If your child has a disability or long-term health condition then you are likely to require additional help with family life. The Social Work department of your local authority has a duty to assess the needs of your child. This is called a Section 23 Assessment, which refers to the relevant section of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. Most local authorities have a social work team which is dedicated to working with children with disabilities and you will find their contact details on your council’s website or through Directory Enquiries.
Social work departments usually have ‘eligibility criteria’ for deciding which children will receive services and how much support will be provided depending on the level of need. Be prepared for a bit of a wait for an assessment. A social worker will come to your home to assess your child’s needs. The assessment will be based on a range of factors such as your child’s health and behaviour, but also your family circumstances and your home environment.
The type of support provided varies from one local authority to another but is likely to include:
- Getting you a break from caring (or respite care) – examples are: a holiday playscheme, a few hours of help each week in the home, or weekend overnight care for children with high care needs.
- Equipment and adaptations for your home with advice from an Occupational Therapist.
- Providing access to practical assistance and advice on your caring role, for example: with travel, special cutlery, sleep and toileting, signposting to benefits services.
For more information have a look at the Contact Scotland website.
In addition to the assessment of your child’s needs you can also request an assessment for your own needs as a carer from your social work department. Obviously there will be a lot of overlap between your child’s needs and your own needs, but considering your circumstances from a different perspective may result in additional services for you to assist you.
The Scottish Government introduced new legislation in 2013 which gives you the right to more choice and control over services provided for your child. This is called Self Directed Support (SDS). The aim of SDS is to allow anyone affected by disability and ill health, including children, to live a full life by making their own choices rather that having to fit into services that happen to be provided.
Your social worker will discuss Self Directed Support with you as part of your child’s Section 23 Assessment (see above). You can choose whether to purchase services yourself using a budget (called a Direct Payment) allocated by your social work department. However, you have other options. You can choose to involve another care provider, or ask social work to organise services for you, or choose a mix of these options. It is important to note that if your child’s needs are assessed as being low or moderate you may not receive a service or Direct Payment from social work but you may be provided with information about other useful services available.
As explained above, your Section 23 assessment may result in a further assessment by an occupational therapist (OT). The OT will decide whether your child requires aids and adaptions to your house. If you are an owner-occupier or a private tenant and you are assessed as having priority needs then you will be eligible for a ‘mandatory’ grant for structural adaptations. A private landlord will be expected to agree to reasonable adaptations. This might include changes such as replacing a bath with a shower or putting in a ramp. If you are a tenant of a housing association or local authority then you would be expected to approach your landlord with adaptations. Your local authority or housing association may assist you to move to a suitable property rather than making adaptations.