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Home What are Special Educational Needs and Disability? What is the Children and Families Act 2014? What is the SEND Local Offer? What is Early Help? What is an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessment? Where can I find Independent Help and Support? Key documents for implementing the SEND reforms

What is Early Support and Early Help?

The term Early Help is used to describe the process of taking action early and as soon as possible to tackle problems and issues emerging for children, young people and their families. Effective help may be needed for at any point in a child or young person's life.

Early Support / Early Help

North Lincolnshire Council understands the importance of ensuring children and families receive early support and help in order to prevent difficulties escalating and requiring specialist support. We recognise that the child and their families are often the expert regarding their child's needs and therefore feel it is vital that we work together to improve outcomes.

In order to do this effectively North Lincolnshire Council have adopted the Early Help programme, alongside the Early Support principles for children with additional needs.

Early Support

Early Support is the Government's programme to improve the quality, consistency and coordination of services for children with emerging additional needs and their families across England.

Early Support is targeted at families with additional support needs associated with disability or emerging special educational needs.

An Early Support pack has been produced for parents. This includes a number of information booklets relating to particular conditions or disabilities and useful contacts for national organisations. It also includes the family file. This is designed for families to collate information about their child and be able to share it with professionals involved. It encourages joint planning, keeps everyone up to date with what is happening and helps parents give current information about their family and child to the people who are working with them.

Early Support in North Lincolnshire aims to empower families who have young children with additional needs/disabilities. It will support early identification, offer flexible coordinated services to meet individual needs and enable children to reach their full potential.

Families are encouraged to choose an Early Support Lead who will support them and their child by coordinating their needs, acting as a single point of contact for the range of services involved ensuring an integrated support plan is in place.

Family Support Plan meetings enable families to share information, helping both parents and professionals work together more effectively when meeting a child's individual needs.

Partnership working between families and professionals means that families remain at the heart of any discussions or decisions about their child. Their views are listened to and respected and their expertise is valued by the professionals working with them.

Early Help

Why Early Help?

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015 places a statutory responsibility on all partner agencies to work together to identify children who need early help so that they can:

  • reach their developmental milestones
  • experience emotional well-being
  • be safe in their home, school and community

What is our vision in North Lincolnshire?

In North Lincolnshire our vision is that children are safe, families are supported and lives are transformed.  This is about providing help to all children and families through access to strong universal provision - these are services which are available to everyone. The aim is to provide help at the earliest point and lowest ‘level’ of service provision, so that help is provided quickly and children and families get the help they need to become independent of services. 

What does this mean in practice? 

Early Help means taking action to support a child and their family at an early stage to improve the outcome for the child. All partners’ agencies are encouraged to work with children and families to improve outcomes within the context of their family and community environment and the universal service entitlement available to them. Doing this well will mean that we identify the children who need help at the earliest point and offer timely support to secure the child’s health and wellbeing, to support them to live within their family, to be safe and reach their potential. 

Our Helping Children and Families – Threshold document 2016/2020 provides clear guidance about the principles and ambitions of early help and threshold five levels of need.

This threshold document outlines:

  • How professionals should in the first instance offer help and encouragement to children and young families to find their own solutions, offering support when needed
  • That professionals should look to themselves and families for solutions and enable children and families to build upon the strengths
  • The criteria, including the level of need, for when a case should be referred to local authority children’s social care for assessment and or for statutory services under:
  • Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 (children in need)
  • Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 (reasonable cause to suspect that a child  who lives, or is found in their area is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm)
  • Section 31 (care orders); and
  • Section 20 (duty to accommodate a child) of the Children Act 1989

What are the principles of Early Help?

Our principles of Early Help are as follows:

  • Help and support children and families to find their own solutions and help them build support networks within the community.
  • Work with the views and experience of the child and family, be solution focused and build on the strengths of the child and family so they can be independent.
  • Be clear in our work with children and families about the intended outcome and how to achieve these.
  • Provide a reflective approach to supervisory oversight within each agency to enable solutions and improve outcomes for children and families.
  • Identify where a child is suffering or likely to be at risk of or suffered significant harm in line with Working Together 2015 and these thresholds. Refer to social work services where required.
  • Ensure our staff understand and utilise the “Threshold” guidance and consult safeguarding leads / managers in considering next steps.
  • Ensure that these principles underpin commissioning and contract management.

What are the Thresholds – levels of needs?

The five levels of needs are summarised below. The organisational model of Universal Targeted and Specialist has been refined to illustrate how children and families will access help at the earliest point and at the lowest level.

Levels of Need

The diagram represents levels of need and reflects an ambition to provide early help to enable children and families to have positive outcomes and reach their full potential independent from additional services and or escalating need. The challenge for all being to offer help and support swiftly, by reducing “process” so that children and families with emerging need can be supported within the context of the service. These need levels have been refined to include a new concept from Targeted Informal to Targeted Formal help.

A threshold from Targeted Informal to Targeted Formal help is where change is not achieved within a timely way, and the child and family would benefit from a formal assessment and plan to promote the longer term health and development of the child.

Further details including information on Early Help Assessment, plan and guidance Assessment Protocols are available in our Helping Children and Families – Threshold document 2016/2020

Where can I get information on supporting documents and guidance?

Supporting documents and guidance are available to read on the council website  

Our Early Help leaflet is available to download on the council website

Where can I get Early Help Assessment Forms and Guidance?

The Munro Review of Child Protection recommended a new emphasis on early help and support. This is achieved by a high quality relationship developed between workers, the child and the family. Working Together 2015 says each LSCB should use an early help assessment based on the needs of the families in their area.

The procedures to support a family through Early Help are in the LSCB Policy and Procedure – Assessing Need and Providing Help [PDF 126Mb] (insert document). This chapter outlines the Early Help procedures, information sharing, making a referral and the child protection case conference procedures. Assessing Need and Providing Help also includes the Early Help Assessment and the Early Help Plan.

All forms and guidance are available to download from the North Lincolnshire Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) website

Where can I get more information about the impact and benefits that have been achieved for children and young people and families through the Early Help offer?

Annual Review of North Lincolnshire's Early Help Offer

The Annual Review of our Early Help offer helps us understand the impact and benefits that have been achieved for children, young people and families through the Early Help offer.

The objects of the review are:

  • to clearly document the key services that provide early help
  • to understand how well the services are being used
  • to understand the quality of the service provided
  • to provide an opportunity to review services an assess their effectiveness
  • to ensure we have a clear understanding about how services are contributing to early help
  • to provide a collated list of early help services in a single document, which can be shared with partners and agencies allowing professional to see the suite of services available and options for integration.

Take a look at our Early Help Annual Review 2015-2016.


Further information

  • A copy of North Lincolnshire's Early Help Safeguarding Strategy is available to download here.
  • North Lincolnshire's LSCBs policies and guidelines, including Early Help Assessment forms are available here.
  • A leaflet entitled 'Early Help for Families: Practical support and advice to find solutions to that work for you and your family' is available to download here.


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