Roles of professionals in care and support

Between birth and age 25 children and young people will come into contact with a wide range of professionals. The different titles and roles can be confusing. You probably know what some of them do - like a social worker, for example - but others may be new to you.

This section provides you with information on some of the professionals working within care and support who could come into contact with children and young people who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

What is the role of the assistant practitioner?

Assistant practitioners assess, support and review people’s needs, including the needs of carers.

This involves arranging and carrying out home visits to undertake assessments and developing and writing up support plans to meet the identified assessed needs. This will include identifying outcomes that will meet the assessed needs.

This may include:

  • liaising or enabling people to liaise with providers or Adult Social Services support departments over administrative, contractual and financial arrangements
  • ordering and demonstrating the use of equipment, recommending adaptations and checking that it meets the needs identified
  • facilitating the delivery of support plans
  • supporting people who wish to buy their own services to do so
  • assisting people with relevant form filling and
  • encouraging self-directed support and individual budgets.

The assistant practitioner will monitor and review the outcomes identified and alert a qualified social worker about changes in a person’s needs or circumstances which fall beyond their role.

Who do they work for?

Adult Social Services assistant practitioners work for the local authority, which in our area is Norfolk County Council.

Who is this service for?

This service is for people who are aged 18 and over who are or may be eligible for adult social care.

What is the role of the adult mental health service assistant practitioner / carer’s assessor?

The assistant practitioner / carer’s assessor carries out assessment and care management duties under appropriate professional supervision, with an emphasis on carer’s assessments.

They are managed by the practice consultant in their locality team.

Children with disabilities transition workers work with young people aged 13 and over and their families. The transition worker will assess young people’s needs and can provide access to support services such as short breaks, direct payments and support in the home environment, where appropriate.

They can also give families and young people information about youth clubs, social activities and benefits.

A transition worker will maintain and update the transition list for their team. This list gives details of all the young people aged 13 and over who are known to the team. Information is shared with the adult care teams to help them to plan for future needs. Transition workers liaise with schools, guidance advisers, adult social workers and any other health professionals who may be involved in a young person’s transition to adult care.

Transition workers will also attend Year 9 educational reviews in complex needs schools (special schools) if the young person doesn’t have a social worker, and they can also provide a contact point and information for these young people and their families throughout their transition.

What is the role of the children’s speech and language therapist?

Speech and language therapists (SLTs) are health professionals, registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Children’s speech and language therapists support children and young people, aged 0-19, who have difficulties with speech production, understanding and using spoken language, and communicating with others.

Therapy aims to support development of the best possible communication skills and environment in light of the child or young person’s difficulties.  For some children and young people this may be using speech and spoken language while other youngsters can most effectively learn to communicate through a range of signs, symbols, and other communication aids.

Speech and language therapists work with a variety of children and young people in a range of settings most appropriate for the child, young person or their family/carers, including clinic, pre-school/nursery, school and the home.

Is the role known by different names in children’s services and adult services?

Speech and language therapists also work in health and social care with the adult population.

What is the purpose of the role?

The Family Practitioners undertake direct work with children and their families. They also work with individuals within the family, ensuring that they understand their rights and responsibilities.

As part of their role they make undertake an early help assessment that should identify what help a child and family require to prevent their needs escalating to a point where intervention would be needed via a statutory assessment under the Children Act 1989 (Para 26). 

What do they do?

Family practitioners deliver varied interventions with families, working to identify their needs, opportunities, rights and responsibilities.

They work with families to plan how they will achieve required changes to improve their family life.

The practitioners intervene alongside a number of other agencies to review the circumstances of the families they work with, to enable the best possible outcome.

Who do they work for?

The practitioners deliver interventions that are requested by partner agencies and their line manager where there is a clear role for their involvement that cannot be delivered by universal services.

They work alongside a wide range of other professionals and partner agencies, such as: health visitors, social workers, CAMHS, educational psychologists, special educational needs services and schools. This is to ensure that the needs of the child and family.

You may also be interested in

Early Help
What is early help?
How to get help

What is the purpose of the role?

The Early Years Family Practitioners undertake direct work with children and their families, focusing in particular on ensuring that children achieve a good level of development in the foundation stage and maintaining a good level of emotional well-being.

As part of their role they make undertake an early help assessment that should identify what help a child and family require to prevent their needs escalating to a point where intervention would be needed via a statutory assessment under the Children Act 1989 (Para 26).

What do they do?

The practitioners aim to bring about social change. They intervene to ensure that the family improves their contribution to their child’s development at the early stages of development.

