Skip to content

Children and young people with disabilities

The Disabled Children and Therapy Service have a range of services for families of children and young people with disabilities

Although access to most of these services usually requires a social work or occupational therapy assessment, early intervention and support for families is provided by our SCIP (Supporting Change in Partnership) workers, Disabled Children Family Workers and Portage services, without the need for a formal assessment 

We assess children and young people's individual needs so we can provide the right help.

We offer an assessment to children and young people with disabilities who are described as 'Children in Need' under The Children Act 1989.

This could be a learning disability or a physical disability. It could also be sensory loss, complex health needs or life limiting conditions.

If you would like an assessment of need please contact 0300 1234 101.

Before the assessment takes place, we will;

  • Talk to you about who else we need to speak to
  • Ask your permission before we contact them
  • A member of our team will meet with you and your family to discuss your needs
  • We keep all your information confidential, unless there are concerns about your safety or the safety of others
  • During the assessment we will discuss your child's developmental needs.
  • We will ask about their health and education
  • We will also ask what they are good at and what they enjoy
  • We will also ask about their care needs and about their wider family
  • It may also be necessary to see your child in their school or short break setting. This will provide us with an understanding of their needs on a day to day basis
  • We will ask you about your views before the assessment is complete and write your views down
  • You will receive a copy of the assessment

We offer assessments to all children unless support should be provided by a different service, or could be provided at a different level. We use Our Safeguarding Children's Partnership Threshold Tool to see what level of support you might need.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 applies to people aged 16 years or older. You can find out more by downloading our Mental Capacity and Best Interests leaflet

Changing places

Changing Places are multi-purpose changing rooms for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties and their carers.  Changing Places toilets have additional features and more space to meet the needs of people with disabilities.

Changing Places provide adequate space and a safe and clean environment for its users.  They have an electric tracking or mobile hoist, an adjustable changing bench and a centrally-positioned toilet, 

They also include:

  • an adult sized changing bench and a tracking hoist system or mobile hoist if this is not possible
  • adequate space in the changing area for the disabled person and up to two carers
  • a centrally placed toilet with room either side for the carers
  • a screen or curtain to allow the disabled person and carer some privacy

Changing places website

BUGZI Loan Scheme

The award-winning MERU Bugzi is a powered indoor wheelchair for children aged one to six.  It offers a unique opportunity for pre-school children with disabilities to experience independent mobility. Often for the first time in their lives. Bugzi is available to loan free of charge from Cornwall Mobility.

Cornwall Mobility website 

Equipment Hire

Disabled Children Social Care has a range of equipment for hire.

There is a small charge per item to cover repairs due to wear and tear, and terms and conditions apply.

You can request equipment on the equipment hire form and send as an attachment to

All Local Authorities must have a record of disabled children and young people in their area.

It is your choice if you want to be a part of this record.

The benefits

  • we can send you news and updates about Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) services
  • it lets us see where people with SEND live and helps us plan services

Things to know

  • your record is not linked to any other register
  • it will not affect entitlement to services or benefits
  • being on the DCR does not automatically entitle your child to services

How to register

To access the DCR you will need to create an account on the Family Information Service website. Once registered, you can view or update your account at any time.

Early Support is a service which helps disabled children and young people. It is part of the Disabled Children and Therapy Service.

How to access Early Support

Young people, parents, carers or professionals can request Early Support Team Around the Child (TAC) meetings. They can also request support through Supporting Change in Partnership (SCIP).

You can ask about Early Support by contacting the Early Help Hub

What is Early Support?

  • We bring together families and professionals to plan support for young people.
  • We work to improve the way that services work with disabled children and young people.
  • We ensure that children, young people and their families are at the centre of the services.

Who Early Support work with

We work with children and young people aged 0 to 18 years who have an additional need or disability. 

How Early Support works in Cornwall - The Team Around the Child (TAC) Meeting

  • A Team Around the Child (TAC) Meeting brings together professionals and families
  • At the meeting a lead professional will write an Early Support Plan
  • The plan will look at the priorities of the child and their parents or carers
  • The TAC meeting is chaired by a Lead Professional who is chosen by the child and their family
  • The Lead Professional acts as a ‘Key Worker’ for the family

Supporting Change in Partnership (SCIP)

  • Supporting Change In Partnership (SCIP) is a sixteen week intervention
  • It is for families who need practical support with their disabled child
  • SCIP aims to prevent the need for a Social Work Assessment
  • SCIP works on the things that families say are difficult for them
  • SCIP aims to respond quickly to children, young people and their family’s needs
  • SCIP workers and trained Parent Volunteers deliver the service

Disabled Children's Family Worker

  • Disabled Children's Family Workers work with families where a child plan is in place
  • They act as their key worker
  • They review the child's plan and package of care on a regular basis
  • They provide the family with practical and emotional support

Early Support training

Training is offered to practitioners to familiarise them with the Early Support principles and approach. Please contact Crin Whelan for more information.

Crin Whelan, Early Support Lead: 07805 748704 

Short Break Care is provided for a disabled child or young person in a carer's own home.  This can be for a few hours per week up to several days a month.

