Information for professionals
What is Early Help?
‘Early Help’ describes support available to children, young people and families up to the level of statutory or specialist intervention. It is there to support from pre-natal stages up to the age of 18 years (25 years for those with SEND). It includes information and advice, universal services, open access services and more intensive targeted support for children, young people, and families.
‘Working together to safeguard children’ (2018) is the statutory guidance which details the vital role of effective early help intervention for children at risk of poorer outcomes. It emphasises that all agencies have a collective responsibility, to identify, assess and provide effective targeted early help services.
Within ‘Early Help’ there are both universal and targeted services. These services work together, ensuring the most relevant and focused plans and interventions are in place:
- Universal services are services that all children and families can access (for example, GPs, Schools, Early Years, Community organisations etc.)
- Targeted services are services for children and families that have multiple needs which require a multi-agency intervention (for example, Family Thrive)
Our vision for Early Help
The vision for Early Help is detailed in our early help and prevention strategy 2020-2023:
'Our vision for Early Help and Prevention is for children and young people in Lewisham to thrive, reaching their full potential and able to take full advantage of the opportunities available to them in Lewisham, London and beyond.'
To best achieve this, a culture of working together across agencies and with families is needed to:
- prevent problems occurring
- identify risks or problems at the earliest point of need, at any time in a child or young person’s life
- respond by providing support as soon as possible to stop problems getting worse, reducing the risks to children’s wellbeing and increasing the protective factors in a child’s life
As a professional, you may be working with a family where an early Help assessment (EHA) is needed.
The early help assessment (EHA)
An early help assessment starts with a conversation with parents/carers to work out how to help them stop small problems becoming bigger and more difficult to manage. It is important to discuss the strengths and things that are going well, alongside the worries for children, young person or a family.
Best practice is to agree with parents and carers, young people and children (where age appropriate) what to write in the EHA, especially the children's views, wishes and goals.
The EHA should identify what’s working well in the family; what their worries are; family/friend networks and the next steps that will be taken to support the children, young person and family.
As part of the EHA or following the EHA, holding a Team Around Family (TAF) meeting with the parents or carers, young person and all involved agencies is recommended.
Team around family (TAF) meetings
At the TAF meeting, you should review the early help assessment and the plan developed. The TAF meeting template, enables you to record:
- what's working well and any progress
- what are we worried about?
- actions with clear timescales and named people to action them
At the first TAF meeting, a lead professional should be identified. It is then recommended that review TAF meetings are held once every 6 weeks to ensure the plan is actioned and is progressing.