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Social Care and Early Help | Community Directory

Social Care and Early Help

Disabled children and young people have the same rights as other children and we want to make sure that we are able to offer the correct support, to ensure they have the same opportunities as other children.

Suffolk County Council has a duty to assess the needs of children and young people with disabilities and to offer support services to minimise the effects of disabled children’s disabilities and provide them the opportunity to lead lives which are ‘as normal as possible’. 

Families in Suffolk may be supported by different teams within Suffolk County Council’s services for children and young people.

The Early Help Service is made up of teams of practitioners who work with families who have unmet needs which aren’t being met by other support.

If you have a question regarding the support available or would like to provide feedback, please email LocalOffer@suffolk.gov.uk.

Early Help Service – how do I access support and what’s available?

The Early Help Service offers a wide range of support, the focus of the service is to work with families in ways that help you to manage and identify your own solutions. This support is available for parents and their children 0-19 (up to 25 for those with additional needs).

This may include:

  • One to one parenting support according to the needs of your family accessed via CAF.
  • One to one support to improve child’s confidence and wellbeing accessed via CAF.
  • Support to encourage school attendance –  Education Welfare Officer accessed via school
    *(academies may choose to provide their own services for school attendance).
  • Support for young people in year 11 – 13 who are at risk of, or not in education, employment or training accessed via school, college or a provider. You can also contact your area team.
  • Parenting groups, eg Triple P, Solihull, Strengthening Families visit the Parent Hub on the Suffolk County Council website for more information.
  • Virtual resources to provide support for families

If you or those who work with your family feel your child needs extra help because they have some unmet needs, you can choose to begin a common assessment framework, often referred to as a CAF, visit the Suffolk County Council website for more information. A CAF may be useful if your child is experiencing a range of difficulties; these might be around their emotional wellbeing or around their behaviour in the home or the local community. Most often it is when there is a combination of difficulties. Usually, if the only difficulty you and your child are experiencing is around your child’s behaviour at school, a CAF is not appropriate. Occasionally a CAF is completed when an early help service is not required. In this situation, we will still provide advice and guidance to make sure you get the support you need. 

When a CAFs is submitted, the needs of each child and family are reviewed, and the support offer is created in discussion and agreement with the family.

  • For many families face to face interventions will continue.
  • For some families a blend of virtual and face to face work will be offered,
  • and some families virtual only support will be provided.

How can I find out if my child/young person is entitled to input from Social Care?

Not all children and young people are entitled to input from Social Care but there is support available to all children and young people who require it.

Children are simply those aged 18 or under. Sometimes children’s services will also support young people aged up to 25 as well which overlaps with the age at which services from adult social care may be available.

Social Care is a term covering different types of support available from Suffolk County Council's Children and Young People's Directorate. This includes support that follows an assessment by a social worker but also includes support identified through the common assessment framework (CAF) which may lead to Early Help support. Disabled children have an additional range of assessment types and support options available too.

There are four levels of need within Suffolk’s Social Care provision. Children and young people can move from one service to another as their needs alter and the support they receive may also change.

Universal – services than can be accessed by anybody

All families can access Universal Services – these services can be accessed directly or via self-referral.  Universal Services include: Children’s Centres, GP’s, Health Centres, School Nursing, Education and funding for early education.

Information about the above can be found via the Suffolk Family Information Service – contact 0345 60 800 33

For children with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND) Activities Unlimited provides breaks and leisure activities to children aged 0-25 in Suffolk and in some cases funding up to 18.  Contact – 01473 260026

Early Intervention

Common Assessment Framework – this is a way of working with families who need help.  A CAF Assessment will put the needs of the family at the heart of any decisions made. It is a shared assessment tool and aims to identify needs as soon as possible and bring together services to offer co-ordinated support.   

The CAF is a voluntary process and used by people working for organisations including school, children centres and health services who know the child and family well.  The focus of the CAF is the child/children and their views are an essential part of the process.    The CAF process does not guarantee that a service will be provided, but it does provide evidence of a need for further information and support. This might be available through signposting or universal services

Early Help – this service provides support that has been identified through the Common Assessment Form process that is not available from other services.  Early Help can also prevent further problems arising.   Early Help Teams have Family Support Practitioners who offer help and advice to families in need with difficulties such as parenting, safety planning, mediation and direct work with children/young people.  They arrange Family Network Meetings to bring together family, friends, community and professional support to help the family as a whole. 

Access to Early Help support is via the Common Assessment Framework.

You can self-refer via the portal, but will need to register an account - https://cypportal.suffolk.gov.uk/web/portal/pages/home

For information about Early Help/CAF contact CAF Triage on 01473 263210


There are children with SEND who will be assessed as eligible for a service from the children in need team, rather than the disabled children’s team.

For example, a child requires time limited support from a social worker when they aren’t achieving expected outcomes. (This includes the Child in Need threshold)

Suffolk Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) – Customer First on 0808 400 8005.


Disabled Children and Young People’s Service (DCYP) is responsible for assessing the individual care needs of children and young people.  The DCYP team provide support and advice to disabled children and young people with complex needs requiring a higher level of specialist services. This may include looking at needs relating to care in the home, assessment within the home environment, support for carers, personal budgets and transition support. 

Following a social work assessment, services provided could include the offer of support at home with personal care, overnight breaks from caring either in the home or within a short break provision and the option of Direct Payments as a Personal Budget where appropriate and as part of an Education, Health and Care Plans.  

There are criteria for DCYP input due to the capacity of the team. Appropriate referrals would include children with severe and permanent disabilities/learning difficulties and physical disabilities that significantly impact the child’s ability to access the community. 

In line with the review of the Disabled Children and Young People’s Team pathways into specialist services are also being reviewed. In the interim anyone in need of support for a child / young person with a disability should still initially contact Customer First.

Referrals to DCYP are completed via Customer First either by a parent of a professional.  The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) screen the referrals and make a decision to undertake a Social Work Assessment or signpost to appropriate services such as Activities Unlimited or Early Help Team. 

Referral Pathway for Sensory Social Care (CYP)

If your child has a disability and you think they would benefit from support from a short break please contact Activities Unlimited.

If your child has a disability and you think your they would benefit from support from social care, please contact Customer First on 0808 800 4005.

Requesting Parent Carer Needs Assessments as a Carer of a Child/Young Person with a Disability

The purpose of a Parent Carer Needs assessment is so you can have your own assessment, allowing you to discuss with a practitioner your caring role and how it affects your wellbeing, your feelings and choices about caring, what help you need to support you as a carer of a child/young person with additional needs and/or disabilities, and to find out what help and support may be available.

The practitioner will work collaboratively with you to develop a plan around your needs.  The plan is likely to include things that your family and friends themselves will do to support, as well as facilitating access to relevant local support services.

If you have a Social Worker or Family Support Practitioner already working with you, they may suggest a Parent Carer Needs Assessment if it appears to them that you may have needs for support.

If you are the parent or carer of a child with additional needs, you can request a parent carer needs assessment by contacting Customer First 0808 800 4005.

In Suffolk, eligibility for short breaks is assessed through Activities Unlimited which also considers your role as a carer as part of the on-line assessment: www.activities-unlimited.co.uk

If you are looking for funding, you may want to explore support available through the Family Fund: https://www.familyfund.org.uk/

If you need support because of your own care needs, rather than because of those of your child/young person, you may want to explore whether you require a Care and Support Assessment through Adult Services:


If you want advice and support about your child’s/young person’s emotional wellbeing you may want to explore support available through the Emotional Wellbeing Hub: