Early help guidance for professionals

What is early help?

Early help means providing help and support to a child, young person or their family as soon as it is identified they need additional help and support. This could be at any point in a child/ young person’s life e.g. pre-birth right the way through to 18 years of age and more than once as we know children’s needs change as they grow and develop and their family circumstances can change. By us providing or helping a family access help and support at the earliest opportunity we can supporting children and young people to meeting their full potential and trying to stop challenges or difficulties they are facing from escalating for them and their family.

Working Together 2018 identifies that: “effective early help relies upon local organisations and agencies working together to:

  • identify children and families who would benefit from early help
  • undertake an assessment of the need for early help
  • provide targeted early help services to address the assessed needs of a child and their family which focuses on activity to improve the outcomes for the child

Local authorities, under section 10 of the Children Act 2004, have a responsibility to promote inter-agency co-operation to improve the welfare of all children. Local organisations and agencies should have in place effective ways to identify emerging problems and potential unmet needs of individual children and families. Local authorities should work with organisations and agencies to develop joined-up early help services based on a clear understanding of local needs. This requires all practitioners, including those in universal services and those providing services to adults with children, to understand their role in identifying emerging problems and to share information with other practitioners to support early identification and assessment”.

The Early Help pathway

Our Worcestershire approach to early help and support pathway

Step One: identify needs of child, young person and/ or their family

When working with or in contact with a child or young person we will:

Identify that a child, young person or their family need additional help with a specific need and /or personal difficulty/ challenge that cannot be helped or supported by accessing routine universal services alone. E.g. routine doctors, dentist, school, college, police etc. we need to provide something different or additional to help and support them currently.

Step 2 The Early Help assessment, what the chid/ young person or family’s needs are and what help and support is required

Assessment: what is the need; help or support required? what does this child, young person and their family need to make the changes or address the problem and help them move forward? Use your own agency early help assessment /documentation, My Family Plan or the Worcestershire Early help assessment to help identify with the family what they need and how we can help / support them. What do they think and want/ need?

View the Worcestershire Early help assessment and plan

Early help support in our community: The child, young person and their family may be able to access additional help and support from your own agency above what is your universal / “access to all” service or you might put them in touch with other support services in their community such as: Benefits, housing, parenting support, drug and alcohol services, emotional wellbeing and mental health services. Information is available on our Family Hub page.

What is their level of need? As part of the conversations you are having about what help and support is needed, we need to think about the level of need we are supporting. To help us identify this our Worcestershire levels of need guidance can help us. This can be accessed via: Levels of need Guidance (PDF).

Step 3 The early help plan

The early help plan can be additional help and support your own service or agency is providing for a child, young person or to their family. It may be an education plan, a EHCP plan, a diversionary plan, an emotional health and wellbeing plan, parenting support plan or a multi-disciplinary plan whereby we need to engage help from a range of services such as DWP, housing, local policing etc. A good plan will use the SMART approach so you can easily see who, what, when and outcome, what progress is being made and is the plan helping the child and young person?

The Worcestershire Early help assessment has the plan attached to this for ease, so it is all in one place.

Step 4: Reviewing the early help plan

Once a plan is in place it is recommended that this is reviewed every 6 to 12 weeks to ensure it is helping the family and that the right support is in place. This does not need to be a formal meeting and can take the right approach for that child and their family but they must be engaged in the review so they can share what’s working well or what’s been a problem for them. The lead professional will lead the review with everyone contributing to the support plan and taking responsibility for their actions and support role, this is key in working together. This review will make decisions and take action to amend the plan, cease it or when next to review it. It recognises that some difficulties can be resolved quickly and some help and support maybe long term for some children and young people. It is advised not to go longer than 12weeks without coming together again to review it.

Step 5 End of the plan

The Early Help Plan may change over time and different people are involved at different times. When the plan ends will depend on the needs of the child, young person and their family. Some families will carry on accessing help and support from their communities and not need the early help plan to continue. When ending the plan, you must ensure this is recorded as per your own agencies recording policy.

Recording of the plan: Please send a copy of the early help assessment and plan to Worcestershire Children First so there is a record of this help and support for this child held centrally via:familyassessment@worcschildrenfirst.org.uk

Child protection concerns

If at any time you believe that a child or young person is at immediate risk of harm, contact the Police on 999.

If you need to refer a child or young person to Children's Social Care for an immediate safeguarding concern contact the Family Front Door on 01905 822666 (out of hours 01905 768020).

If the concern is not immediate but is a child protection concern you need to make a written referral.