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1.1.3 Early Help Assessment

RELATED INFORMATION

Early Help Plan for Practitioners, Newcastle City Council

RELATED CHAPTER

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

AMENDMENT

In March 2017, this chapter was updated throughout in line with local practice and terminology.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Early Help Plan
  3. Benefits of using the Early Help Plan
  4. Guiding Principles
  5. Support from the Early Help Team
  6. The Early Help Process
  7. When Should an Early Help Plan be Undertaken?
  8. Consent
  9. Starting an Early Help Plan
  10. Understanding Need
  11. Completing the Early Help Plan
  12. Early Help Plan, Team around the Family (TAF) and Review Timescales
  13. Team around the Family (TAF)
  14. Handover and Closure Arrangements
  15. Introduction to the Role of the Lead Practitioner
  16. Specific Circumstances
  17. Early Help Plan and Children’s Social Care (CSC)

    Appendix 1: Step down flowchart


1. Introduction

Newcastle Children’s Safeguarding Board (NSCB) recognises that children and young people are more likely to reach their potential through organisations and practitioners working effectively together. Positive outcomes for children, young people and their families cannot be achieved by any one agency working in isolation. The Early Help Plan is the key assessment and planning process used to underpin an integrated approach to Newcastle’s Early Help offer. These procedures are intended to embed the consistent use of the Early Help Plan across the children’s workforce in Newcastle.

The procedures are to be used by practitioners across the children’s workforce (public, third sector, private sector) and they detail the processes and ways of working that have been agreed by all the key partner organisations involved in supporting children, young people and families in the City.

They provide an overview of the key processes, concepts and roles in delivering Early Help and a detailed step by step guide to each element of the Early Help process.


2. The Early Help Plan

The Early Help Plan is a holistic approach to understanding children and families’ additional needs and supports decision making about how these needs might best be addressed within a multi-agency context. Information from Working Together to Safeguard Children provides more detail about the collective responsibility of all agencies, including adult services, to identify, understand and provide targeted early help support.

The Early Help Plan has been designed for use by anyone who works with children, young people and families, whether they are employed or volunteers.

It is the primary tool used by practitioners working with children, young people and families in Newcastle. By providing a generic approach, it helps practitioners in different organisations co-ordinate and plan their work and interventions to meet a child’s or family’s identified needs.


3. Benefits of using the Early Help Plan

The Early Help Plan enables a range of professionals to form a shared understanding about a child and their family’s needs and how best to meet them. There are a number of specific benefits associated with the Early Help Plan:

  • It creates a single record of the child/young person and of the action being undertaken to support them. This avoids duplication, repetition and confusion;
  • It provides children, young people and families with an overview of the family’s situation, a single plan and a single point of contact. There is no overlap between services and families only have to ‘tell their story once’;
  • Needs are considered holistically i.e. from a broad range of perspectives rather than from the focus of any one agency or need;
  • It 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, monitor progress and decide at what point more specialist input is required;
  • The Early Help electronic system ensures that information is stored securely with consent in order to maintain a central log of Early Help Plans;
  • Progress is continually monitored and plans adjusted to meet changing needs through regular reviews;
  • It can help identify unmet need and be used to inform strategic planning and commissioning.


4. Guiding Principles

The following principles underpin how practitioners should approach the Early Help process and how it should be used to help children, young people and families:

  • The Early Help Plan is child centred and their well being and safety is paramount;
  • Parent and carer involvement is at the centre of planning and the provision of services and efforts should be made to include all parents / carers, male and female;
  • Agencies should work with children, young people and their families in the spirit of openness and involve them at all stages;
  • The Early Help Plan is the primary generic tool for understanding need and accessing support for children and young people in Newcastle;
  • The Early Help Plan should be used by any organisation or practitioner working with children and young people. It is not associated with one type of need or with any one organisation or sector;
  • The Early Help Plan should lead to effective integrated action and ensure that a plan for each child or young person is developed and put in place by a team Around the family;
  • The Early Help process should be agreed by children, young people and their families and must operate with their consent. Children, young people and their families must participate actively in the understanding of and planning for their needs and be part of the team established to build on their strengths and meet their identified needs;
  • Information about family’s needs should be shared easily and effectively but also appropriately and securely between agencies and practitioners to support effective and safe service delivery;
  • Services should always be responsive to any cultural, racial or equalities issues when undertaking an Early Help Plan;
  • The Early Help Plan should be a dynamic process and not a one off event. There may be different times when a family needs an Early help Plan. Likewise the plan should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that the most effective support is in place until all of the child, young person or family’s identified needs are met.

