Children's Specialist Play Service (Paediatric)

The Specialist Play Service is a home-based assessment and intervention service for preschool children in Worcestershire who have additional needs. This may be associated with delay in their development of movement, social communication, play and learning skills, and when it is agreed that specialist intervention is needed to support parents/carers with promoting their child’s development using play.

The service is delivered by Specialist Play Nursery Nurses who work as part of the Paediatric Occupational Therapy team. They have qualifications in early child development and use this knowledge, their understanding of complex needs and their observations of how the child presents, to identify the barriers which are hindering a child’s developmental progress and therefore their access to a variety of play situations.

The service is child and family focused and works collaboratively with parents/carers and other services involved with the child to identify and prioritise current concerns and goals and to coordinate how to support in the most effective way.

As a home-based intervention service, the Specialist Play team engage children and their parents in playful activities in their familiar, home environment. The benefit of this is that the child is often most settled in their own environment, and this allows for a more realistic assessment of their abilities and challenges. It also provides the opportunity to observe family and child interactions and to measure changes in the child's presentation over an agreed time. As part of a more detailed assessment process and with parental consent, the Specialist Play Nursery Nurse will liaise with and observe the child in their preschool/nursery setting.

The team use specialist and purposefully selected toys and activities for assessment and to provide the opportunity for the child to develop specific play skills and to therefore promote their general developmental progress. A modelling approach is used to introduce and educate parents/carers about techniques and strategies which can support them to understand and empower them to nurture their child’s play and development. Recommendations about appropriate toys and play activities to meet the individual needs of the child are provided, and they are creative and skilled when supporting parents/carers to use their child’s own toys or other readily available resources for maximum benefit.

Further information

Professionals - Make a referral to the Specialist Play Service

Who can refer to the service?

Children can be referred by members of the Child Development Team e.g. Health Visitors, Paediatricians, Therapists and Children’s Therapists.

Who can be referred?

Preschool children with complex additional needs:

  • With consent from the person with parental responsibility
  • Registered with a Worcestershire GP
  • Who have a ‘Looked After’ arrangement with Worcestershire Local Authority and continue to reside in Worcestershire with a Worcestershire GP
  • Who have a ‘Looked after’ arrangement with another Local Authority and are placed in Worcestershire with individual funding agreement.

How to refer and the information we require:

  • Referrers should complete the Child Health referral form on Carenotes and then email generic team email address to inform the refferal is on Carenotes. 
  • We require evidence of the child’s developmental needs, current play skills and specific purpose/expectations of the Specialist Play Service
  • We require confirmation that parental consent has been gained and they have capacity to work with the service
  • Referrers should refer families who can access group support to the child development centre and specialist play referrals should be reserved for those families who need support in the home.


Our service is unable to accept referrals:

  • For children referred on or after the 1st of January in the year they are due to start school
  • For children attending Specialist Nursery provision
  • For children with specific language difficulties and no other developmental delay
  • For children with a neuro disability. These children should be referred to Paediatric Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist who will assess the children and develop an individualised care plan.
  • Where the main need is for family support (these children should be considered for referral to Early Help).
  • For children over the age of 4 who have deferred school entry and are referred to the service following this decision, will be discussed on a case by case basis.
  • Children who are referred to or receiving support from the child development teams.

What happens next?

  • Referrals will be triaged and a decision made about whether or not the referral meets our service specification criteria. Referrals are managed on a clinical prioritisation basis.
  • If the referral is accepted, parents/carers will be informed of this decision.
  • If the referral is not considered appropriate or we feel that our universal offer is appropriate following the graduated response, we will share these details with the referrer and parent/carer.

Discharge criteria:

  • Goals met due to progress
  • Goals not met due to lack of engagement or other issues outside of service influence
  • Age-appropriate play skills
  • Families self managing play and development opportunities
  • Transfer to school or specialist placements
  • Receiving support from the child development centre teams

For further information, please contact us:

Tel: 01562 514520