This chapter was added to the manual in April 2018.
When a child/young person/family needs something extra, Early Help is the initial response offered by all services in contact with children, young people and families. This builds an understanding to address extra needs and prevent situations from getting more difficult for children and young people. The aim of Early Help is to build on people's capacity and resources to manage their own dilemmas, resolve their own difficulties and prevent further problems in the future.
Early Help is not a designated team it is the way that EVERYONE works together to support the needs of families
In Devon, the early help system is made up of service users, community resources, universal service providers and targeted services working together to enable families to manage their own dilemmas and solve their own problems, making whatever changes are necessary to secure the well-being of their children, enabling appropriate risk management in the community and a proportionate response to risk and need.
The Devon Early Help Assessment is a tool used by all partners in Devon to assess the Early Help needs of a family and individual family members. It is a multi-agency gathering of information in order that any additional needs within a family can be understood and the process of providing or accessing support can begin. This will mean that the family and everyone involved can make a plan to provide that support. Part of that process may include a Team Around The Family (TAF) meeting taking place, with the family to discuss the help they need and who will provide it.
If at any point in the process, a child or young person is considered to be at risk of significant and immediate harm, a direct referral to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) or a call to the Police may be necessary.
For all Early help consent must be obtained.
Step Down from Childrens Services to Early Help
The step-down approach describes the way in which a family can move out from statutory social care services to receiving continued or targeted support through our early help arrangements.
The child's journey through universal, targeted and specialist services is one that all agency partners wish to ensure is as smooth and time limited as possible. The step down process is intended to maintain children at universal and targeted level as much as possible by ensuring early intervention is provided in a timely manner, and any step up to statutory social care is only agreed when children's needs cannot be met though the provision of early help.
Social Worker to obtain a signed copy of 'Early Help Information Sharing Consent Form'. Social Worker to retain signed copy as this will need to be uploaded to Right for Children (RfC), Devon's Multi-Agency Early Help IT Platform.
The Social Worker will need to ascertain if the family already has a record on RfC via their local business support.
A discussion about what Early Help may be able to offer the family should be discussed with the family before the Child in Need meeting (CIN) or the Team around the Family meeting (TAF) meeting is arranged.
The social worker needs to discuss with the family whom they would ideally most like to be the lead practitioner and discuss this with the relevant practitioner prior to any meeting.
If there are challenges in identifying Lead Practitioners, Social workers can get support from Locality Officers in each area – contact details found at the Devon Children and Families Partnership website.
There is an expectation that professionals engage with undertaking the lead practitioner role and need to be asked. Clear reasons should be given by any practitioner chosen by a family as to why they are not able to be the lead and challenged if they say they are not able to take this role on.
If the case has come through the Initial Response team - and a single assessment has been completed - a Team around the family (TAF) meeting should be arranged to discuss the ongoing Early Help plan and intervention.
If the case has been held at Child in Need level and a child in need meeting is arranged where the plan is clear that it is stepping down to Early help - there is no need to organise another multi-agency meeting (Team around the family-TAF), the lead practitioner should have already been identified and the plan discussed with the family.
Outcomes of the Team around the family meeting/Early Help plan/Child in Need meeting must be input to Right for Children, with a Case Notes Observation placed onto the Social Care system, first detailing the date and decision to step down.
The Social worker (either directly or through their Social work team resource officer/Local Business Support) will need to ascertain if the family are already on the Right for Children system - if not - open the family up and open up an Early help assessment (EHA) - and transfer/copy and paste across the analysis from the last assessment (either Child in Need or Single Assessment).
The Early Help Assessment should be left open - DO NOT FINALISE AS OTHER AGENCIES NEED TO ADD THEIR RESPECTIVE INFORMATION.
If additional support from the targeted Early Help teams (Family Intervention Team/Youth Intervention Team/Y-SMART/Family Solutions Team) is required - then a Request for Additional Service (RfAS) form needs to be completed - ensure you state what the needs of the family are and why you require that service.
Only once a multi-agency meeting/Early Help Assessment has been opened and a lead practitioner has been identified can the case close to the social worker and on the social work system. Should the family not engage with the early help plan, this will need be fed back to social care for the records (ensure this is clear at the TAF/CIN).
Further information on the Early Help Hubs and Locality meetings can be found on the Devon Children and Families Partnership Website.