The Early Help Plan is not:

  • About form filling. It is about having a meaningful dialogue with a child and their family, working out what they need and pulling in the right people to provide support.
  • A referral process. It is a tool to understand the needs and strengths of the family and as such it is not about making referrals. The approach is one where practitioners come together Around a child and their family rather than a child being referred from one service to another. The objective is to create a single action plan to which all practitioners contribute rather than to use the Early Help Plan to pass the child and family to another practitioner or team.
  • A guarantee of service provision. The Early Help Plan should not be introduced to the family as a guarantee. The purpose of the Early Help Plan is to identify what a child or young person’s needs are and then to determine what support and services are appropriate. Sending an Early Help Plan to a service or practitioner does not mean that they will then deliver a service.
  • A replacement for child protection procedures which safeguard children from Significant Harm. Any concerns about a child is likely to suffer significant harm must be referred to Children’s Social Care.


5. Support from the Early Help Team

Practitioners may access a range of support from the Early Help Team. This may consist of case consultancy to support practitioners new to the role, or where cases are not progressing; support to develop a whole family plan; help to establish a TAF or chair TAF meetings, and provision of information about local services. The Early Help Team will monitor the quality of Early Help Plans and subsequent interventions and provide support to practitioners and TAFs as appropriate.

The Early Help Team enables service delivery and the implementation of the Early Help Plan against quality standards and outcomes. This will include audit activity on behalf of the NSCB to monitor the roll out and impact of the Early Help Plan and the application of thresholds. Agencies will be contacted by the Early Help Team and can contact them for support. The key aim is to continually improve Early Help for families in the city.


6. The Early Help Process

In summary the Early Help Plan has seven stages:

  1. Identify need – The Early Help Plan should be used whenever you are concerned about the progress of children or young people and the needs are either unclear or cannot be met by your service alone;
  2. Involve family and child/young person – If you are thinking about starting an Early Help Plan you must speak to the children and their family. You must explain how an Early Help Plan might help them and ensure you obtain their explicit consent before you proceed. Consideration also to be given to who has parental responsibility and therefore the right to consent, not always a biological parent;
  3. Unpick / understand – Unpick and seek to understand the family’s needs and what can be put in place to help them. There should be a discussion with the children and their family which could take place over several meetings. It is important to ensure that the Early Help Plan reflects these discussions. You will also need to obtain the consent of the children and their family to share information with other practitioners;
  4. Form Team Around the Family – Once you have an understanding of the family’s needs you should have a much better idea about what the children’s strengths and needs are and where support is best focused. The next stage is to identify the most appropriate people to provide that support to become the Team Around the Family (TAF). This could be one person or several people from different services and extended family. A Lead Practitioner should be identified to act as the single point of contact for the children and family and to check that agreed actions are being carried out;
  5. Provide Support – the members of the Team Around the Family should work with the family to develop a single support plan with identified outcomes and actions for the family. This will include all of the outcomes identified for the family as a result of the Early Help process as well as the actions being undertaken by each practitioner or family member to achieve them;
  6. Review and update – once the family’s needs are understood and the support plan developed and implemented they should be reviewed at regular intervals by the Team Around the Family to ensure that appropriate support is provided;
  7. Closure – Once all outcomes and actions identified in the plan have been achieved resulting in a demonstrable improvement in the family’s circumstances, the Early Help Plan should be closed.


7. When Should an Early Help Plan be Undertaken?

7.1 Reasons to start a EHP

Before initiating an Early Help Plan, you must be sure that this is the most appropriate action for that particular family and their presenting needs. When making your decision you should read Multi-Agency Thresholds Guidance & Continuum of Help and Support Framework Procedure which provides guidance about the level of intervention recommended for differing levels of need. You must have also secured the consent from the young person or parent/carer before starting an Early Help Plan. If you are in any doubt, please consult with your line manager or contact the Early Help Team for support or advice.

In broad terms:

  • An Early Help Plan should be considered when a family is identified as having needs that require additional support without which they may not reach their full potential. An agency may not need to undertake an Early Help Plan if it is clear about the child, young person’s or family’s needs and is able to meet them without bringing in other services;
  • The Early Help Plan should be implemented when a child or young person or family’s needs are not fully met due to the significance of their needs and if their life chances would be jeopardised without remedial intervention or support requiring a multi-agency response;
  • The Early Help process is intended to assist practitioners and families to understand needs at an early stage when they first appear rather than at a point of crisis.

7.2 When not to use a EHP

There are a number of instances where an Early Help Plan would not be appropriate:

  • There are concerns that the child/young person may have been harmed or may be at risk of being harmed. In those circumstances, you should contact the Initial Response Service or if out of hours, the Emergency Duty Team (EDT);
  • A child/young person is progressing well and you have no concerns;
  • The child/young person’s needs are clear and your service can meet the full range of those needs;
  • An Early Help Plan has already been completed for that child/young person. You should check to see if an Early Help Plan exists with the Early Help Team and if necessary contact the Lead Practitioner to join the Team Around the Family;
  • If the child or family have refused consent.

