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Early Years and Childcare

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It is important that children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and their families have access to services as early as possible. At the Early Years stage identification is usually through a health agency (e.g. health visitor or paediatrician). Once identified, and with the parent's consent, information about the child is passed to Inclusion Support (Early Years) and Child Development Centre. The team there can provide specialist advice, support and guidance to families and settings as well as supporting with transition into school and with securing funding for additional support in an early years setting.

Securing childcare for children with SEND can be challenging. You may be entitled to financial support with childcare costs or be entitled to a free childcare place for 15 hours a week if your child is aged 2,3 or 4. Many services for children in the Early Years stage are provided through Children's Centres. 

Some of the services you may require will be provided by our health partners. The most commonly used services are:

For more details of other health services that are available in Sandwell please refer to the Health section of the Local Offer.

If you need help with caring for your child please refer to the Early Help and Care section of the Local Offer


How will my child's needs be met?

All childcare providers are expected under the Equality Act 2010 (replaced the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) to make 'reasonable adjustments' to meet the needs of disabled children. They must not treat disabled children 'less favourably' than someone else for a reason related to their disability.

Early Years Foundation Stage

The Early Years Foundation Stage also states that "Providers must have and implement a policy and procedure to promote equality of opportunity for children in their care, including support for children with special educational needs or disabilities".

Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)

Childcare providers have a duty of care to provide additional support for children with special educational needs and/or a disability.  This role is known as a Special Education Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or Inclusion Play Worker.  The SENCO has additional training and experience in working with children who have additional needs/disabilities.  The SENCO will discuss a child's needs and help to ensure they can enjoy all the activities available at the setting.

Other support available to providers

Childcare providers have access to advice and support from professionals so that they can best meet the needs of children with disabilities and additional needs, these include:

Quality Early Years and Childcare Team
The team provides advice, support and guidance to Early Years and Childcare settings on all aspects of running quality learning and childcare provision and meeting statutory requirements. The team includes Development Officer's who provide a programme of regular support visits relating to meeting the requirements of both Ofsted and Early Years Foundation Stage requirements. 

Contact details:  0121 569 4960. 

Inclusion Support - Early Years (ISEY)
Inclusion Support - Early Years (ISEY) supports children in their early years who have individual or special educational needs (SEN) / disabilities.

The service works in collaboration with other agencies to provide appropriate support packages and early intervention.

The team works with children in their own homes, at the centre and in a range of early years settings, holiday play schemes and out of school clubs.

Transition packages of support tailored to the individual needs of the child provide advice, guidance and training to school settings in preparation for a child entering nursery or reception class.

The service provides advice and guidance to childcare settings so they can offer quality inclusive provision ensuring the needs of children with SEN/disability are being met.

Contact details: 0121 569 2859/2860

The Area SENCO supports of Early Years settings
The area SENCO officers, guidance, and support to out of school club and play schemes providers. The support includes working with play worker's to provide a more inclusive environment for children with the setting. Supporting the setting with  inclusive planning, and referring to and working with other relevant Health and Community agencies i.e. Speech and Language Therapists, Local Authority Children and Young Peoples Service which incorporates Education and Social Care to ensure quality, smooth transitions, early identification and implementation of specialist programme. 

Types of childcare

Choosing the right childcare can be a difficult decision for every parent, but can be particularly challenging if your child has a disability or special educational need. You may struggle to access the childcare that you want that meets your child's needs and is suitable for your family.

Find out about all the difficult types of childcare available below:

Registered childminders

Registered childminders look after children under 12 years sometimes older in their own home. They can offer full time, part time, before and after school pick ups and school holiday care. 

Childminders are able to offer parents of disabled children many benefits including flexibility and a highly individualised service. Your child will be able to mix with other children in a smaller, family or home

You should always discuss your child's needs with a childminder before entering a contract. It might be useful to draw up a plan for the childminder that includes information on your child's medicines, special dietary requirements, allergies, sleeping times and so on.

