Early Support Programme

The Early Support Programme is for the families and carers of disabled children under five years of age. The programme allows families to co-ordinate the support they receive from health, education and social care professionals and organisations. It helps parents and carers have more involvement in the care of their child and to organise future plans.

The programme offers training courses for parents and families. Through the programme, you will also receive a "family file" containing key information and a place for you to keep a record of your child's progress.

Key workers

If you are caring for a disabled child, you will see several different professionals and you may find that you have to explain your child's needs and disability repeatedly. The Early Support Programme allocates your family a "key worker", who can arrange your child's care and provide for their developmental needs through the other organisations or professionals.

Your key worker should be someone who already works with children, such as a nurse, teacher or social worker, although you can become the key worker for your own family if you are a parent or carer.

The key worker's role is to ensure that any changes to your child's needs are addressed quickly and efficiently. They can also help you keep track of appointments and plans for future care.

The Early Support Programme offers support and training to key workers to make sure that they are getting the best out of services and agencies for you and your child.

The family file

Professionals can read your family file to find out information about your child so that you don't need to repeat yourself. The file allows you to keep track of your child's progress, plan for the future, and keep hold of important documents and contacts.

The family file has a section introducing your family, where you can write anything that you think someone involved in your child's care should know about. You can write this information yourself, as a family, or you can ask for help from someone involved in your child's care. Putting this information down in writing means you won't forget something important in a stressful situation.

You can use the family file to explain about your child's disability, medical history and any dietary or care needs that they might have. You can also use it as a place to keep copies of any letters or details of any assessments your family and child have had.

It is a good place to keep a list of any local sources of support and information that you might want to contact. The file allows you to keep a record of professional contacts, important numbers, referrals and meetings you've had. You can also use this section to write notes about what happened in each meeting for your own records. This may prove helpful for professionals when planning future treatment and care plans.

As it is quite common for families to think of questions after meetings or appointments have finished, you can also use the family file to record these questions. This way, the next time you have an appointment or get in contact with that professional, you can ask them all the things you would like to know.

Having the family file can allow you to decide what the best course of action for your child is with other agencies, and which services you feel need prioritising.

More information

For more information about how to get involved with the Early Support Programme, speak to your local authority or your child's key workers. You can find your contact details for your local authority in our directory (above, right).

Watch the film below to find out more about being the parent of a child with a disability.