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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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How should families including children be involved in early help assessments?

Government statutory guidance states that the process for the early help assessment should be set out in a local threshold document (see Working Together 2018 at page 17, paragraph 16).

A local threshold document should explain the measures used in the local area to decide what help children can receive.

The threshold document (or the measures in it) may be called ‘eligibility criteria’ in some local areas. Slightly different measures or ‘thresholds’ apply in different parts of England.

The early help process should be explained clearly to the family by the lead practitioner before it begins.

The lead practitioner is the person who will do the assessment to work out what help is needed. They may be a:

  • GP
  • School nurse
  • Teacher
  • Health visitor
  • Another practitioner.

Involving the family

The government guidance makes clear that:

  • Early help assessments should involve the child and family
  • The assessment should involve anyone who is working with the child and family
  • The assessment should consider the child’s age, the family circumstances and the wider community context in which they are living.

This is all set out in Working Together 2018 at page 15, paragraph 10.

The lead practitioner should work with the family.

This means:

  • Parents and carers should be able to discuss their views about the services and support they would find helpful
  • Families should have the chance to discuss this with any of the practitioners involved
  • The assessment should take account of the child’s wishes and feelings wherever possible
  • Parents and carers should be involved in drawing up any early help plan.
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