Guidance for new parent carers

We are updating our web information. Some of this information and links may not be correct. 

Having a child with special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) can affect all areas of life; day to day living, finances and family relationships, as well as your emotional wellbeing and the fun stuff. There is so much information out there. You probably wonder how best to navigate the SEND system.

The good news is there is a lot of support. It is just knowing where to find it, which is why we have created this section. Just as importantly, it is understanding that is it is okay to ask for help. By informing and educating yourself, you will be empowered to help your child or children live the best lives they can.

I think my child may have special needs – what do I do?

You could speak to your GP, the school or nursery teacher, the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) in the school or the school nurse. You can also contact the Special Education and Disability Information, Advice and Support Manchester (SENDIASS)

How do I get a diagnosis?

Diagnosis is the formal process to identify a learning disability or other disabilities and conditions. It is usually given by a health professional and is often based on a child’s medical symptoms. A GP usually makes a diagnosis of a learning disability, but it is often parents or teachers who first become aware that a child is having difficulties in certain areas. Sometimes, it can be a struggle to get a diagnosis and some parents may never receive one. Mencap says: ‘It is, by and large, guess work. So, while you may feel that getting a diagnosis is something you would value, it is also essential to remember that nothing helps you understand your child’s needs better than your interactions with them.’ Mencap has helpful information on diagnosis here.

What assessments will my child need?

You can ask Manchester City Council to carry out an assessment if you think your child needs an Educational, Health and Care Plan (EHC or EHCP). This is a legal document that sets out a child or young person’s special educational, health and social care needs. It describes the extra help that will be given to meet those needs and how that help will support them to achieve what they want to in their life. Most young people with SEND will have their needs met without an EHC plan.

A young person can request an assessment themselves if they are aged 16 to 25. A request can also be made by anyone else who thinks an assessment may be necessary, including doctors, health visitors, teachers and parents.

You can find more on EHCs in this Manchester City Council information and on the Government website

Will my child have to go to a special school?

Most children in Manchester with special educational needs and disabilities, including those with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans, are supported in mainstream schools. See this Council guidance on SEN support in mainstream schools.

You and Manchester City Council might decide a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school is the best way to support your child’s education. Your child will need an EHC to get into a special school. Parents and the young person can request particular schools and colleges. Find out more here. 

Any other guidance around education? 

Some of your education questions may be answered in Manchester’s SEND Talk Podcasts. See this podcast page to listen for free from the SENDIASS website or your favourite podcast player. There are transcriptions of each episode too.

All pupils should be helped to fulfil their potential. Here’s everything you need to know about reasonable adjustments and how they can help disabled children in schools.

Matching Provision to Need Tool (MPNT): Guidance around the different levels of support schools should be providing to meet your child's needs. There is a set of tools for 0-5 years, 5-14 years and 14-25 years.

Manchester Ordinarily Available Provision: Describes the range of support, strategies and activities in early years settings for young children with additional needs without the need for a formal diagnosis or specialist support.

Anxiety Based School Avoidance: A tool for parents/carers and schools to talk to children and young people regarding their anxieties and to provide strategies to encourage school attendance.

What if I disagree with decisions around my child’s education?

See this guidance on Disagreement Resolution and Mediation Services in Manchester.

The Council for Disabled Children has created some guidelines for parent carers looking for support with tribunals or disputes. Whilst parents and young people are free to use whoever they wish to support them, these guidelines are to help inform and support that choice. You have a right to free impartial information, advice and support from trained, SEND specialists. In the Manchester City Council area, this is offered by the SENDIASS team - check out their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

There is also this further information on SEND tribunals.

SENDIASS are there to provide free and independent advice around these matters.

Do I need to register my child with Manchester City Council?

Manchester City Council keeps a register of Disabled Children and Young People aged 0-19 years with disabilities or special educational needs. The Register aims to improve access and take up of services and identify gaps in provision. There is no requirement to sign your child up to the register – it is up to you. Find out how to register your child here.

Does support end when my child is 18?

In most cases, support and services go up to the age of 25. That is certainly the case with us – we cover young people with SEND up to, and including, 25 years old.

How can the Manchester Local Offer help me?

We can help you understand what services and support you can expect locally, including statutory entitlements which are required by law. We have an online directory, regular drop ins, a newsletter with the latest SEND news and updates, and can work with you to help improve services and what’s on offer. You can find out about each of these in the other sections on this page. We also have our Local Offer SEND Information Hub, with a breadth of resources around various topics, including Education, Stuff To Do, Benefits, Household and Travel and Your Wellbeing.

We encourage you to sign up to our regular newsletter. It’s where to get the latest news and updates relating to SEND families. To get the newsletter delivered straight to your email inbox, you need to sign up through the Council's e-bulletin subscription page. Here is some guidance on how to do this

Are there other parents to talk to and give me advice?

Experienced parents who know how to navigate their way around the SEND system are a great source of support and guidance. In Manchester, we are fortunate to have two groups of parent/carers who make a big difference to SEND families:

Manchester Parent Champions

The Parent Champions offer support to other parent/carers in the city through their Facebook page, where they share tips and have conversations about the things that affect their everyday lives. They work in partnership with the Council and staff in health and education settings to improve services and make life better for Manchester SEND families. Contact them through Facebook or see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Manchester Parent Carer Forum (MPCF)

As parent/carers themselves, the Forum understands the day-to-day challenges. They share information through Facebook and their website. Like the Manchester Parent Champions, MPCF are there to give SEND families a voice and would welcome hearing about your experiences. You can become a member for free, using this online contact form.

At a wider level, there are numerous parent/carer groups around the UK. Some of these are around SEND in general, like Special Needs Jungle, or they are part of the offer from national groups - the Down’s Syndrome Association Facebook groups, for example. There are also local groups which you can search for on our database under keywords.

Our monthly drop ins are a great place to get support from other parent/carers in the city. 

Am I a carer and what help can I get?

You might not think of yourself as a carer but recognising that you might be means you can access support, advice and guidance (see 'Am I a Carer?'). Carers Manchester is the first point of contact in the city for your questions, no matter how big or small. It is a group of organisations working together to improve services for Manchester’s unpaid carers. Their Contact Point is 0161 543 8000, Monday–Friday 10am–4pm except bank holidays, and 10am–6pm on Wednesdays. You can also email at, fill in an online contact form or send a message through Facebook.

You may have a young carer in your family, a young person aged 18 or under who helps with the care of a brother or sister. Find out about support for young carers in the city.

Are there organisations to support me?

There are many local and national organisations that offer free support. You can find a list of some of them in our Local Offer SEND Information Hub or search our database under keywords. There are also organisations listed in our hub under specific topics, like benefits and finances, and your wellbeing.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch with the Local Offer Team - contact details at the top of the Welcome page.   

We encourage you to sign up to our regular newsletter for the latest updates on support available. To get the newsletter, you need to sign up to the Manchester City Council e-bulletin system. Here is some guidance on how to do this

What else might it be helpful for me to know about?

We encourage you to take a look at our Local Offer SEND Information Hub

‘About Me’ has been developed in Manchester to give children and young people a concise and clear person-centred profile of just one page or two pages that can be used in all settings. It saves repeating their story. Appointments or social events can also be better when key information is shared beforehand. Download the templates which are easily filled in electronically or can be printed out. 

We would also like to give a mention to two reliable sources of information and support. The first is Carers Manchester. They have a helpline, groups and events, and produce a regular newsletter.

The other is Contact, a national charity for families with disabled children. They are very informative on all aspects of life and have a helpline and Listening Ear service.

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