Assessing the needs of young siblings
Siblings of disabled children should have their needs assessed as children in need and as young carers when they have a disabled brother or sister.
Children in need assessments
All disabled children are themselves children in need under the Children Act 1989. It is good practice when assessing a disabled child to also assess their siblings to determine if they are also children in need, as many siblings are. Under Section 17 (3) they have the right to be assessed by the local authority if it is thought that:
a. he is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him of services by a local authority under this Part; or
b.his health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision for him of such services
Local authorities can provide services for siblings who are assessed as children in need but siblings do not have a right to support whereas their disabled brothers and sisters do under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Person’s Act 1970.
Young carer assessments
Young carers are children and young people who often take on caring responsibilities (practical and/or emotional) that should be the responsibility of an adult. Neither child not adult siblings have a duty to care for their disabled brothers or sisters. Many siblings undertake practical tasks with their brother or sister such as feeding, administering medication, lifting and handling, sitting, and helping in the night. They may also support parents, for example listening to their worries, doing housework, going shopping or cooking meals. In addition siblings may offer emotional support such as helping their brother or sister to socialise and teaching them skills such as reading.
The Children and Families Act 2014 inserts new sections into the Children Act 1989 to give local authorities a duty to ‘assess whether a young carer within their area has needs for support and, if so, what those needs are’ (section 17ZA(1)).
Central to the assessment should be the question of whether it is appropriate for the sibling to be providing this care. Siblings, parent/carers and professionals can request that a sibling is assessed as a young carer.
Early help and support
The Common Assessment Framework (CaF) is a standardised approach for the assessment of children and their families, to facilitate the early identification of additional needs and to promote a coordinated service response. On completion of the assessment a plan is put in place and should be reviewed regularly. A CaF can be undertaken by any professional in contact with a child. Siblings could be assessed for example by a teacher, a school nurse or a children’s centre worker.
Emotional and behavioural wellbeing
Siblings can have their emotional and behavioural needs assessed through the Community and Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
Siblings of children with challenging behaviour are at risk for harm. If it is thought that a sibling has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, safeguarding procedures must be followed and the sibling assessed under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989. The assessment will be undertaken by a social worker in partnership with relevant professionals including those from education and health.