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4.1.2 Disability Enablement Service (DES)


This procedure outlines the decision making regarding how referrals are processed for children and young people who are disabled or who have Special Educational Needs (SEND).

Disability Enablement Service (DES)

  • DES is a multi-disciplinary service providing support for children and young people aged 0 – 25 who are disabled or who have SEND needs;
  • The principle function of the DES is the development and implementation of Education, Health and Care Plans for children who have SEND needs;
  • The service has 4 social workers who carry out statutory assessments under the Children Act 1989 and the Care Act 2014.

Other professionals within the DES are:


The Children Act 1989 (sec 17)

For the purposes of this Part a child shall be taken to be in need if:

  1. He/she 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;
  2. His/her health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision for him of such services; or
  3. He/she is disabled.

For the purposes of this Part, a child is disabled if he/she is blind, deaf or dumb or suffers from mental disorder of any kind or is substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed; and in this Part:

  • “Development” means physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development; and
  • “Health” means physical or mental health.

The Equalities Act 2010


A person (P) has a disability if:

  1. P has a physical or mental impairment; and
  2. The impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on P's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Children and Families Act 2014

Sec 19 Local authority functions: supporting and involving children and young people.

In exercising a function under this Part in the case of a child or young person, a local authority in England must have regard to the following matters in particular:

  1. The views, wishes and feelings of the child and his or her parent, or the young person;
  2. The importance of the child and his or her parent, or the young person, participating as fully as possible in decisions relating to the exercise of the function concerned;
  3. The importance of the child and his or her parent, or the young person, being provided with the information and support necessary to enable participation in those decisions;
  4. The need to support the child and his or her parent, or the young person, in order to facilitate the development of the child or young person and to help him or her achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes.

Sec 20 - When a child or young person has special educational needs:

  1. A child or young person has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her;
  2. A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:
    1. Has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age; or
    2. Has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.
  3. A child under compulsory school age has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she is likely to be within subsection (2) when of compulsory school age (or would be likely, if no special educational provision were made);
  4. Child or young person does not have a learning difficulty or disability solely because the language (or form of language) in which he or she is or will be taught is different from a language (or form of language) which is or has been spoken at home.

Sec 21 - Special educational provision, health care provision and social care provision.

“Social care provision” means the provision made by a local authority in the exercise of its social services functions.

The Care Act 2014 (Adult Social Care)

Promoting individual well-being:

  1. The general duty of a local authority, in exercising a function under this Part in the case of an individual, is to promote that individual’s well-being;
  2. “Well-being”, in relation to an individual, means that individual’s well-being so far as relating to any of the following:
    1. Personal dignity (including treatment of the individual with respect);
    2. Physical and mental health and emotional well-being;
    3. Protection from abuse and neglect;
    4. Control by the individual over day-to-day life (including over care and support, or support, provided to the individual and the way in which it is provided);
    5. Participation in work, education, training or recreation;
    6. Social and economic well-being;
    7. Domestic, family and personal relationships;
    8. Suitability of living accommodation;
    9. The individual’s contribution to society.

Referrals in regard to Disabled Children

All Requests for Safeguarding or Support referrals regarding disabled children are to be sent to the Multi- Agency Safeguarding Hub – MASH.

See: Waltham Forest GOV.UK website - Referrals to MASH: information for professionals.

The MASH will apply LB Waltham Forest Threshold criteria:

See: Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) Practice Guide.

Disability Enablement Service (DES) Social Work:


Referrals to the DES will only be in relation to children with complex needs at a level that requires a high social care support package to maintain the child being cared for at home or within the community.

This chapter was added to the manual in March 2017.


  1. Interface with Safeguarding and Family Support
  2. Safeguarding Concerns
  3. Joint Working

1. Interface with Safeguarding and Family Support

The eligibility criteria for the  DES establishes the threshold for referrals in relation to a child or young person (0-25) with a disability that can constitute the basis on which that child or young person can benefit from specialist support and / or is allocated a Social Worker from the IDS.

All requests for Social Care Support and / or Protection for children (0-18) will be received through the Multi–Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) which will be the decision making point for referrals that meet the Eligibility Criteria for the DES.