7.3 Engaging Children and Families with the Early Help Plan

The Early Help Plan is a process and not just a form. Time and care must be taken to ensure that the process is supported by good communication and respect for children and their families. It is important that the process engages children and families and that the discussion and process is child-centred.

Please note: Other than in the instance of pre-births, practitioners must see and involve the children and young people in the process to determine their views and these must be recorded in the Early Help Plan.

7.3.1 Principles

  • The child or young person must give informed consent which means ensuring they understand what the process involves and what they are agreeing to;
  • An Early Help Plan is not a guarantee that services will be provided;
  • An Early Help Plan takes into account the child/young person’s and their family’s strengths as well as their needs;
  • The discussions with the child/young person and their family should be professional but not formal. The outcomes to the process will be more productive if you reassure the family and present the Early Help Plan in a non-threatening way;
  • Make it clear to the family that they are in control of the process and can decide how much information they provide and who to provide it to;
  • Seek agreement from the family to access information already known about them so that this can be made use of and the family do not have to repeat themselves;
  • Use a style or approach which is appropriate to the child/young person you are dealing with. The Early Help Plan has the 3 houses tool to capture the child’s voice but there are a range of other tools and methods available. If you need support please contact the Early Help team.

7.3.2 Points to remember

  • The child or young person must give informed consent which means ensuring they understand what the process involves and what they are agreeing to;
  • An Early Help Plan is not a guarantee that services will be provided;
  • An Early Help Plan takes into account the child/young person’s and their family’s strengths as well as their needs;
  • The discussions with the child/young person and their family should be professional but not formal. The outcomes to the process will be more productive if you reassure the family and present the Early Help Plan in a non-threatening way;
  • Make it clear to the family that they are in control of the process and can decide how much information they provide and who to provide it to;
  • Seek agreement from the family to access information already known about them so that this can be made use of and the family do not have to repeat themselves;
  • Use a style or approach which is appropriate to the child/young person you are dealing with. The Early Help Plan has the 3 houses tool to capture the child’s voice but there are a range of other tools and methods available. If you need support please contact the Early Help team.


8. Consent

The Early Help process is voluntary so you must discuss your concerns with the child/young person or their parent/carer before commencing an Early Help Plan. The family must be involved in the process.

Consent is fundamental to every stage of the Early Help process and so you must secure explicit consent from the family to start the Early Help Plan, store it and to share it:

  • Start: If you want to proceed with an Early Help Plan, you must obtain informed consent from the child/young person and their parent/carer/the person with parental responsibility, if appropriate. This means that they fully understand the Early Help process and its implications and have signed the Early Help Plan to signify their consent;
  • Store: The child/young person or their parent/carer should be aware of how their Early Help Plan will be stored (whether by paper or electronically including via the Early Help electronic system) and must give consent to this;
  • Share: The explicit consent of the child/young person or their parents/carers must be obtained before the information is shared with other practitioners.

8.1 Refusal

If consent is withdrawn at any point in the process, it is important that you keep a record of this in your own case records. If the family refuse an Early Help Plan from the outset, you should continue to work with them and explain clearly to them the benefits of an Early Help Plan as they may wish to take this offer up at a later stage. In cases where an Early Help Plan is repeatedly refused, you may wish to discuss this with your line manager or contact the Early Help Team for advice. If there are concerns that the child is at risk of harm, you must contact Children’s Social Care even if the family have not given consent.

If the family withdraw consent during the process, then the Early Help process should stop immediately. You should notify the Early Help Team in this instance and complete the Early Help Review with the details of closure. This should be forwarded to the Early help Team

8.2 Involving the child or young person

It is important that the child/young person is involved in the process as much as possible. However it may not always be appropriate for a child to provide their consent, e.g. due to age or disability. If you are unsure about whether a child is able to provide consent, consult the Fraser guidelines; seek advice from your line manager.

8.3 Parent / carer consent

Where parental consent is required, the consent of one parent is sufficient. In situations where family members are in conflict, you will need to consider carefully whose consent should be sought. If parents are separated, the consent would normally be sought from the parent with whom the children resides. Consent should not normally be sought from non-relatives or members of the extended family unless they are the child/family’s primary carer or have parental responsibility. If the child is unborn, consent should be obtained from the mother.


9. Starting an Early Help Plan

9.1 Checking for an existing Early Help Plan

When you have determined that an Early Help Plan is required, before initiating this process, you should contact the Early Help Team to check the name and date of birth of any children in the family against the central Early Help electronic database to determine whether an Early Help Plan has already been completed and which other services might already be involved with the child or family.