Childminders also have access to support and training from the borough's Quality Early Years and Childcare Team. They can assist in finding additional support where necessary and signpost them to relevant services.

Day nurseries, nursery schools, pre-school playgroups and out of school care

Day nurseries, nursery schools, pre-school playgroups and out of school care have a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) who will be able to discuss what's right for you and your child within the setting.

The SENCO will be familiar with other practitioners and services that work with children with disabilities and know how to find additional guidance or support if necessary.

Day nurseries 

Day Nurseries look after children up to the age of 5 years. They provide daycare and education for children in age related groups.  Some day nurseries also deliver the Free Early Learning for 2, 3 and 4 year olds. 

Some day nurseries also offer before and after school pick ups and holiday care. 

Nursery schools

Nursery Schools provide Free Early Learning and care for 3 and 4 year olds (Nursery Education).  They are normally based at infant and primary schools.

Pre-school playgroups

Pre-school playgroups provide part time play and some may also be registered to deliver Free Early Learning for 2, 3 and 4 year olds.

Out of school care

Out of School care is care outside normal school hours these include Breakfast Clubs, After School Clubs and School Holiday Playscheme/Clubs.

Other childcare providers:

Nannies and homebased carers

Usually Nannies and Homebased Carers will provide care for children in your home and can look after children of any age.


A crèche provides occasional care for limited periods of time for children up to 8 years old. For example if you are attend a course or go the gym etc.


  • All childcare providers must meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and make 'reasonable adjustments' to include disabled children. They must not treat a disabled child 'less favourably' because of their disability.
  • Give the carer clear and detailed information about your child's needs, methods of communication, medication, appointments, likes and dislikes.
  • An honest and open discussion about your child's needs with the childcare provider, involving, for example, an occupational therapist or psychologist where necessary, can often lead to a better understanding of your child's needs and how these can be managed.
  • If you are having difficulty finding suitable childcare, Sandwell Family Information can support you. Contact us them on 0121 569 4914 and they will be happy to assist.

Choosing a quality early years childcare setting

There are many different types of childcare settings and entrusting a stranger with your child is a big step.

It can be particularly challenging if your child has a disability or special educational need. You may struggle to access the childcare that you want that meets your child's needs and is suitable for your family.

You need to feel confident about the childcare setting you are using for your child so before you choose any type of childcare you should do some research.

It is important to make sure that you make the relevant checks yourself by asking the right questions to ensure that you are finding the right type of childcare that is safe and secure and which best suits your needs and the needs and age of your child.

Remember, you need to feel confident about the childcare you are using for your child.  Find out as much as you can then follow your feelings.

Before you choose a provider you may want to consider the following tips:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to choose - holiday playschemes, for example, get booked up in advance, day nurseries may have waiting lists etc 
  • Ask other parents for recommendations
  • Make appointments to visit two or three providers to compare what's on offer, and get a feel for the staff
  • Think about your child's personality and interests - what environment will they prefer?
  • Will your child need extra help and support?
  • Check opening times, holiday dates and cost
  • Ask questions

If you have a child with a special educational need and/or a disability you may also need to consider:

  • What extra help and support your child will need?
  • Are the staff ready and able to provide practical support (e.g. with personal care)?
  • Are the staff willing for you (and/or a health practitioner if appropriate) to show them how to look after your child's needs?
  • Are the premises accessible for your child?
  • What equipment is essential?
  • What is their medication policy/procedure?
  • Are carers willing to work with other practitioners to meet your child's needs, e.g. occupational therapists and/or speech therapists if appropriate?
  • If your child needs one-to-one care or additional help, how will the setting or childminder manage this?


If you are considering using childcare there are a number of questions you should ask to ensure that you are finding the right type of childcare to suit you and your child/childrens needs. 

To help you with what to ask and things to look out for we have developed a number of booklets with checklists:

Check for childcare on the Family Information Service website

Monitoring your child's care

Once you have chosen a provider, give them clear information about your child's likes and dislikes and any health issues they may have. After a few weeks, you might want to go back and speak to the provider to find out how your child is getting on.

