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Care services for children - legal advice

Many children and their families face tough times when health and disability affect their lives. Parents are faced with having to give up work or reduce their hours to look after children with disability. Their schooling can be affected and their place in the community can be restricted through lack of access.

Disability is an emotional word and implies a less than perfect human being. However, we are all human beings. All different. The law recognises that children with a whole range of medical and disability related problems will face certain disadvantages in early life and into the transition into adulthood.

Laws exist to ensure that extra support is available in additional financial benefits, in compensating for the additional caring role parents will often need to take on, for the support that may be needed to assist the child and in terms of ensuring that education, training, social activity and basic needs of the child are affected as little as possible.

For advice call our care services for children team on 01616 966 229 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly.

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Support services

All sorts of services and support can be made available.

Such services include things like equipment or adaptations to the person’s home to help them get around better. It also includes help and support provided to a person by paid carers or personal assistants to help them cope better and more independently with their disability, and to prompt and encourage as normal a life as can be achieved.

The assessment of a child for these types of services should be done in a reasonable time frame, once such need is recognised.

Children may have learning difficulties from the “mild” to the “severe”, they may in some cases suffer from mental health problems, or from physical health problems, epilepsy and a huge range of potential illnesses.

The local authority has duties to promote the welfare of children in its area – which in practical terms means that they have to assess a child’s needs and make a decision as to whether to offer support. That decision must be properly made, rational and reasonable.

However, in practice, what can start as a simple duty becomes complicated inasmuch as the assessor:-

a) may not assess the needs properly or thoroughly enough
b) may not consider the needs to be of a sufficient level of seriousness to trigger the duty to intervene
c) may delay in assessing the needs to the point where the situation no longer requires help or where the needs have increased or changed
d) may take unlawful account of help being provided by family/friends and informal carers to the extent where it is (wrongly) decided that there is no duty on the state to provide or arrange help

Many people are afraid to ask for help. They may be getting some help and fear that by asking for more they are “biting the hand that feeds them” as we live in times when public authorities are trying to save money at all levels. Or they may fear that by asking for help (instead of saying they can manage), the council may want to put their child into care and they would lose their independence partially or fully.

These concerns are understandable, but the law states that the assessment and arrangement of community care services are legal rights…not merely aspirations or charity.

People should know their rights.

Very often if a public authority makes a decision, it is all too easy to accept the decision – to believe “they must know what they are doing”.

Our experience is that in this area of law there are many, many challenges which can be made to decisions made by Public Authorities, or against delay or inaction by them.

Stephensons has been involved in numerous high profile cases involving community care assessments and service decisions, especially around children and families.

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