Communication support available in the UK

This page explains the different types of communication support available, including professional and financial help, in nurseries and schools, at college, in the workplace and when using public services.

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Special educational needs and disabilities support

Support for children from Sense

At Sense, we have a team of specialist multi-sensory impairment (MSI) teachers and practitioners. They have a wide range of skills and experience working with children and young people who are deafblind/multi-sensory impaired. 

Find out more about the specialist support we offer to children.

If you have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), or have a child with SEND, support is available in nurseries, at school and in college, including communication support.

If you think your child may have SEND, contact the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator (SENDco)/Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENco) in your child’s school or nursery.

If your child is not in a school or nursery, contact your local council.

If you are 16 or over and planning to go into further education, contact the college before you start to make sure it can meet your needs. The college and your local authority will discuss your needs with you.

Find out more about SEND support in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Deafblind guidance

If you live in England or Wales, are deafblind or have a child who is deafblind, you may be able to get more communication support (and other support) from your local authority.

Find out more about what to expect from your local council if you are deafblind.

Download a Department of Health and Social Care guide from the government website.

Educational communication support professionals

The communication support professionals you come into contact with will vary depending on your circumstances and where you live.

Here are some of those involved in giving professional communication support in nurseries, schools and colleges:

1. Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator (SENDCo)/Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENco)

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In some schools, this role is called SENDco and in others it is SENco. Both roles are basically the same.

The SENDco/SENco is the school teacher responsible for assessing, planning and monitoring the progress of children with SEND.

2. Qualified Teacher of Children and Young People with a Vision Impairment (QTVI)

A qualified teacher with an additional qualification for children with a vision impairment, working with learners aged 0–25 years.

3. Specialist Teaching Assistant (STA)

An STA offers support in learning new skills, gaining independence, getting more involved and making sure that educational materials are fully accessible.

4. Speech and Language Therapist (SALT)

A health professional trained to support children who may have difficulties with the development of language and communication skills (as well as feeding and swallowing difficulties).

5. Portage Worker

A portage worker provides home visits for pre-school children under five years who have SEND and their families, working to develop play, communication, relationships and learning. They sometimes work closely with other agencies.

Not all areas of the UK offer portage and services vary from area to area.

To find out if you can get portage in your area, and for more information, visit the National Portage Association.

6. Sense Specialist Services for Children and Young People

At Sense, we have a team of specialist teachers of multi-sensory impairment (QTMSI) and MSI practitioners with a wide range of skills and experience working with children and young people who are deafblind/multi-sensory impaired.

Find out more about the support we offer to children and young people.

Education, health and care plans

An education, health and care plan (EHCP) is for children and young people up to the age of 25 who need more support than they get through SEND support.

You can ask your local authority to carry out an assessment if you think your child needs an EHCP.

If you’re aged 16–25, you can ask for an assessment yourself.

Anyone else who thinks an assessment is necessary can ask for one, including doctors, health visitors, teachers and family friends.

You may also be able to get a personal budget for your child if they have an EHCP or have been told they need one.

Find out more about EHCPs and personal budgets on the government website.

Sense also offers support with the EHCP process, including:

  • Attending educational meetings.
  • Working with other professionals.
  • Providing specialist advice to help you get access to the right learning environments.

To find out how we can help you, get in touch with us.

Local Offer

Each local authority (council) must have a Local Offer for children and young people with SEND, including those who don’t have EHCPs, and their families.

The Local Offer should set out in one place all information about what education, training, health and social care support is available for children and young people with SEND.

Find your local council using your postcode.

To find your Local Offer page, search the internet using the name of your local authority plus the words “Local Offer”.

Download the Council for Disabled Children’s Local Offer Guide.

Disabled Students’ Allowance

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is support to cover study-related costs you might have because of a disability (as well as a long-term illness or mental health problem).

A DSA can cover the cost of specialist equipment or British Sign Language interpreters or specialist notetakers.

Click below to find out more about DSAs in:

Further education

DSAs aren’t available for further education. Colleges and schools should provide what’s needed.

Different schools and colleges provide different amounts of support – check with your school or college about what’s available.

In the workplace

If you have a disability or health condition that makes it hard for you to do your job, your employer must make and pay for changes – called “reasonable adjustments” – to support you.

Your employer must do this under the Equality Act 2010 to make sure you are not put at a “substantial disadvantage” in work compared to people who do not have a disability.

Access to Work scheme

If you need further support on top of these reasonable adjustments, you can apply for an Access to Work grant.

An Access to Work grant could help pay for any assistive technology or support from a communication professional, including British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, lipspeakers, notetakers, speech-to-text reporters and interpreters for people who are deafblind.

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can find out more about Access to Work and apply on the government website

Find out more about Access to Work in Northern Ireland.

Choosing a registered communication professional 

When you are looking for help from a communication professional, always make sure you choose one who is registered.

To find out if a communication professional is registered, check with the organisations below:

When using public services

In England, Scotland and Wales, under the Equality Act 2010, service providers must take steps to make sure you get communication support, including assistive technology, and information in accessible formats from:

  • Banks.
  • Cinemas.
  • Cafés, restaurants, pubs and shops.
  • Courts.
  • Energy companies.
  • Government departments.
  • Museums and galleries.
  • NHS services.
  • Television providers.

The Disability Justice Project has more information. In Northern Ireland, you are similarly protected against disability discrimination by the Disability Discrimination Act.

Find out more about SEND support


Northern Ireland


Information, Advice and Support Services Network

Find your nearest service in England.


Types of communication

These are the main ways of communicating that we use:

This content was last reviewed in April 2023. We’ll review it again in 2025.