It's also a good idea to talk to your child, to make sure they are happy and comfortable with their care provider.

For further information contact Sandwell Family Information Service 0121 569 4914

Will my child be safe?

The key concern for most parents' when choosing childcare is whether their child will be safe, happy and well cared for. There are a range of safeguards in place to ensure that your child will be well looked after by people who are required to go through a range of checks.


In September 2001, Ofsted became the single regulatory body responsible for registering and inspecting all existing and future childcare providers.  They do this to help reassure you that when your children are in registered childcare they are cared for by people who are suitable.

Who are registered by Ofsted?

People who want to provide childcare for children under eight, for more than two hours in any one-day, for more than five days a year must register with Ofsted before they can become childcare providers.

However if the parents are going to remain on the premises where the childcare is taking place this number is increased to four hours.

How can I view Ofsted reports?

Your childcare provider can show you a copy of their report along with their registration certificate; alternatively they can be viewed on the Ofsted website.

To view childcare providers reports online, you will need either their name or their unique reference number (URN), you can get this from the provider themselves and then go direct to Ofsted to look at the inspection reports online.

The Early Years Register (EYR) and the Ofsted Childcare Register (OCR) 

Ofsted hold two different registers for childcare providers: the Early Years Register (EYR) and the Childcare Register (OCR). The Childcare Register is in two parts - a compulsory part and a voluntary part.  Each register and type of childcare has different requirements that registered childcarers must meet.  People can apply to join one register or both registers at the same time.

Most childcare providers caring for children aged under eight must register with Ofsted unless the law says they are not required to do so. 

What is the Early Years Register?

The Early Years Register is for all providers such as childminders, day nurseries, pre-schools and private nursery schools that work with children aged from birth to five (known as the early years age group).  These providers must register with Ofsted on the Early Years Register and deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage which brings together standards of care and learning.

Will schools have to register on the Early Years Register?

No, schools are exempt from registration but they will still need to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage for children until the end of their Reception Years. But if schools can offer care to children under the age of three then they will need to register on the Early Years Register.

What is the Childcare Register?

The Childcare Register has two parts: a compulsory part and a voluntary part.

Registration on the Childcare Register relies on the applicant making a declaration to confirm that they will meet the requirements of registration.

Ofsted carries out a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check on the applicant but does not normally carry out any other checks.

Compulsory part

A childcare provider  must register on the compulsory part of the Childcare Register if they care for children from the 1 September following their fifth birthday up to the age of eight, unless they are not required to register. This is usually six and seven year olds, but could include some five year olds. 

Voluntary part

Other providers who are not required to register on the compulsory part of the OCR will be able to join the voluntary part of the OCR if they meet the requirements. This includes:

  • home-based care in the home of the child (nannies)
  • activity-based settings such as sports coaching or tuition
  • short-term care such as crèches
  • care that is only for children aged eight to their 18th birthday

Registration on the voluntary part of the Childcare Register can assure parents that essential standards have been met and parents will have greater reassurance about the welfare of their children.

It will allow the childcare to become qualifying childcare for the purpose of working tax credits and employer childcare vouchers. This means that eligible parents can access financial support from the Government for the cost of their childcare.

Childcare provided by schools

Childcare for children aged three and over will not be separately registered by Ofsted if the care is provided by a school's governing body and providing at least one pupil of the school attends. The governing body will be expected to meet the requirements of registration, and the care it offers will be included within the school's regular Ofsted inspections. Eligible families using the childcare can still claim Working Tax Credit or join employer-supported schemes. Schools using external organisations to deliver childcare are encouraged to choose a registered provider.

How do I know if my Childcare provider is registered?

Providers must display their certificate of registration during their hours of operation, so that you can see it easily. Home childcarers should show their certificate if you ask to see it. Each certificate gives information about the childcare provided and any conditions of registration that apply.

