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1.1.1 Multi-Agency Thresholds Guidance & Continuum of Help and Support Framework


This chapter was updated in March 2018. Figure 1: Continuum of Help and Support Framework was updated.


1. Introduction
2. Core Principles When Working with Children, Young People and Families
3. Early Help
4. The Four Levels of Need
  4.1 Levels of Need Tables
    Level 1 – Universal
    Level 2 – Additional
    Level 3 – Integrated
    Level 4 – Specialist
5. Escalation and/De-escalation (Step up/Step down)

1. Introduction

Working Together to Safeguard Children sets out a clear expectation that local agencies will work together and collaborate to identify children with additional needs and provide support as soon as a problem emerges. Providing Early Help is far more effective in promoting the welfare of children than reacting later when any problems, for example Neglect, have become more chronic and entrenched. The importance of using a child-centred approach in following the child’s journey is also emphasised. All service provision must be based on a sound assessment of need and the views of the individual child in the context of their family and community.

This chapter provides a Framework of Need and guidance for practitioners, managers and volunteers who work with children, young people and families to help identify when a child may need additional support to achieve their full potential. It introduces a Continuum of Help and Support Framework (see Figure 1), provides information on the levels of need and gives indicators of when a child or young person may need additional support. By undertaking single and multi-agency assessments and offering services across the Continuum, professionals can be flexible and respond to differing levels of need which will change overtime. 

Remember – where there is an immediate need to protect a child because they are being harmed or are likely to suffer significant harm (see Recognition of Significant Harm and Categories of Abuse (including Non-Recent (Historical) Abuse) Procedure), contact the Police 999 or Children’s Social Care, Initial Response Service (see Local Contacts, Children's Social Care Referral and Assessment Team).

Figure 1: Continuum of Help and Support Framework

Continuum of Help and Support

Consultation will include with line managers, designated and named professionals and duty social workers.

2. Core Principles When Working with Children, Young People and Families

  • Safeguarding children and young people is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone who comes into contact with children, young people and families has a role to play;
  • Services should intervene early to tackle any problems as soon as they emerge;
  • The child or young person must be at the centre and their needs paramount;
  • Children and young people must be listened to and have their voices heard; for the smallest of children this will mean through observation of behaviours;
  • Any services provided to safeguard children and young people must be clearly focused on outcomes.

Effective assessment requires all those working with children, young people and families to:

  • Be alert to children and their needs;
  • Remember that the child’s needs are paramount. Where practitioners, or volunteers provide services to adults they must consider the adult service user in their role as a parent or carer and assess the risks to any children in their care or with whom they have contact;
  • Understand their individual role in keeping children safe, and the role of others;
  • Be able to identify symptoms and triggers of abuse and neglect and share information with colleagues in a timely way; and
  • Have a focus on strengths as well as vulnerabilities and concerns.

3. Early Help

Why do we need to provide early help?

  • Provides support as soon as a problem emerges;
  • Can strengthen family skills, resilience and protective factors to reduce the risk of problems escalating or recurring;
  • Improve outcomes and life chances for children, young people and their families;
  • Reduce the risk of problems transmitting within families from one generation to the next;
  • Reduce the risk of significant harm to a child;
  • Reduce the need for costly specialist services.

3.1 For help and advice with Early Help

The majority of Early Help in Newcastle is delivered by universal services coming together as part of a Team Around the Family using the Early Help Assessment. The Early Help Assessment is an assessment tool to enable practitioners and families to form a shared understanding about a child and their family’s needs and how best to meet them. The benefits of doing an Early Help Assessment are such that it:

  • Provides children, young people and families with a Child and Family Assessment, a single plan and a single point of contact. There is no overlap between services and families will only have to ‘tell their story’ once;
  • Creates a record for the child and family and of the actions being undertaken to support them. This avoids duplication, repetition and confusion;
  • Ensures that needs are considered holistically from a broad range of perspectives rather than from the focus of any one agency or need;
  • Facilitates a more complete picture of the child/young person and their family through shared information which makes it easier for practitioners to agree which services are required, co-ordinate delivery with other services and monitor progress;
  • Ensure that progress is continually monitored and plans adjusted to meet changing needs through regular reviews.

3.2 The Early Help Assessment and Early Help Advisory Teams offer the following support:

  • Training on Early Help Assessment and practitioner support groups;
  • Management of the electronic system that contains all Early Help Plans logged across the city;
  • Direct support to practitioners to develop the most appropriate response to families identified as having additional needs.

You can contact them via email or telephone: 0191 211 5805.

See also Early Help Assessment Procedure.

4. The Four Levels of Need

  1. Universal – these are children with no additional needs; all of their health and developmental needs will be met by universal services e.g. health visitor, early years, school.
  2. Additional – these are children who have additional needs, which require extra support. An Early Help Assessment should be considered.
  3. Integrated – these are children, who are disabled or unlikely to achieve or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development, or their health and development will be impaired without co-ordinated support. With the consent of the family an Early Help Assessment should be used at this point and a Lead Practitioner identified; services may be provided by the Local Authority under Section 17 Children Act 1989.
  4. Specialist - these are children who have more complex needs and may require longer term intervention from statutory and specialist services under Section 17 and Section 47 of the Children Act 1989. This is the threshold for a Child and Family Assessment led by Children’s Social Care, including Child Protection enquiries when a child has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, children with disabilities, children in need of support, Looked After Children and the youth justice services.

4.1 Levels of Need Tables

Click here to view Level 1 - Universal Services Table

Click here to view Level 2 – Additional Needs Table

Click here to view Level 3 – Integrated Table

Click here to view Level 4 – Specialist Table

These tables include summary indicators, action and the assessment process, and information about services who might be involved with children and families at the particular level of need.

5. Escalation and/De-escalation (Step up/Step down)

Our aim is to identify need at the earliest opportunity and respond to it with timely and effective services. Ensuring the right service to the right family at the right time is critical to the success of this aim. We recognise that a child and/or family’s needs can and do change over time. This may be in response to agency intervention or changing circumstances within the family, or it may be as a result of a lack of change and parental motivation or ability to change. This may affect the nature and/or level of the risk to the child. Whatever the cause of the change, our services need to be able to recognise it and respond appropriately.

Disagreements about agency responsibilities for responding to identified need that cannot be resolved through discussions between the referring and the receiving professional should be addressed through NSCB conflict resolution process.

With low level additional needs a child or family is most likely to benefit from the provision of targeted early intervention within a universal service context. A child may for example require a small amount of additional support within the classroom or additional heath screening. Such cases do not represent a ‘stepping up’ of need or response, only additional support within the universal service context.

The Early Help process flow chart illustrates how children and their families will receive early help and support via universal and targeted services, and how decisions will be reached to refer into children’s social care when a safeguarding threshold has been met (this is termed ‘stepping up’).

The ‘stepping down’ flow indicates how the support should continue to be offered to families as they move down the Continuum of need. The Lead Professional may change but the multi-agency team and support to the family will continue to be offered where a need continues to exist. Cases closing to Children’s Social Care will routinely ‘step down’ into an early help process unless there is a clear rationale and multi-agency agreement why this is unnecessary (which would be rare). The multi-agency team, with the child and family, will identify who is the most appropriate professional to be the new Lead Professional when a family ‘steps down’.

See procedure on step down in the Review Child Protection Conferences Procedure.

See procedure on step up and step down from Children’s Social Care intervention in the Early Help Assessment Procedure, Early Help Plan and Children’s Social Care (CSC).