Referral Criteria – Early Years Complex Needs Service

Devon Early Years Complex Needs Service is a year-round education-based service for children Under 5 with the most severe and complex developmental needs. The service supports children to achieve success using a small-steps, play based, child centred approach. The service works in the home and in community settings with parents and partner agencies to promote inclusive practice and to build confidence and resilience.

CFHD manage the requests for service on behalf of the EYCNS who are part of Devon County Council.

Devon Early Years Complex Needs Service

The service is registered with the National Portage Association (NPA) which is recognised as an early intervention service for children with significant and complex needs aged 0-5 and their families.

The service includes qualified teachers and experienced practitioners who support children and families on a range of pathways (see below).

Referral Criteria

To access the EYCN Service, children should meet one or more of the criteria below:

  • Show significant/profound delay in at least two or more areas of development, one of which must be cognition.
  • Present with significant and complex neuro-disability, for example Autism Spectrum Disorder, this must be significantly impacting on their cognition, their ability to learn and their ability to participate in daily activities.
  • Present as non-verbal or have significantly impaired communication
  • Have an existing diagnosis of a condition, where there is likely to be significant/profound delay to include cognition.
  • Children referred to the Under 5’s Specialist Children’s Assessment Centre (SCAC) may also be referred to EYCN Service via the SPOA route where appropriate. This can happen at point of acceptance to the SCAC and does not need to be an outcome of the specialist assessment process.

Who can refer?

  • Any professional working with the child and/or family (health / social care / education)
  • Parents/carers
  • Early Years setting – following discussion with their Early Years Consultant and evidence of a Graduated Response.

How to refer

All referrals to the service must be made via the Single Point of Access (SPA)

Referral Documents

N.B. If the referrals arrive at Single Point of Access without the appropriate documents/evidence, we will be unable to action them until all relevant documentation is received.

  • Completed request for service form/letter and parental consent.
  • Early years setting report for all children currently attending a setting (including childminders).
  • Evidence of significant and complex delay in two developmental areas which must include detailed evidence of significant cognitive delay (see criteria).
  • Evidence of how professionals have tried to target areas of delay in the community, e.g. demonstrated through a TAF.
  • Evidence of the Graduated Response if a referral is from an Early Years setting. Settings should have discussed the child with their Early Years Consultant prior to the referral being made.
  • Evidence that the child has had an Early Help Assessment (Right for Children) if appropriate.
  • Copies of ASQs, Two Year Old and Let’s Talk More assessments where appropriate, including a summary of the child’s needs.

Service Delivery Structure

Home based intervention 0 – 2 years (may be extended dependent on individual child’s level of need at 2 years plus) 

Children who have significant complex cognitive and developmental delay in two or more areas. May already have a diagnosis or be awaiting a diagnosis. Children not yet eligible for education funding due to age or circumstance.

Child and family supported in the home setting on a regular basis by the EYCN Practitioners supported by the Senior EYCN Practitioner and Service Lead. The EYCN Practitioner will support a robust transition into early years setting for up to 1 term to
ensure continuity.

Children accepted for this level of service are likely to have significant delay of cognition and other areas of development of at least 6 months+ at 1 year; 12 months at 2 years; 18 months at 3 years OR may have a life-limiting medical diagnosis.

Early Years Complex Needs Inclusion 2 – 5 years

Children who have significant complex cognitive and developmental delay in two or more areas who attend early years settings and are eligible for education funding.

Children accepted for this level of service are likely to have significant delay of cognition and other areas of development of at least 18 months at 3 years 24 months + 4 years.


Children and Family Health Devon
Single Point of Access Team
1a Capital Court
Bittern Road
Sowton Industrial Estate
Exeter EX2 7FW

t: 0330 0245 321