When choosing a childcare setting (this could be a nursery, pre-school or childminder) to best meet the needs of your child with special educational needs and/or a disability (SEND) we recommend you:

  • search our Family Information Directory to find childcare
  • arrange to visit different childcare providers
  • speak to the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) to discuss your child's needs; you need to find out what they will do to include your child
  • ask if they have any specialist knowledge, or if they can access training to meet your child's needs
  • read our advice on choosing childcare, including questions to ask

Read Coram's (for early years and childcare) guide to childcare for children with SEND.

Search for childcare

Search our Family Information Directory for childcare. Some childcare providers include information on how they provide for children with SEND: these records are marked with the Local Offer logo.

Registered childcare for children with SEND

Registered childcare providers must do all they can to meet the needs of every child in their care. They do this in discussion with parents and other professionals. They must clearly explain if there are situations where they can't meet the needs of a child. 

All registered childcare providers are expected to follow the Equality Act 2010 and the SEND Code of Practice: 0-25 years.

Childcare providers have a trained special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) who arranges additional support for children with SEND. Childminders are always their own SENCO. 

A SENCO's job is to:

  • support children with SEND
  • work with parents to help their child
  • work with our SEND support services
  • work with other professionals, such as health services 

Childcare providers support children through the graduated response in the same way schools do. This helps them learn more about your child and how they can make good progress. If your child doesn't make good progress with the SEND support offered, the childcare provider and parents may think about requesting a needs assessment for an EHC plan.

Types of support you can expect from childcare providers

Your childcare provider can access a range of specialist services to support your child, including a Best Start in Life Advisor who supports some children from birth to 5 years in childcare settings and at home. 

Childcare providers may be able to get funding to support the needs of children with SEND in the setting. This funding could be used to pay for:

  • special equipment
  • resources
  • training

Speak to your childcare provider, or take a look at the Start for life guide to find out more.

Help with the costs of childcare

There are childcare funding schemes to help with the cost of childcare. Some of these make extra provision for children who are disabled, including:

  • Tax-Free Childcare for working parents of 0 to 12 year olds
  • 15 hours free childcare for 2 year olds

Find out more about other financial support you could claim for childcare for children with SEND. 

Amanda and Hannah's story

Find out how the right childcare choice helped Hannah's progress:

Help to find the right childcare from Coram Family and Childcare.

Family Information Service - Dorset Council

Email: familyinfo@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk
Tel: 01305 221066
Full contact details