Children with a Disability and those Children who May Need Special Medical Help

1. Introduction

This chapter talks about children who have disabilities and those who have complex health needs. There are too many types of disability and complex health needs to list here but you must remember that if you are caring for a child with these needs, there will have been at least one professional who has a clear idea about what the disability is and what it means for the child to function on a day-to-day basis.

Sometimes a child or young person may have been given a label like 'autistic' by somebody and this might not be accurate so you need to work with the other people involved with the child to understand better what this means and what they are really like.

Disabled people often find that their disabilities are the first and only thing that people notice about them and you must remember that the child or young person should be thought of first before the special need that they have.

2. Caring for a Child

The sort of help that children with a disability need are:

  • Help with physical disabilities like mobility issues.
  • Help with learning difficulties and social disorders such as those on the Autistic Spectrum;
  • Sensory impairments (e.g. partial sight).

The sort of help that children with complex health issues need are:

  • Special medication and dealing with things like epilepsy;
  • Help with breathing, eating and other daily functions like using the toilet and bathing.

Some children may need help in both of these categories. Some children have entitlements to benefits that are not affected by being in a foster home. See Money Matters and Insurance.

Where a child needs special help, you should be in a position to provide this. This means that these things should be in place before the child moves in:

  • You may need special training from a suitably qualified medical professional. This could include giving special medication or treatment and understanding the child's needs;
  • You should be provided with suitable equipment such as a hoist or a special car seat or wheelchair;
  • Where there are risks around manual handling, risk assessments should be completed.

It should also be clarified as to what equipment the child may bring with them and what else they may need.

When considering caring for a child with a disability, you need to be given full information in order to be clear whether you can meet their needs. You must be approved to care for these children before they can be placed. Once you have decided to take the child, the Placement Planning meeting should detail all the support including medical needs the child has. It should be clear what decisions you can make regarding the child's day-to-day life including medical decisions.

All children with a disability should have an Education, Health and Care Plan which identifies the help that they need to get the best out of going to school, pre-school and college. You should know what this says before a child is placed.

Many children with disabilities need continuing services throughout their lives.

Assessment should take a long-term perspective. This will help you, the birth family and professionals to make decisions about the kind of help needed, at different points in time, for example with education, respite or other services.

Your Supervising Social Worker or the child's social worker should help you to identify appropriate support and advice from relevant agencies including following their interests and taking part in activities they are interested in.

You should make sure they have all they need to reach their potential and lead as full a life as possible.

3. Local Offer

Local authorities in England have a duty to develop and publish a Local Offer setting out the support they expect to be available for local children and young people aged 0-25 with Special Educational Needs (SEN) or disabilities, whether or not they have an Education, Health and Care Plan.

The Local Offer should be available via the local authority website.

The Local Offer must include information about:

  • Special educational, health and social care provision for children and young people with SEN or disabilities – this should include online and blended learning;
  • Arrangements for identifying and assessing children and young people's SEN – this should include arrangements for Education, Health and Care Needs Assessments;
  • Education provision and post-16 education and training provision;
  • Information about provision to assist in preparing young people for adulthood;
  • Arrangements for travel to and from education institutions;
  • Childcare, including suitable provision for disabled children and those with SEN;
  • Support available to young people in higher education, particularly the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) and the process and timescales for making an application for DSA;
  • Arrangements for resolving disagreements and for mediation, and details about making complaints.

The Local Offer must include provision in the local authority's area, and also provision outside the local area that the local authority expects is likely to be used by children and young people with SEN for whom they are responsible and disabled children and young people. This could be provision in a school or further education college in a neighbouring area or support services for children and young people with particular types of SEN that are provided jointly by local authorities.