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Tuesday, 2 October 2023

Early Support Programme - co-ordinated support for young disabled children

Early Support helps co-ordinate, and can improve, the services your child and family receives. It helps parents and carers to be more actively involved in decisions about their child.

About the Early Support programme

Early Support supports parents and carers of disabled children aged five and under. It brings together all the services and support available from different agencies. This makes it easier for families to co-ordinate their child's health, education and social care needs.

Some families will have a key worker who provides advice and support and can help negotiate the system. A key worker may be needed more at some times than at others. Families can decide what works best for them.

Early Support has developed a wide range of resources, training courses and workshops. They include:

  • a Family Pack containing information booklets about services and the Family File for sharing information with service providers easily
  • materials and resources to record your child's development
  • information booklets on a range of disabilities and conditions
  • a range of training courses developed for families and carers to help them use the resources and services offered by Early Support

Where Early Support is available

Early Support is a national programme that is being introduced and run by local councils and Primary Care Trusts across England. Some areas may be further ahead with it than others.

The professionals who work with you should know whether Early Support is offered in your area. If Early Support is not yet being used, ask when it will be introduced and whether there is a local support group. You can still access and use free Early Support materials.

The Welsh Assembly recently agreed to bring Early Support to Wales.

Who Early Support is for

Early Support is for families with a disabled child under five years old, and anyone who works regularly with young children and families. This includes families with:

  • young babies leaving hospital with medical and other support needs, where parents and carers need practical help to care for their child at home
  • older children where the need for extra help becomes clear only in the second or third year of life
  • children who have obvious, multiple and significant factors affecting development and learning
  • children who have less obvious difficulties

Why Early Support is needed

Families with young disabled children have said that they would like co-ordinated services, a key worker, more information and less bureaucracy.

They also wanted to stop having to repeat themselves to every new person involved in their child's care. They wanted to be treated as a child and family, not as a medical case.

The Family File and the Developmental Journal helps families and carers to share information about their child with the professionals they meet. This also helps them to avoid having to say the same things to every new person.

What other families think about Early Support

Many people have found the Early Support programme very helpful. Read about other families' experiences of using Early Support on the Every Child Matters website.


Sign Language

The most important step for deaf parents and carers is to let their key worker or lead professional know how they would like to communicate. If they use British Sign Language (BSL), a sign interpreter will be needed for discussions with professionals who do not use BSL.

The Signature website (previously Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People - CACDP) has more information about BSL to English interpreters.

Foreign languages

Where families do not speak English, or one member does not, local councils or Primary Care Trusts may be able to arrange for an interpreter. The interpreter will translate during discussions with professionals. You can speak to your local council, Primary Care Trust or key worker about this.

The Early Support background information booklets are available in other languages. You can download them from the Every Child Matters website.

Additional links

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