Berkshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures
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1.2.1 Guide for Practitioners (Early Help)

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Early Help Assessment Form

RELEVANT CHAPTERS LEGISTLATION / GUIDANCE

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015

Children Act 1989

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 years

Troubled Families Programme

AMENDMENT

This chapter was substantially revised and updated in January 2017 and should be re-read in full.


Contents

  1. What is an Early Help Assessment?
  2. Early Help Assessment Form
  3. Assessments
  4. The Early Help System in Slough
  5. Understanding Levels of Need and Threshold Criteria
  6. Information Sharing
  7. Team Around the Family (TAF) and TAF Meetings
  8. Lead Professional (LP)
  9. Early Help Assessment Advisors


1. What is an Early Help Assessment?

Children, young people and families can face problems, concerns or worries at any time. Taking the right actions early on can help to stop these from getting worse. Early Help is one of the priorities of Slough’s Children and Young People’s Partnership Board.

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015 (Chapter 1, paragraph 8) states:

‘Where a child and family would benefit from coordinated support from more than one agency (e.g. education, health, housing, police) there should be an inter-agency assessment. These early help assessments, should identify what help the child and family require to prevent needs escalating to a point where intervention would be needed via a statutory assessment under the Children Act 1989 (paragraph 26)’.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 years, Section 6.21 (January 2015) states:

‘If it is thought housing, family or other domestic circumstances may be contributing to the presenting behaviour a multi-agency approach, supported by the use of approaches such as the Early Help Assessment, may be appropriate. In all cases, early identification and intervention can significantly reduce the use of more costly intervention at a later stage’.

In Slough, the Early Help Assessment (EHA) process has been designed for practitioners working with children and young people who meet Levels 2 and low Level 3 as described in the Slough Threshold document which can be found at Slough Local Safeguarding Children's Board website.

The EHA can only be undertaken if the parents (or in some cases, the young person) is in agreement. The practitioner who identifies the need should speak to the child or young person and their parents, explain the EH process, gain consent and complete the EHA assessment form. Following this, a Team around the Family (TAF) meeting should be called. This should include, alongside the child or young person and parents, practitioners who are already involved with the family and any other practitioners whose input may be of value to the family. At the TAF meeting, an action plan should be agreed on how to meet the needs of the child, who will do what and who will be the Lead Professional.

If at any time, it is considered that the child or young person may be a child in need as defined in the Children Act 1989, or that the child has suffered Significant Harm or is likely to suffer significant harm, a referral should be made immediately to Children’s Social Care. The EHA will be used to inform the on-going statutory assessments.

‘Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015’ is statutory guidance determining that local agencies should work together to put processes in place for the effective assessment of the needs of individual children who may benefit from ‘Early Help’ services.


2. Early Help Assessment Form

The Early Help Assessment form (available on the EHA electronic system or as a paper copy) must be used for all children and young people with additional needs where there is more than one agency working with the family. The form is designed to capture information about the ‘whole family’. Separate forms should only be completed if other children or young people in the family have additional needs. The guidance notes within the form will help you understand this and the electronic system (Early Help Assessment System) will help you transfer information across different children.

The EHA Form has been designed to avoid practitioners having to duplicate information, assessments and referrals. It is important to fill in as much detail as possible; any gaps in information should be completed when possible.

Slough’s EHA is based on the national ‘Framework for Assessment’ (See Working Together 2015, page 20) and contains the following domains:

  • Child’s Developmental Needs;
  • Parenting Capacity: parent or carer’s capacity to respond appropriately to those needs;
  • Family and Environmental Factors: the impact and influence of wider family, community and environmental circumstances.

Each section has guidance notes.

Troubled Families

In April 2012, the Government launched the Troubled Families Programme: a £448 million scheme to incentivise local authorities and their partners to turn around the lives of 120,000 troubled families by May 2015. The first programme worked with families where children were not attending school, young people were committing crime, families were involved in antisocial behaviour and adults were out of work. 

The Troubled Families Programme has been expanded for a further five years from April 2015 to reach up to an additional 400,000 families across England. This ambition is to improve the lives of troubled families and as this work is taken to a significantly greater scale, to transform local public services and reduce costs for the long term.

The aim of the National Troubled Families Programme is to reduce the demand on high cost services by identifying and intervening in families earlier, using a whole family approach and building resilience.

