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Role of social services

What are social services?

Social services is the department of your local council that is responsible for the welfare and safeguarding of vulnerable children and adults.

Social workers carry out a very wide range of jobs. These could include:

  • Assessing needs to make sure someone is receiving the right support
  • Providing information on services and organisations that can help you
  • Agreeing a budget to pay for support
  • Referring you to other services that might be useful
  • Intervening in an emergency to keep someone safe

Many parents feel they don’t need or want a social worker for their family, but they can be invaluable. If you need money from the council to pay for the support you need, a social worker will be allocated to you. Some organisations need a referral from social services before they can support you, while others can be easier to access if you have a social worker already.

It’s also a good idea to have a social worker involved as early as possible so your young person is “in the system” and their needs on record. That may not seem so important at age 14, but by age 24 the picture could be very different – especially in terms of support around independent living.

Transition teams

Every council decides its own staffing and service structure. That’s why some regions have Transitions Officers or transition teams and others don’t. If your area has a transitions team, they should become involved with your young person from around age 14. They can provide information on the options available, link to other social services that would be helpful, and provide a smoother transition into adult services.

However many parents find they don’t have access to a transition team, or that there aren’t enough people to go round.

You should call social services using the number on your local council website to find out if there’s a transition team in your area, and if not, to ask what support may be available.

Assessment of needs

Social services carry out the assessment of needs on which a support budget will be based. They don’t do this automatically – you have to contact them to request it. Anyone who is concerned about someone else’s welfare can make the request. The number to call will be on your council’s website.

If your young person is under 16, you can ask for a Section 23 Assessment. If they are over 16, you need a Community Care Assessment. You should also ask for your own needs to be assessed, as a carer – this is a Section 24 Assessment. In particular, eligibility for adult respite services may depend on a full assessment of needs.

Everyone has the right to request a needs assessment, but it doesn’t guarantee the council will meet every need that’s identified.

The assessment should be based on the challenges someone faces on a bad day, not when things are going well. It’s important not just to say what the challenges are, but the impact they have – for example, if they affect the person’s health or potentially endanger themselves or others.

Councils decide their own eligibility criteria for support and in most regions this is getting much stricter. It’s a good idea to get help from a local disability or support organisation, especially if you decide to appeal a decision.

If you are refused support, this doesn’t have to be final. If someone’s needs change, or if you feel there are strong grounds for a reassessment, you can ask for their case to be reopened later on.

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