Short breaks:

  • give disabled children new, enjoyable and fun experiences
  • provides them with an opportunity to make new friends
  • gives their siblings benefit from spending individual time with their parents
  • it provides a break for the parents of the disabled child / young person from their ongoing caring responsibilities
  • are a rewarding experience for the carers who often form friendships with the family they support

View our Family Based Short Break Care leaflet for more informationHow to become a Short Break Carer

The first step is to contact us:

We hold regular Information Meetings so the next step is to attend one when you can. Following this meeting, a social worker will meet with you in your home to discuss things with you in more detail. After this, your assessment to become a short break carer starts. The assessment includes training and checks and references.

Approved short break carers are governed by the Foster Care Regulations but their role is very different to Foster Carers.  

How do people access Family Based Short Break Care?

Children, young people and their families can access Short Break care through their disability social worker.  All requests are referred by the disability social worker to the Disabilities Panel.

We work with disabled children and young people aged 0-18 who:

  • are resident in Cornwall; and
  • has a permanent and substantial learning or physical disability

Resulting in a need to improve their:

  • access
  • independence
  • activities of daily living

We usually assess children and young people who have:

  • A physical disability
  • A learning disability
  • A chronic life-limiting or life-threatening condition
  • Sensory impairment or loss
  • Autism Spectrum Condition
  • Other complex needs

We will assess individual need and jointly agree the services that need to be put in place to ensure your child has the right support.

Occupational therapy leafletWhat services do we offer?

We arrange:

  • loan of equipment
  • moving and handling advice for children and carers
  • arrangement of minor and major adaptations

Major adaptations are funded via the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).  Some adaptations are referred to the Home Solutions Team.

Disabled Facilities Grants eligibility

Moving and handling guidance

Which areas do we cover?

Our Occupational Therapists work across the county in three teams: West, Mid and East.

How can someone start using the service?

You can make a referral to the Occupational Therapy Service for an assessment. You can call or make a written referral to the Multi Agency Referral Unit (MARU) on 0300 123 1116 or at

We prioritise referrals according to urgency of need and risk of potential harm. We offer other ideas and signpost you to more suitable help where appropriate.

Health Care and Professions Council

Occupational Therapists have a professional qualification and are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council.

Wheelchair Service - Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

The Wheelchair Service supports children with specialist wheelchair needs.

What is the Portage service?

Portage workers are Early Years practitioners who have a good knowledge of child development and have special needs experience. We are part of Cornwall Council’s Disabled Children and Therapy Service. We provide support and guidance to enable parents to achieve the best outcomes for their child.

You can download the Portage Service leaflet for more information 

Children We Work With

1. Referrals will be accepted for children from birth until the age of 28 months.

2. Children who have, or are expected to have, a six-month delay in their development in two or more areas which may require specialist provision in the longer term. These areas include personal, social, and emotional development; communication skills; physical abilities; and cognitive development.

3. Children where there are Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) scores of 15 or below in at least two developmental areas.

4. Children who have a significant sensory loss (e.g., hearing, sight) in addition to a developmental delay, which may result in the need for specialist provision in the longer term.

What We Do

New requests for Portage services are made through the Early Help Hub. The Early Help Hub will triage the request and, if appropriate, send it to the Team Manager, who will then pass it onto the Portage team.

Portage works with the consent of the parent or carer and the child/young person.

The Portage Worker will contact the family within 5 working days of receiving the request for support.

The Portage Worker will arrange to meet the family within 10 working days and explain more about Portage Support and the Portage model. At this meeting, there will be an agreement between the Portage Worker and the family about whether support is needed and what this support will look like.

The Portage Worker will share information about the Portage groups.

The Portage Worker, along with the family, will complete a baseline assessment to identify the child’s strengths and areas for development.

Portage helps families to recognise their child’s progress and celebrate the child's success.

The Worker will agree Portage targets which they will support the child and family to achieve through playful, fun activities. The first set of targets will be written in six visits within a two-month period of the initial meeting.

Every four months, the family and the Portage Worker will review the child's progress and set new targets as appropriate.

This ‘Assess, Plan, Do, Review’ process will support an application for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) needs assessment if required.

Support from Portage ends when: 

Children have made significant progress in their development and no longer meet the 'who we work with' criteria for our services.

Two-year-olds who attend nursery using their government-funded nursery placements.

For parents who choose not to enrol their child in nursery, Portage services will end at the conclusion of the school term following the child's third birthday.

How can my child be referred?

To make a referral to the Portage Service please complete the Early Help Hub referral form.

Young people in Cornwall can begin the process of transition from Children's Services to Adult Services in Year 9 (age 14) and onwards.

Preparing for adulthood can be an anxious time for young people and their parents or carers. They may be unsure about what to expect and what help may be available in order to plan for the future. There may be uncertainty about the roles of different agencies and the support that can be given.

If you or your parent or carer would like information about preparing for adulthood, please contact us. We will help to guide you through the process.

Multi Agency Transition Protocol for Young People Moving from Children's to Adult Services

Mental Capacity and Best Interests

Need help?

Most issues can be resolved online, it's the quickest and most convenient way to get help.

Use our contact us form

Your feedback is important to us

Help us improve our service