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 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.
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.
Healthcare through transition and beyond
Transition in healthcare
There are many changes that take place in healthcare as adulthood approaches. These are likely to include:
- Different people responsible for care. Children’s and adult’s medical services tend to be quite separate. Usually only GP services work with patients across all ages.
- Health teams structured in a different way. The way professionals work together may be very different.
- Less coordination among professionals. There is no equivalent of paediatric services to provide a link between health teams, therapy teams and social care.
- Professionals’ roles may be different in adult services. Titles may change, or the same title may carry different responsibilities. Sometimes there may be no equivalent adult service.
- Doctor-patient relationship changes. Without guardianship or power of attorney, parents have no right to be involved in decisions around health and welfare needs. Medical staff can’t break a patient’s confidentiality to share details of treatment or medication. This applies even in emergency situations.
- Support services, such as respite, may be increasingly hard to get.
If someone is likely to have ongoing healthcare needs, it’s really important for these to be part of the transition plan so the right adult service is in place when the children’s service comes to an end.
The school, or whoever is coordinating the transition planning process, should make sure all appropriate healthcare professionals are invited to take part and their input included. You can ask for particular services or therapies to be represented. However it can be difficult to coordinate meetings so that everyone can attend.
These can be hugely helpful as part of planning, and to share among professionals to make sure everyone has access to essential information about the young person and their needs.
Passports can include medical information, how the young person communicates, any wishes they have been able to express, and anything else that helps someone understand and support them more effectively.
They can be written by friends and family, or created digitally and shared electronically. You can find more information about creating a digital passport online, or download tips and templates to help decide what to include.
Transition care plans
These new plans are being introduced across Scotland to help young people receiving support from CAMHS to transfer to adult mental health services.
The age when people leave CAMHS varies depending on where you live. Sometimes it’s 16, sometimes 18 or over.
The transition care plan or TCP is a chance to let everyone involved in someone’s care know their views, opinions and concerns early enough for a smoother transfer into adult services.
Anxiety and mental health
Anxiety, depression and related conditions are common in young people with disabilities, and it can be difficult to find effective treatment.
Your GP should be able to discuss medication or make a referral to mental health services, but they will need your young person’s permission to include you in their discussions unless you have guardianship or power of attorney for health and welfare.
Some young people find talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) beneficial. Others find it totally unhelpful, or that the length of time it’s offered for is far too short.
There are private counsellors and psychotherapists across Scotland, some of whom are experienced in working with people with disabilities of various kinds. You can search the Counselling Directory here to find a practitioner near you. However being listed doesn’t necessarily mean someone has the right skills or experience, so you need to use your own judgement or ask for recommendations to choose the best person for you.
Health and social care
Health and social care can be two of the most important services for people with additional support needs.
Things to think about
Moving to adult services
Children’s and adult services are organised differently.
Some roles disappear altogether, others may be called something different or have different responsibilities.
The age young people move from one to the other can vary depending on the service and where you live. Sometimes it’s 16, sometimes 18, and in some places it may be older depending on individual circumstances.
Some areas have transition teams that help manage the transfer to adult services, but many parents find they need to do a lot themselves to coordinate services and support.
Often one of the biggest changes they notice is that adult services are geared to working with individual adults, which can make it difficult for families to be involved in a young person’s support in the same way as previously.
- It helps to be prepared. Expect it to take time to adjust to a new system and new people.
- Start early. Ask how different roles fit together to help you understand where there may be gaps and how best to fill them.
- Be clear about the support your young person needs and what works for them.
- Be persistent – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
It can feel very uncertain at first, but many parents say that over time they and their young people prefer the increased flexibility of adult services and feel they have more control.
Health and social care partnerships
In 2016 health and social care were integrated in Scotland with the aim of helping services work together better and respond to individual needs more effectively.
Each local authority area in Scotland has a health and social care partnership. The partnerships are run jointly by the NHS and local councils.
You can find out more about how this works in your area by visiting your council website and entering “health and social care partnership” in the search box.