What do I do if things go wrong?

It is important for you to develop a good relationship with your childcare provider to help your child's wellbeing, development and progress. You can deal with most concerns by talking to your childcare provider.

If the issues cannot be resolved from discussions with your childcare provider or you have any concerns about your childcare provider that you cannot discuss with them, it may be necessary to contact OFSTED on 0300 123 4666, or by email at

More information regarding Ofsted or the Early Years and Childcare Registers can be found on the Ofsted website. 

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks (previously CRB checks)

What is the Disclosure and Barring Service?

The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) have merged to become the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). CRB checks are now called DBS checks.

What is a DBS check?

A DBS check is a process for gathering information about someone's criminal convictions and other cautions, reprimands and final warnings given by the

Who needs a DBS check?

Anyone who will have unsupervised access to children in their care. The DBS's aim is to help organisations identify candidates who may be unsuitable to work with children or other vulnerable members of society.

For more information

Contact the disclosure customer services department if you have any questions. If you send an email, include your full name, address, telephone number and any DBS reference numbers.

Telephone: 0870 909 0811

Help with accessing childcare

As a parents/carer you may sometimes have difficulty in finding the childcare option which is right for you.  If you are having trouble finding a service to meet your needs the Sandwell Family Information Service is able to offer a Childcare Brokerage service to support you.

We can:

  • Provide you with 1-1 support, advice and guidance
  • Take you through all the information available 
  • Help you think about widening your choice and location of childcare
  • Tell you about childcare costs and free childcare available
  • Speak to childcare providers on your behalf and introduce you to them
  • Meet in a pre-arranged location or just have a chat over the phone.

At Sandwell Family Information Service we understand the importance of making the right decision in finding high quality and affordable childcare.  With such a wide range of childcare available the need for professional advice and guidance is crucial to your decisions.

The Childcare Brokers, through active community engagement, attend events and roadshows to promote FIS services. 

Contact us: 

To book an appointment or to discuss your option please contact Sandwell Family Information Service on 0121 569 4914 and ask to speak to one of the Childcare Brokers. 

Help with childcare costs

Understanding the different types of financial support avaliable can be difficult especially if you are a parent or carer.

Find below lots of information to help you understand the different types of financial support avaliable to help you with the cost of childcare and who is eligible:

Lists the most common benefits and how to get in touch with the relevant organisations, including: 

  • Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Employer supported childcare
  • Tax Free Childcare
  • Free childcare for 2, 3 and 4 year olds (including the 30 hours extended entitlement)
  • Benefits you can claim if you are studying and have a baby

Childcare Choices from GOV.UK

All about Government help with childcare costs, including 15 to 30 hours free childcare, Tax Free Childcare, Tax Credits, Universal Credit, vouchers and support while you study.

Childcare Calculator

Check what help you could get with childcare costs by using the online calculator from GOV.UK.  

Free Early Learning for 2 Year Olds

Free Early Learning for 2 Year Olds is funding for childcare sessions for 15 hours per week, 38 weeks of the year from the term after their 2nd birthday and is available to families who are accessing certain benefits and meet the relevant criteria.  It is not an entitlement for every 2 year old.

Early education / free childcare for 3 and 4 Year Olds - 15 hours

Early education / free childcare is available to all 3 and 4 year olds, entitling them to 15 hours per week (during term time) early education / free childcare place from the beginning of the term following their third birthday.   

30 hours free childcare - 3 and 4 year old extended entitlement

Details and how to apply for the 30 hours a week free childcare (during term time) for 3 and 4 year olds whose parents are working..

Tax free childcare

Tax-Free Childcare is a new Government scheme that is gradually being introduced during 2017 to help working families with their childcare costs.  Parents will be able to open online childcare accounts to pay their registered childcare providers directly and the government will add to the account.

If you would like more information on financial support or help with childcare costs contact Sandwell Family Information Service 0121 569 4914.