If you're worried about your child's development or wellbeing and you think they need extra support, speak to their GP, health visitor, teacher or nursery worker first.
Ask for advice about what to do next to help your child. If you or your child needs more significant support, contact the children's services team at your local council for a needs assessment.
A needs assessment is carried out by the children's services team at your local council and determines if your child needs more specialised support.
Children's services must work with you when making decisions about your child, so discuss with them the type of help that would best meet the needs of your family.
Family support can include help looking after your child, such as:
- day care for children under 5
- help with parenting – such as parenting classes
- courses or family support workers
- practical home help
- access to a Children's Centre
Support services may also be provided by education or health authorities, or by voluntary organisations.
Many of these services are available to all families. Check your local council's website to see what's available in your area.
You may also find support from these charities:
- Family Lives – provides information, advice, guidance and support on any aspect of parenting and family life. Their helpline number is 0808 800 2222
- Gingerbread – provides single parents with advice and practical support. You can call the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline on 0808 802 0925
- Relate – provides relationship support, including help for children and young people and help with family life and parenting
- Single Parents – provides single parents with help, advice and support
- YoungMinds for Parents – provides advice about mental health and behaviour problems in children and young people. You can call the parents' helpline on 0808 802 5544
- Family Rights Group – provides parents or other relatives with advice about their rights and options when social workers or courts make decisions about their children's welfare. Their advice line number is 0808 801 0366
Children with special educational needs and disabilities
Additional help is available for parents and children with special educational needs and disabilities.
- get an overview of the help available if you have a disabled child
- find out about the support available for children with special educational needs
- GOV.UK has information about the help and support available from local authorities, schools and colleges
- Caring for a child with complex needs explains the support available for parents whose child has been diagnosed with a long-term condition
- Tips for caring for a disabled child includes practical advice about everyday hands-on caring, such as feeding, going to the toilet, and moving around
Local authority children's services have responsibilities for the children they look after who live with foster carers or in residential care on either a short- or long-term basis.
These organisations 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 – 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 for families about children who are looked after in care.
For more information, read the Family Rights Group's advice sheets about looked-after children.
Read more about adoption and fostering for useful tips and real-life stories.
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 doesn't necessarily mean your child will be taken away from you. But your child will be interviewed or medically examined without you being present.
The Family Rights Group offers independent specialist information and advice for families about child protection procedures.
For more information, read the Family Rights Group's advice sheets about child protection.
Media review due: 10 June 2022