Based on a Social Model of Disability, the DES as part of the Families and Homes Directorate uses the Think Family approach to support Families, Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and / or Disabilities to be Safe, Healthy, Independent and Resilient. This approach encourages and advocates for inclusion and access to mainstream and community services irrespective of a child’s recognisable or medically diagnosed disability.

A child’s disability alone is therefore not an overriding criteria for a referral to the DES. Referrals to the DES will only be in relation to children with complex needs at a level that requires a high social care support package to maintain the child being cared for at home or within the community.

All children with disabilities are children in need an can access support as such from Children's Social Care (CSC) as appropriate to their level of need. Where a child comes to the attention of CSC only due to a request for support arising from his or disabilities as a primary need, such that there is a requirement for specialist assessment and intervention, the referral will be allocated to the DES.

2. Safeguarding Concerns

 Where this need is superseded by a current and on-going safeguarding and / or protection need, the safeguarding need will take priority as the primary need or area of concern and case will be allocated to CSC for assessment and intervention as appropriate. A child’s disability alone does not exclude them from involvement with CSC to ensure his or her safety and protection in the same way that his or her more able siblings or other non-disabled children require.

If safeguarding concerns are identified by a professional within the DES ( social worker, Assessment Planning and Review Officer etc.) a referral for Protection will need to be completed and sent to the MASH. It is important that the referral contains clear and appropriate information regarding the concerns.

Threshold decisions regarding the safeguarding of children are the responsibility of the MASH, and Children’s Social Care will be the lead agency in regards to safeguarding assessment and processes- and undertake responsibility for the section 47 and C&F assessment completed in the event of safeguarding concerns being identified.

Consistency threshold decision making, quality of referrals and other practice issues can be discussed in the MASH operational group attended by DES management representative.

For a referral to be allocated to the DES in respect of a request for support, the criteria are that a child must have a permanent and substantial disability (diagnosed by a doctor or consultant, with evidence being provided in that respect) and be severely or profoundly impaired in his development. Consideration for specialist support from the DES will also be given to children who have a significant number of moderate impairments which compounded may lead to a high level of dependence of the child on his carers. An Education, Health and Care Plan or a Statement of Special Educational Needs does not imply an automatic eligibility for specialist social care support from the DES. Consideration to be given to access to support at the universal or targeted levels of provision as a first recourse.

The criteria do not include children diagnosed with ADHD, HIV, Learning Disability or a psychiatric illness. Children with such diagnosis will only be eligible for services from the DES if they also have other disabilities which meet the criteria.

Receipt of DLA (Disability Living Allowance) may also constitute part of the criteria for provision of specialist services, however this is a guiding feature only and it is not to be applied under all circumstances.

Where CSC social workers hold cases of children who meet the above criteria for a specialist service, then such children should be transferred and allocated to the DES for an assessment to determine what specialist support (if any) should be put in place in respect of the child with disabilities. This will not include mainstream child in need support for the siblings of such a child although DES social work visits will provide an overview of the welfare the siblings as well.

3. Joint Working

Where CSC is involved with a family / sibling group in regards to safeguarding or child protection concerns, the child(ren) with disabilities within the family / sibling group should be included in the CSC assessment and intervention processes as any other child will be.

Where DES is involved with a child with disabilities and safeguarding concerns arise in respect of that child or other children within a sibling group, the lead professional for carrying out S47 enquiries in respect of all the children in the sibling group will be a CSC Social Worker. An immediate notification to CSC will be made. The DES will work jointly providing advice and support in relation to the child with disabilities until the end of the investigations.

If concerns are substantiated resulting in a continuation or escalation to child protection or Looked After processes, Social Worker from DES will no longer have involvement at the point of the first Child Protection Conference, the first Edge of Care Panel, following the making of an Emergency Protection Order or following a child being placed under Police Powers of Protection. A case transfer meeting will be held in relation to the child with disabilities for whom DES was involved.

There will remain a need for the disabled child and their family to continue to be supported in regard to the disabled child’s needs and this can be addressed by the DES retaining involvement through the allocated Assessment, Planning and Review Officer (APRO) – if the child has an Education and Health Care Plan,

If concerns are NOT substantiated, lead responsibility returns fully to the named social worker in the DES to continue involvement in providing specialist support for the child with disabilities until such support is no longer deemed as needed.