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

The Children Act 1989 says that 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 Support in Cornwall website. Once registered, visit the "Dashboard" to create a record for your child.

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 

Family Based Short Break Care is provided for a disabled child in a carer’s own home. This can be for a few hours per week up to several days a month.

These short breaks give disabled children and young people new, enjoyable and fun experiences with a different family

  • It provides them with an opportunity to make new friends and try new interests
  • Their siblings benefit from spending individual time with their parents
  • It provides a break for the parents of the disabled child from their ongoing caring responsibilities
  • It is a rewarding experience for the carers who often form friendships with the family they support 

You can download our Family Based Short Break Care leaflet for more information 

How to become a Short Break Carer

If you are interested in becoming a family based short break carer then please telephone 01872 323638 or email

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?

The Portage Service provides a weekly home visiting service for children who meet our criteria.  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 & guidance to enable parents to achieve the best outcomes for their child

You can download the Portage Service leaflet for more information 

Who is the service for?

Pre-school children aged from 6 months to 3 years who have significant and complex additional needs

Where is the service delivered?

We will visit you and your child at home for a weekly visit of approximately one hour

What should I expect from the Portage Worker?

  • We will work in partnership with you to help your child learn through play based activities
  • We will support you to observe and record your child’s skills using a developmental journal
  • We will discuss your long term goals for your child and set realistic targets for you to work towards
  • We will support you to set a weekly target  to practice daily with your child
  • We will attend relevant meetings wherever possible,  e.g. Early Support Team Around the Child (TAC’s), Children in Need (CIN) Child in Care (CIC)
  • We will signpost you to any groups that may meet the needs of you and your child (e.g. Portage Playgroup, Small Steps, Oasis, Family Information Service and opportunities at local Family Hubs)

We would like you to:

  • Work in partnership with us and take an active role in helping your child make small steps of progress
  • Be available for a regular weekly visit of at least an hour
  • Practice and record the weekly activity target between Portage visits

How long will the service continue?

  • Until your child has any funded sessions at a childminder, pre-school/nursery setting or attends a child development centre or special school
  • Children may also finish Portage if they make such progress that they no longer meet the criteria

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