Your guide to care and support

Children and young people's services

If you're worried about your child's general development or wellbeing, including their health, educational or social care needs, and you think they need additional support, speak to their healthcare professional, teacher or nursery worker first. Ask for advice on what to do next, such as getting an assessment of your child’s needs, encouraging them to join a young carers' group if they have taken on caring responsibilities or going to bereavement counselling if someone close to them has recently died.

If you or your child needs more significant support, contact the children’s services team in your local council for a needs assessment. "Children’s services" is the new term that has replaced "social services". These services support and protect vulnerable children, young people, their families and young carers.

The needs assessment will determine if you need more specialised support. Children’s services must work with you when making any decisions about your child, including what help they will provide to meet your child’s needs. Therefore, you should discuss with them the types of help that would best meet the needs of your family.

Family support

Family support can include help looking after your child, such as:

  • day care for children under five
  • help with parenting such as parenting classes
  • courses or family support workers
  • practical home help
  • access to a Children’s Centre

Get advice about deciding on childcare.

Support services may also be provided by education or health authorities, or by voluntary organisations. Many of these services are available to all families. You may also find support from the charities listed below:

  • Family Lives offers information, advice, guidance and support on any aspect of parenting and family life. You can call their helpline on 0808 800 2222 (7am-midnight).
  • Gingerbread offers advice and practical support to single parents. You can also call Gingerbread's Single Parent Helpline on 0808 802 0925.
  • Relate offers parenting guidance and information to parents of troubled teenagers.
  • One Space offers an online community for single parents.
  • YoungMinds For Parents offers advice for parents about mental health and behaviour problems in children and young people. You can call the YoungMinds Parents' helpline for free on 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am-4pm).
  • The Family Rights Group offers independent specialist information and advice about family support. You can call their advice line on 0808 801 0366.

Children with special educational needs and disabilities

Additional help is available for parents and children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Looked-after children

Local authority children’s services have responsibilities under the Children Act 1989 for the children they look after and who live with foster carers or in residential care on either a short- or long-term basis.

Visit our Adoption and fostering section for tips and real-life stories. The following websites also offer information and advice:

  • Coram Children’s Legal Centre offers free legal information, advice and representation to children, young people, their families, carers and professionals.
  • The Fostering Network the charity offers information and advice to foster carers.
  • BAAF the British Association for Adoption and Fostering promotes standards of practice in adoption, fostering and childcare services.

The Family Rights Group offers independent specialist information and advice to families about children who are looked after in care. For more information, read the Family Rights Group's advice sheets about children in care.

Child protection

Child protection is available to children and young people who are at risk of significant harm and need protecting. This includes harm from physical, emotional or sexual abuse and neglect.

If children’s services suspect that a child may be at risk of harm, they must look into the child’s situation and take any action necessary to keep them safe and promote their welfare.

If child protection enquiries have been made about your child, it does not necessarily mean that your child will be taken away from you. However, your child will be interviewed or medically examined without you being present.

The Family Rights Group offers independent specialist information and advice to families about child protection procedures. For more information, read the Family Rights Group's advice sheets on child protection.

Find out more about your child's safety and how to protect children, including advice about stranger danger and the risks the internet can bring.

Dealing with child sex abuse

It can be difficult to know whether a child is being abused, as the abuser may be secretive about their actions. In this video, aimed at parents and carers, a child sex abuse consultant from the Marie Collins Foundation explains what to do if you think a child is being harmed, and how to discuss the subject of abuse with a child.

Media last reviewed: 02/06/2016

Next review due: 02/06/2019

Page last reviewed: 23/09/2014

Next review due: 23/09/2017


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