They work particularly with children who are at risk of not achieving the required level of development and influence families to take up early years provisions in order to provide a positive development environment in the family home.

Practitioner’s duties also include: reviewing family’s needs and circumstances, providing advice and support to Children’s Centres and contributing to service commissioning. 

Who do they work for?

The practitioners complete interventions requested by partner agencies and their line manager where there is a clear role for their involvement that cannot be delivered by universal services.

They work alongside a wide range of other professionals and partner agencies, such as: health visitors, social workers, CAMHS, educational psychologists, special educational needs services and schools. This is to ensure that the needs of the child and family are met at the foundation stage.

You may also be interested in

Early Help
What is early help?
How to get help

What is the role of an occupational therapist?

Occupational therapists assess the occupational and functional needs, potential, ability and limitations of disabled people of all ages, including children.

Assessments will usually take place in the person’s own home.

They work with people, their support network / family and other professionals to motivate and enable the person to achieve and maintain balance in their daily living activities.

The role includes helping and motivating people to take decisions, including where there are health and safety or capacity issues, which will allow them to safely make the most of their abilities and achieve increased independence.

An occupational therapist will develop and put in place intervention plans aimed at reducing the impact of disability and ill health on a person. This will include looking at and thinking about how the home can be adapted to reduce the impact of disability.

An intervention plan may include specialist disability equipment, housing adaptations including highly complex building alterations as well as plans of activities to be carried out by carers.

In some more complex cases, the occupational therapist may need to make a recommendation to the Housing Authority for a Disabled Facilities Grant, or liaise with Health and Housing professionals and other statutory, private and voluntary organisations, providing written reports, recommendations and referrals as needed.

The occupational therapist will show and teach people how to operate any equipment, or carry out any activities recommended for them.

Who do they work for?

Occupational therapists work for health service providers, local authorities and privately.  Adult Social Service occupational therapists in our area work for Norfolk County Council.

Who is this service for?

This service is for people aged 18 and over who have a learning or physical disability that prevents them from being independent in their home and in their community.

What is the purpose of the role?

The outreach practitioners engage with hard to reach young people and those at risk of poor outcomes.

They build relationships with the young people to improve outcomes in health, education and employment. The outreach practitioners offer mentoring and support to young people to facilitate their personal, social and educational growth. 

What do they do?

Outreach practitioners work closely with a wide range of service providers, including Health (teenage pregnancy), DAAT (substance misuse), CAMHS, Police, Youth Offending Teams and Prevent. They work to provide access to these services for the young people that they are working with, in order to influence community priorities.

The outreach practitioners promote welfare needs of children and young people, aged 5-19 and take appropriate action to safeguard them in line with local and national guidance. They work within a multi-agency framework to support and advise young people and co-ordinate their access to universal and specialist services.

As part of their role they make undertake an early help assessment that should identify what help a child and family require to prevent their needs escalating to a point where intervention would be needed via a statutory assessment under the Children Act 1989 (Para 26).

Who do they work for?

The outreach practitioners deliver targeted interventions that are requested by partner agencies and their line manager where there is a clear role for their involvement that cannot be delivered by universal services and there is a clearly defined and targeted role to support children and young people aged 5-19 that utilises their specialist skills and experience.

They work alongside a wide range of other professionals and partner agencies, such as: health visitors, social workers, CAMHS, educational psychologists, special educational needs services and schools. This is to ensure that the needs of the child and family.

You may also be interested in

Early Help
What is early help?
How to get help

What is the role of the adult mental health service practice consultant?

The adult mental health service practice consultant takes a lead role in the locality mental health social care service.

They are an expert in mental health and act as specialist support for staff, leading practice development through guidance, co-working, mentoring and modelling authoritative practice.

They also hold a small caseload of complex cases and are managed by the locality team manager.

What is the role of the practice consultant?

The practice consultant takes a lead role in a specialist area such as social work or occupational therapy.

Their role is to act as the expert in their field, offering specialist support to staff, take the lead in complex situations and lead practice development within their team.

Practice consultants hold a caseload of complex cases where they use their specialist skills to carry out complex person-centred assessments of vulnerable people, their families and carers in order to identify eligible social care needs, under the Community Care Acts and other legislation including assessment of capacity to make decisions under the Mental Capacity Act.

Practice consultants work with vulnerable people to develop support (care) plans, ensuring their active involvement throughout the process. They aim to work with people to assist them to assess risk and make decisions and choices which make the most of their abilities and help them to work towards their identified goals.

