Your child’s rights to support in the early years

Your child’s rights to support in the early years

The early years before starting school may be when you learn that your child has additional support needs. Once your child is eligible to start receiving their funded hours of early learning and childcare, your local authority will be responsible for providing them with the support they need. Your child may be able to get support earlier than this too.

This page explains the rights of pre-school children who have additional support needs. On this page we’ll talk about ‘nursery’ to refer to all early years settings.

When will my child be able to start nursery?

Children become eligible for 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare per year when they turn 3.

Some 2-year-olds are also eligible for 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare. This applies to children who have been or are currently ‘looked after’, subject to a kinship care order, have had a guardian appointed, or if their parents receive certain benefits.

These funded hours can be used at a nursery, or a different type of early years setting like a playgroup or childminder (as long as they have a contract with your local authority).

Before your child becomes eligible for funded hours, you can pay for your child to go to nursery. Your local authority won’t have any legal duty to provide your child with support at this point. However, the nursery may still be able to provide some, so it’s worth talking to them about what they could do.

Disabled children under 3 may also be able to get some funded time in nursery sooner. See the ‘Disabled children under 3’, below for more on this.

The Scottish Government’s ParentClub website also has lots of useful information about early learning and childcare.

Disabled children under 3

If your child needs extra help because they are disabled, your local authority should assess their needs and see what help they can offer. They have a duty to provide your child with support if they need it.

Your child is disabled if they have ‘a physical or mental impairment’ which has a ‘substantial and long-term negative effect’ on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Your child does not need to have a formal diagnosis to be considered to be disabled. It’s about the effect that your child’s needs have on their day-to-day life.

The support the local authority offers your child should be based on their individual needs. It might include time at a nursery, or it could be other things like a support teacher or therapist coming to see them at home. The support should help your child get the most from their early learning.

If your child is disabled and not yet receiving their funded hours of early learning and childcare, contact your local authority to ask them to assess their needs.

  • Disabled pupils and the law

    Factsheet explaining the main laws that apply to support and adaptations for disabled pupils at school and nursery.

What are my child’s rights to support at nursery?

Once your child is receiving their funded hours of early learning and childcare, the local authority becomes responsible for:

  • identifying whether your child has additional support needs
  • identifying your child’s particular support needs
  • providing them with support that helps them to fully benefit from their early education
  • keeping their support under review, to make sure it continues to meet their needs.

Your child’s nursery will work with you to find out what support your child needs and agree how to keep their support under review. Other people, for example health professionals, might be involved too depending on your child’s needs.

The support your child gets will be based on their individual needs. It should build on their strengths and help them overcome any challenges they’re experiencing.

Find out more about how your child’s needs can be identified, and how support is arranged, on our page Support for your child in nursery.

Hear our helpline team cover some of the key information to know about support in the early years in our webinar:

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Still have questions about additional support for learning?

Our Helpline staff can help.

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