
Where a child or young person has been assessed as having social care needs in relation to their SEN or disabilities social care teams:
- must secure social care provision under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (CSDPA) 1970 which has been assessed as being necessary to support a child or young person’s SEN and which is specified in their EHC plan (3.49)
Local Authorities may take into account their resources when deciding whether it is necessary to meet a person’s needs under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (CSDPA); however, if they decide there are needs, these needs must be met regardless of cost.
See the next section to find out about assessment of needs.