Effective early help relies on organisations and agencies working together to:
- identify children and families who would benefit from early help
- carry out an assessment of the need for early help
- provide targeted early help services to address the identified needs of a child and their family, which will focus on activity to improve the outcomes for the child
Responsibility for early help
Councils, under section 10 of the Children Act 2004, have a responsibility to promote inter agency co-operation to improve the welfare of all children.
Councils should work with organisations and agencies to develop joined-up early help services based on a clear understanding of local needs. All practitioners, including those in universal services and those providing services to adults with children, must understand their role in identifying emerging problems, and share information with other practitioners to support early identification and assessment.
A lead practitioner should carry out the assessment, offer help to the child and family, act as an advocate, and co-ordinate the delivery of support services. The lead practitioner role could be taken on by a GP, family support worker, school nurse, teacher, health visitor and/or special educational needs co-ordinator. The decision about who should be the lead practitioner should be taken on a case-by-case basis, and should be informed by the child and their family (Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2018).
Moving between children's social care and early help support
- We would refer to children's social care if we're worried that a child has been harmed or is at risk of significant harm (for example, physical injury, self-harm, incidents of domestic abuse). Or when a child or young person's needs and outcomes are not being met, despite interventions from early help services, and risks are increasing.
- When social care intervention is no longer needed, social workers will work with the family and key agencies to decide how the child's needs will be best met in the future. This may include identifying a lead practitioner and providing early help support.