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Early help

Most families will need some help to bring up their children. This may come from family and friends. But some families may need support from local agencies. Education (schools, nurseries), housing, and health services are all examples of agencies.

Early help aims for:

Agencies to work together to provide support as soon as problems emerge. This is because tackling a problem early can stop things getting worse. Early help can be given to a family with a child up to age 18. So the child may be a baby, toddler, at primary school or a teenager.

What the law says about early help

Early help assessments

An early help assessment is the first step in the early help process. Read our FAQs below to find out more about what is involved.

Early help services and plans

Click on the drop downs below to read answers to our FAQs about early help services and early help plans.

What sort of early help services are available?

Government guidance states that that local areas should have a range of effective ‘evidence-based services in place to meet a child’s assessed needs early’ (see Working Together 2018 at page 16, paragraph 12).

A local threshold document should set out the type and level of early help services  provided in the local area. It is worth checking with the local Family/Children’s Information Service about what help is available. Examples of early help services include:

  • Speech and language therapy
  • Counselling or other therapeutic support
  • Support groups for young people, for example those who are young carers
  • Parenting programmes
  • Help for parents struggling with drug or alcohol misuse.

Can support be provided before an early help assessment is complete?

Yes. Government guidance is clear that social workers and other practitioners should not wait until the end of any assessment before putting support in place (see Working Together 2018 at page 27, paragraph 52).

If needs are identified at any stage of an early help assessment, support should be provided for the child and family as soon as possible. A parent or carer can tell the lead practitioner if they feel support needs to be put in place urgently. Assessments can be done quickly if necessary.

What information should be in an early help plan?

The early help assessment should identify the help the child and family need. This should be help which prevents needs escalating to the point where children’s services would have to become involved to do an assessment (see Working Together 2018 at page 15, paragraph 8).

At the end of the assessment report there should be a clear early help plan. This plan should explain:

  • What action is to be taken and by when
  • What services are to be provided to the child, parent or carer, or to the whole family
  • How all the early help services will be coordinated by the lead practitioner
  • If the plan will be regularly reviewed. This is to make sure the right help and support is being provided. It will help to see what progress is being made
  • If wider family and friends are able to provide support this should be detailed in the plan. This should draw on any family plan prepared at a family group conference (FGC).

Parents and carers should be involved in drawing up any early help plan. And they should give their views about who they think the early help plan should be shared with. For example, if the assessment recommends a child has help with speech and language, the parents or carers will likely want the plan to be shared with the child’s school.

Do families have to accept the early help services offered?

No. Parents or carers can decide not to accept early help services.

Sometimes parents or carers may feel that they do not want to accept the help suggested. If a parent or carer is feeling like this it is a good idea for them to talk things through. This might involve a parent or carer:

  • Saying if they think that the help offered isn’t needed or isn’t the right help
  • Explaining what kind of help they feel they do need
  • Sharing any worries they may have about working with a service or particular person
  • Asking about how the early help offered will be reviewed
  • Asking what will happen if they don’t accept the help offered.

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