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Guide to social care services

Children and young people’s services

Children’s services support and protect vulnerable children, young people, their families and carers.

If you're worried about your child's general development or wellbeing, and you think they need additional support, you might want to speak to your child’s GP or teacher first. Wellbeing includes their health and educational needs, as well as their social care needs. Ask for advice on what to do next, such as getting an assessment of your child’s needs, using bereavement counselling or joining a young carers' group.

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".

Use the GOV.UK website to find your local council and get advice about an assessment.

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.

Below are the main services available.

Children with special educational needs and disabilities

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

Family support

This involves 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

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
  • Netmums  offers advice to mothers on all aspects of family life and childcare. 
  • 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 208 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.

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. 

Read information about your child's safety.

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.

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.


Page last reviewed: 23/09/2014

Next review due: 23/09/2016

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