Getting help because your child is having serious difficulties, or there are major problems in your family

If you need help because your child is experiencing serious difficulties, you should contact your local authority’s Children’s Services department and ask for a child in need assessment. You can do this by going into the office or by phoning the duty or assessment team (the details will be in your phone book and on the local authority website). It will be helpful if you are clear as you can be about:

  • what the problems are,
  • how severe the problems are,
  • how support will help your child, and
  • what might happen to your child if help is not offered.

It is also useful to give the social worker details of other people who are involved with your child, including other people in your family and professionals who know your child, for example a health visitor or teacher.  These people may be able to give useful information about what might help your child.

Once you ask for an assessment of your child’s needs, you may be given help straight away if your child’s needs are very serious. Or you may need to wait until social workers have looked in more detail at your child’s situation.  In non-urgent cases they will follow a series of steps before they decide what help they will give you:

  1. The social worker decides within one working day if a child in need assessment is required
  2. An assessment of your child’s needs is carried out
  3. A plan for support services is drawn up if a decision is made that your child is in need.

Deciding if a child in need assessment is required:

  • are disabled, or
  • have other serious difficulties that make things so hard that your child won’t be healthy or develop normally without extra help. These difficulties could include family problems, such as your child being out of control, perhaps being violent, your child self harming, or your child having experienced domestic violence, or very poor living conditions (these are just examples).


If the social worker decides that your child may be a child in need, they will carry out an assessment. This means a social worker will look in more detail at your child’s situation. They will look at what your child needs, how able you are to meet these needs and at other things that affect your child‘s well-being, for example your child’s extended family, your housing situation, what extra childcare you have etc.

You and your child should be fully involved in the assessment. A timescale should be agreed with you that meets your child’s needs but the assessment should not usually take longer than 45 days.

  • Your child’s needs should be assessed following: Working Together 2015
  •  your local threshold documents
  • your local protocol for assessment

It is a good idea to ask your child’s social worker for a copy of the threshold documents and the assessment protocol which is followed in your area as soon as you ask for help so that you know what to expect. By the end of the assessment the social worker should have a clear picture of your child’s situation and will have decided whether your child is a child in need. The social worker should let you know what will happen next, what help will be given to you and your child (if any), and if so what kind of help this will be.

Plan for support to be provided to a child in need:

If the assessment shows that your child is in need of support services then a child in need plan will be made. This plan will usually be made at a meeting, where professionals who know your family discuss with you the sort of help you and your child may need. You should be asked if you agree to what is put in this plan. The plan should set out:

  • What help will be provided (for example help with childcare, home help, essential equipment)
  • How long the help will be available
  • What difference the help is expected to make to your child
  • When the plan will be looked at again to check it is working

It is important for you and the social worker to work together to make sure that this plan helps your child and your family. The plan will probably also involve other key people such as teachers and health visitors.