I work with families: SEND Under 5s

Page Updated: 1st March 2022

The SEND Under 5s process seeks to establish proactive, practical support for families at an early stage, as well as identification of the support needed throughout their early years and into school. The process will be overseen by the Early Years and Childcare Advisers who provide inclusion support within pre-school settings.

The SEND Under 5s support process continues to ensure appropriate discussion, planning and review as well as identifying where further assessment is necessary for children in pre school and eventually school. Whilst some children have ongoing, complex needs which are clear from a very young age, it is important to make decisions about formal assessments at a time when meaningful educational assessment can take place. Earlier identification of need, will enable children to have a more positive experience through their early years which will improve their outcomes at this point and as they move through school.

The SEND Under 5s support process enables West Sussex Local Authority and Health Services to follow to the requirements set out with the SEN Code of Practice. In particular it ensures:

5.15 Where a health body is of the opinion that a young child under compulsory school age has, or probably has, SEN, they must inform the child’s parents and bring the child to the attention of the appropriate local authority. The health body must also give the parents the opportunity to discuss their opinion and let them know about any voluntary organisations that are likely to be able to provide advice or assistance. This includes the educational advice, guidance and any intervention to be put in place at an early point and before the child starts school.

For every child who is referred to the SEND Under 5s support process the following activity will take place at different stages of the child’s journey from identification of need to starting school:

Stage 1 - Early identification, offer of support – which could include access to local groups, referral to Portage, and/or support to find and access early years provision

Stage 2 - Support in early years settings – including new children identified with SEND once accessing early years. This could include support from Early Years and Childcare Advisors (EYCAs) and Speech and Language Setting Support (SALSS) to improve the quality of provision, implement the graduated approach and gathering of information for further assessment

Stage 3 - Identification of children where it appropriate to go forward for EHCNA and gathering of evidence to share with SENAT or the planning of transition support for children moving on to school SEND Under 5s support will be delivered by local groups including representation from:

  • Healthy Child Programme (HCP)
  • EYCAs
  • Speech and Language Therapy Service
  • Portage Coordinators
  • Other medical professionals
  • West Sussex Parent Carer Forum
  • The aim of the group is to identify and provide support to children under 5 with SEND, and their families, in order to improve their outcomes and identify the support they will need throughout their early years and into school.

    Process and possible outcomes of the SEND Under 5s support process:

  • Information about local services
  • Referral to Portage
  • Support to access early years provision
  • Support for the early years setting
  • Transition support for children moving to a new setting or school
  • Reviewing and gathering evidence to inform next steps which may include a decision to move to formal assessment
  • Professionals refer a child to the SEND Under 5s support process:

    If wish to make a referral for a child that you do not believe is currently known to the local authority, we require the following:

  • Child's name, address and DOB
  • Parent/guardian's name and contact details (including email address where able)
  • Name of child's Early Years Setting (if applicable)
  • From your discussion with parent/guardian, what support you feel is appropriate
  • Only professionals can refer a child to the SEND Under 5s support process. If you are a parent reading this and you have concerns about your child, please speak to a professional (such as medical, portage or staff at your early years setting) who may be able to support you.

    You can refer by completing the online SEND Under 5s Information Form.

    Please note that referrals for SEND Under 5 will only be excepted via the online form. Please do not send referrals directly to the SEND Under 5’s inbox. If you have any questions regarding the form or wish to speak to the team regarding a query please email [email protected]

    What happens when a referral is received to SEND Under 5s support process?

    When a referral is received, the information will be reviewed and passed to the relevant local group where an initial decision will be made about the next steps based on the information provided. As outlined above, this could include information about local services, referral to Portage, support to access early years provision or support within an early years setting. Depending on the stage that the child is at in their early years experience, the identified lead professional from the meeting will either contact the family directly, or work with the early years provider where the child is attending to update on the outcomes of the meeting. If this contact is made with the early years setting, the expectation is that the SENCO/INCO or child’s Key Person will share this information with the child’s family as part of their parent partnership. At each stage of the process the parent/guardian will be involved and have opportunities to share their views.

    Contact details:

    If you have questions regarding the process or require further information please contact SEND under 5s - [email protected]


  • SEND Information, Advice and Support Leaflet - SEN in the Early Years