What is 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.
Why Early Help?
Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015 places a statutory responsibility on all professionals who work with children and their families to work together to identify and support 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
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’, so that help is provided quickly and children and families get the help they need.
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.
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.
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
Early Help means supporting children and their families at an early stage to improve the outcome for the child. All professionals are encouraged to work with children and families to improve outcomes both within their family and community, using services which are available to everyone. Doing this well will mean that we identify the children and families who need help at the earliest point helping them to suppport 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
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.
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 2016-2017.