Phase Two of Slough’s Families First programme, which began in April 2015, will be a catalyst for change and will enable us to think and work together differently. We will create an integrated delivery model that will maximise resources across Slough's organisations to support families in need of help and protection, to build more capable, safe and confident communities, and make savings to the public purse.

Our approach to the Troubled Families Programme is not about a single team, but a single service delivery model. We will measure outcomes for the families that we work with, and narrow the gap to give children the best start in life and improve their outcomes.

We will do this by:

  • Providing Early Help - intervening before issues escalate into high cost services
  • Co-ordinated multi agency approach - local services working more effectively together with a lead professional co-ordinating the work using the Team around the Family approach
  • Transforming the way we work - collaborative and cohesive partnerships, develop more capable and confident communities
  • Slough Children Services Trust Early Help (Troubled Families) Program outcome Plan 2015-17 - putting the whole family at the centre of service planning.

The Slough Troubled Families Outcome Plan has been created to help identify, prioritise and address the needs of those families who have multiple and complex needs. The target number of families Slough will have supported by 2020 is 1,260.

For a family to be eligible for the expanded programme they must meet at least two of the six Government criteria:

  • Parents or children involved in anti-social behaviour or crime;
  • Children who have not been attending school regularly;
  • Children who need help: children of all ages, who need help, are identified as in need or are subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • Adults out of work or at risk of financial exclusion and young people at risk of worklessness;
  • Families affected by domestic violence and abuse;
  • Parents and children with a range of health problems.

The plan provides the framework for deciding how the indicators are determined in Slough and how significant and sustained progress is measured for all of the six headline family problems. 


3. Assessments

The Early Help Assessment should be developed with the child, young person and parents and a completed copy given to them.

According to Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) page 19, High quality assessments:

  • Are child centred. Where there is a conflict of interest, decisions should be made in the child’s best interests;
  • Are rooted in child development and informed by evidence;
  • Are focused on action and outcomes for children;
  • Are holistic in approach, addressing the child’s needs within their family and wider community;
  • Involve children and families;
  • Build on strengths as well as identifying difficulties;
  • Are integrated in approach;
  • Are a continuing process not an event;
  • Lead to action, including the provision and review of services;
  • Are transparent and open to challenge.

Information should be gathered systematically, checked and discussed with the child, young person and family. The impact of what is happening to the child should be clearly identified and recorded so that the needs of the child or young person remain central.


4. The Early Help System in Slough

Early Help Assessments should be recorded and kept on the secure electronic system. The system contains records for individual children and includes demographic information, the Early Help Assessment and action plan. It can also be used for case records, meeting records and other attached documents.

The electronic system allows all agencies to see if an existing EHA is in place and evidences that early help is being provided to families in line with safeguarding requirements.

Single View allows practitioners to see if other agencies (particularly social care) are involved with the child, young person and family.

Where agencies cannot access the electronic EHA system they should contact the Early Help Assessment Team or Early Help Advisors for advice.


5. Understanding Levels of Need and Threshold Criteria

Please see Slough’s LSCB Threshold Document.


6. Information Sharing

Sharing of information between practitioners and local agencies is essential for effective identification, assessment and service provision. Early sharing of information is the key to providing effective early help where there are emerging problems.

Consent: The Early Help Assessment is a voluntary process. A child, young person, parent or carer must give their consent for the assessment to take place.

Consent must be ‘informed’ which means there must be full knowledge of what will happen to the information being shared, for example, who can access it and where it will be stored.

If the practitioners, child, young person and family are working together in partnership then issues around consent and information sharing should not be a significant barrier.

Early Help Leaflets for parents and young people are available; these explain the EHA process and contain the relevant consent form.

Who should give consent? Consent issues should be considered on a case by case basis; generally the parent or carer of a child should give consent for an Early Help Assessment to be started, however, in some circumstances the young person can give consent themselves.

The following factors should be taken into account:

  • A child or young person who has the capacity to understand and make their own decisions may give or refuse consent. Sufficient understanding is presumed in law for young people aged 16 and older but younger children may also have sufficient understanding. In this situation, the maturity of a young person should be considered and the practitioner should explain issues in a way that is suitable for their age, language and likely understanding;
  • Where parental consent is required, the consent of one person is sufficient;
  • Where members of a family are in conflict then careful consideration should be given to whose consent should be obtained. Normally, consent should be sought from the parent with whom the child or young person resides.

