Early intervention service is supporting families when and where they need it

Case study summary

Children and young people are being helped to thrive thanks to the Disabled Children’s Outreach Service (DCOS) in Tower Hamlets in East London.


Families with a child who has a learning disability, autism or both (as well as families with a child with other types of disability) can get individual, group and drop-in support from psychologists; helping parents to support their children better. Parents are given tools and techniques to help their children to eat better, sleep better and manage their emotions.

On their Stay and Play Saturdays, parents can go to drop-in sessions with a psychologist. Because they don’t need a referral and can turn up on the day, families can get support straightaway.

The young people and families are given support somewhere where they feel comfortable, which might be their home or school. Support includes: behaviour, boundaries and routines, understanding and communicating feelings, eating and sleeping.

They help children to develop their life skills and can work with brothers and sisters in the families.

The team works in a number of innovative ways, including giving training placements to doctoral psychologist students. A psychologist assesses each family over the phone so they can get support immediately. They can then go to workshops, link-up lunches, groups, psychology drop-ins and Stay and Play Saturdays or wait for individual one-to-one support in their own home.

The team has a focus on listening to what the whole family needs, the family being the experts and building on their strengths.

There are currently 99 families receiving individual support and 24 receiving group support. Their monthly link-up lunch helps 135 families a year.

Around five families go to the psychology drop-in sessions each Saturday. In total, approximately 230 families are helped by the Saturday stay and play sessions every year.

Evidence shows that the children, young people and their families can cope better; parents understand their child’s needs better and feel less stressed, and parents connect better with their peers and feel less isolated. Some children have avoided going to a residential school thanks to the service, which has high levels of user satisfaction. All the families involved have said that they felt included in discussions.

Anjum is able to manage his frustration and anger much better because of the support he and his family received from the service in Tower Hamlets. He uses visual timetables to help him anticipate and manage change, and his parents use a clear and consistent parenting approach using techniques they learnt in parenting sessions.

Dr Paula Corredor Lopez, Consultant Psychologist and Manager of the DCOS service says: “Quite simply, the DCOS service reaches people where they are. We have reduced the barriers and the stigma by being more accessible.

Our weekend community-based groups mean that people with a learning disability, autism or both, can now access psychological support immediately. People can literally turn up on the day and meet with a psychologist for 40 minutes. No waiting. No referral. People feel supported by the service because it’s happening when they need it and where they need it.”

For more information contact:

Dr Paula Corredor Lopez, Paula.Corredor-Lopez@towerhamlets.gov.uk