Ultimately practice consultants aim to empower individuals to make choices that promote their health, well-being and independence.

Who do they work for?

Practice consultant is a role within Norfolk County Council.

Who is this service for?

The service is for adults over the age of 18 who are vulnerable and meet the service criteria.

What is the purpose of the role?

The senior family practitioners undertake direct work with children and their families where there are particular challenges or complex situations that require a more experienced practitioner involvement

They mentor family practitioners in modelling best practice to achieve the most effective change. The senior practitioners also implement best practice for signs of safety within the team.

What do they do?

Senior practitioners work with complex multi-agency involvement, including but not limited to domestic abuse, drug and alcohol misuse and mental health needs.

As part of their role they make undertake an early help assessment that should identify what help a child and family require to prevent their needs escalating to a point where intervention would be needed via a statutory assessment under the Children Act 1989 (Para 26).

The senior practitioners deliver interventions that are requested by partner agencies and their line manager where there is a clear role for their involvement that cannot be delivered by universal services and where there are complex multi-agency or family circumstances.

They are part of the Early Help locality team, however work alongside a range of other professionals including: social workers, health visitors, CAMHS, educational psychologists, special education needs services, early years providers and schools to meet the needs of children in their families.

Who do they work for?

Senior practitioners work closely with the Social Work Team to support and guide families in order to de-escalate problems and avoid statutory interventions.

They work with individuals within the family to ensure that they understand their rights, particularly focusing on the ‘voice of the child’.

The main outcome of intervention by a senior practitioner is to develop innovative solutions in family work, using Signs of Safety methodology throughout.

You may also be interested in

Early Help
What is early help?
How to get help

What is the role of a social worker?

Social workers tend to specialise in either adult or children's services. A social worker’s work with children with special educational needs (SEN) includes:

  • Informing the County Council of any children who they think may have SEN
  • Ensuring that schools have a contact for seeking social work advice on children who may have SEN
  • Coordinating social services advice for any statutory assessments, transition reviews and annual reviews as appropriate
  • Ensuring social services provision is made for any children with SEN where appropriate
  • Attending annual reviews for ‘Looked After Children’ who hold statements

Who do they work for?

Social workers work for a range of organisations – mainly Local Authorities, independent organisations and charities, but some also work for the NHS, mental health trusts and other community-based settings.

Who is this service for?

Social workers roles include providing assistance and advice to keep families together; working in children's homes; managing adoption and foster care processes; working with children with disabilities; providing support to younger people leaving care or who are at risk or in trouble with the law; or helping children who have problems at school or are facing difficulties brought on by illness in the family.

Contact us

If you are concerned about a child and want to speak to someone, contact us on 0344 800 8020. If you consider the incident to be an emergency, call 999.

Visit  reporting concerns to find out what happens when you contact us about a child.

What is the role of the adult mental health service social worker?

The adult mental health service social worker carries out person-centred assessments and aims to encourage people with mental health difficulties to make choices that promote their health, wellbeing and independence.

They work with people who have complex needs to agree support plans that make the most of their abilities, enable them to make choices and to work towards their goals.

The have a joined up approach to assessment and provide care with key partners, such as Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust.

Adult mental health service social workers are managed by the locality practice consultant in their team.

What is the role of the Adult Social Services social worker?

Adult Social Services social workers work with vulnerable people.

They aim to gain an understanding of the needs of a person by carrying out a person-centred assessment.

Their work is carried out under the Community Care Acts and in accordance with other legislation when required, for example assessment of capacity, under the Mental Capacity Act.

They work with vulnerable people and their carers to develop a support (care) plan and to empower the individual to make the most of their abilities and make decisions and choices that promote their health, wellbeing and independence in their community.

Who do they work for?

Adult Social Services social workers work for Norfolk County Council, which is the local authority in our area.

Who is this service for?

Adult Social Services social workers work with vulnerable people who are aged 18 and over.  They could be people who have special educational needs or disabilities, the elderly or people with physical or mental health problems who need support.

What is the role of the adult mental health service team manager?

The adult mental health service team manager leads and manages a specialised mental health social care service in a locality area. 

There are five locality areas in Norfolk mirroring the five Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) areas: Norwich, north, east, south and west.

The aim of the team is to increase as much as possible, the independence and choice for people with mental health difficulties through an efficient health and social care service which works closely with key partners, such as the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust. 

Their role is to ensure that all casework is effectively carried out to the required statutory, professional and service standards, and that performance targets are achieved.

The team manager is managed by the head of social care, Adult Mental Health Service.