If consent for an Early Help Assessment is refused then this must be acknowledged and no EHA should be done. If possible, this should be recorded on the Early Help system and closed. If you remain concerned about the situation you can discuss it with your manager or with the Early Help Assessment Advisors.

There are some circumstances when sharing information without consent is justified in the interests of protecting children from serious harm.

More guidance about these matters is available from Information sharing advice for safeguarding practitioners.


7. Team Around the Family (TAF) and TAF Meetings

When the practitioner identifying the additional need has spoken to the child or young person and family about their needs and their strengths, a Team around the Family meeting should be called. The family should be invited to attend the meeting. Practitioners who are currently working with the family and any other practitioners who may be able offer services to the family should be invited. Practitioners should make every effort to attend the TAF meeting.

The TAF meeting will identify a Lead Practitioner (LP) but members of the TAF have a collective responsibility to:

  • Deliver the coordinated support by following through on activities they have agreed to deliver;
  • Keeping the LP informed about progress;
  • Providing reports to agreed timescales;
  • Attending TAF meetings when appropriate.

To make the TAF meeting successful the following should be taken into account:

  • An initial TAF meeting should take place within 3 weeks of the date of the start of the Early Help Assessment;
  • Children, young people and their parents or carers should always be invited to TAF meetings. Their views and aspirations should be heard and included in the assessment. Family members should be given an explanation of the Early Help process and how the meeting will run;
  • The TAF meeting should be organised in a venue and at a time that is suitable to the family as well as the practitioners;
  • If the children, young people and their parents or carers prefer not to attend the meeting then clear information and feedback should be given;
  • An action/support plan should be developed during the TAF meeting, it should reflect the information gathered and the discussion that has taken place and it should make individual responsibilities and timescales clear. It should also include review dates.


8. Lead Professional (LP)

The role of the Lead Professional is to ensure that actions are coordinated and delivered and that the family receives an effective and integrated service. Being the Lead Professional is part of the work that many practitioners already do with children, young people and families.

The key roles of the Lead Professional are to:

  • Build or already have a trusting relationship with the child, young person or family;
  • Provide a single point of consistent and regular contact with family;
  • Identify strengths and needs of family members;
  • Provide information to the child, young person and family, enabling and empowering them to make decisions;
  • Ensure that the family understand and have given consent to share information;
  • Facilitate multi-agency Team Around the Family meetings;
  • Support and facilitate the Early Help Assessment and action plan including setting dates for and carrying out reviews;
  • Facilitate the delivery of services to the child, young person and family, according to the action plan;
  • Ensure that any progress is monitored and recorded, taking into account the views of the child, young person and family as well as those of other practitioners.

The LP is only accountable to their own agency for the delivery of their part of the action plan; they are NOT responsible for doing the work of other agencies.

Who can be a Lead Professional? Practitioners across the wider children’s workforce could take on the LP role as the skills, competence and knowledge required are similar regardless of practitioner background or role. However, some practitioners will have greater opportunity or capacity than others to take on the role.

The person taking on the role in a particular case will vary according to the specific needs of the child, young person or family. It is likely that the LP will be drawn from the range of practitioners who are currently delivering services to the child, young person or family but this is not always the case.

The LP will be chosen through a process of discussion and consensus between the practitioners and the child, young person and family. The LP can change over time as the needs of the child or young person change.

The Early Help Assessment Advisors can support practitioners who are taking on the Lead Professional role or can become involved if there are difficulties in finding a LP or if services are not delivered as agreed. These cases may go to the Early Help Panel.


9. Early Help Assessment Advisors

Slough Children's Services Trust has two Early Help Assessment Advisors to support practitioners undertake Early Help Assessments and to develop better quality multi-agency working with improved outcomes for children, young people and families.

The role of the Early Help Assessment Advisors is to offer advice, guidance and support to practitioners from all agencies on thresholds, the assessment process and signposting to appropriate services. The support they can offer includes:

  • Attending team meetings to provide information about the Early Help Assessment process;
  • Supporting individual agencies or practitioners to write assessments, develop plans and agree outcomes;
  • Supporting the use of the electronic system;
  • Chairing complex Team Around the Family meetings.

A key part of their role will be to help quality assure Early Help Assessments and outcomes.

If you would like more information about the Early Help Assessment call the Assessment and Information Team on 01753 476589 or email EHA@scstrust.co.uk.

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