9.2 If an Early Help Plan has been completed

If the database shows that an Early Help Plan has already been commenced, the Early Help Team will give you the name and contact details of the practitioner who has already logged the Early Help Plan or the name and contact details of the Lead Practitioner if different. You should not proceed with your own Early Help Plan but contact either the Lead Practitioner or the person who has initiated the Early Help Plan and work in partnership with them to provide effective support and join the existing Team Around the Family if the family consents to this.

9.3 If there is no Early Help Plan

If the database shows that no Early Help Plan has been logged then you should continue with the process.

If an Early Help Plan has already been completed and is now closed you may be able to have access to the previous Early Help Plan provided there is a good reason for this and there is consent from the child/young person and their family.

If there is no Early Help Plan but other practitioners are working with the child/young person or family, you should decide to involve these practitioners as part of the TAF when initiating an Early Help Plan (with the family’s permission).

When you make contact with another practitioner or when someone makes contact with you, it is important to verify their identity before any information is shared. To ensure the caller is genuine you could ask to phone them back through their main switchboard number and ask to be put through.

9.4 Initiating an Early Help Plan

Call the Early Help Team to advise that you are starting an Early Help Plan. You should send a copy of the Early Help Plan once complete either electronically or by hard copy so that this can be uploaded on the Early Help electronic system. This allows others to be made aware that an Early Help Plan is in place if they are considering initiating one.

As a direct contact point for agencies and service users, the Early Help Team will also triage enquiries from a range of professionals and service users regarding children and young people with additional needs using the as a working tool to gauge levels of need.

When it is apparent that the child and young person has additional needs requiring an Early Help Plan, the Early Help Team will negotiate with the referrer which practitioner involved with the child is best placed to undertake the Early Help Plan.

Factors which will be considered include:

  • What are the predominant needs of the child or family?
  • What are the views and opinions of the child, young person or family?
  • Which agency has primary responsibility for addressing the child or family's needs, including any statutory responsibility?
  • Does anyone have a previous or potential ongoing relationship with the child or young person?
  • Does anyone have an ongoing responsibility to carry out an advocacy role for the child or young person?
  • Who has the skills and knowledge to provide a leadership and coordinating role in relation to other practitioners involved with the child, young person or family?


10. Understanding Need

The Early Help Plan should be undertaken with the young person or child and their parents/carers. It is important that they participate fully in the process so you should always see the children as part of your discussions and involve them as much as possible. You must ensure that you record the views of the family and also the children and young people within the form.

10.1 Process

Listed below are a number of areas you need to cover to inform your discussion. It is intended as a prompt and should not be approached on a point by point basis with the family.

  • Explain the purpose of the Early Help Plan and check that the family and the child/young person fully understand and consent to the process and what happens next;
  • Identify personal details. Make sure you record basic details about the children, young people and their parents, and who lives in the family home;
  • Identify services already working with the family;
  • Understanding need – complete the Three Columns section with the family (parents and all children) in order to gather information about each person’s worries, strengths and what they would like to be different. Make sure that it is clear whose views you are recording;
  • Decide with the family what you need to do next by recording the outcomes you are hoping to achieve and the plans you have agreed in order to make progress towards outcomes;
  • Encourage the family to add their own comments and observations about the process.

10.2 Best practice

When undertaking the Early Help Plan it is important to ensure that you:

  • Work with the child/family to find solutions as they often can identify what kind of support they need;
  • Help the family understand what information you are recording and what is going to happen to it;
  • Record the child/young person’s and their family’s consent to capture their information and share it with other agencies (also record any specific agencies which are included or excluded from consent);
  • Consider the child/young person in their family relationships and community including the cultural and religious context;
  • Consider their strengths as well as needs using the Three Columns section of the Early Help Plan template;
  • Use plain, jargon free language;
  • Use an interpreter for discussions with the family where English is not their first language;
  • Use information you have already gathered from the child/young person and family, and from other practitioners so that they do not have to repeat themselves;
  • Do not try to diagnose problems in a professional field other than your own;
  • Base your discussion on evidence not just opinion. Record and mark opinion accordingly;
  • Be mindful of how the information will be used and who else will see it;
  • Do not record confidential information unless it is directly relevant and the child/young person and family agree that you should.

10.3 Involving other practitioners in the assessment

It may be helpful to have another professional who is familiar to the family or may have specialised knowledge about a particular area of need. It is acceptable to include a practitioner in this way provided that the children/young people and family agree to this approach.

10.3.1 If the needs can be met by the assessing agency

If it becomes apparent through the Early Help Plan that you can meet the child or young person’s identified needs within your own service and without support from another agency, you should arrange for this to happen and follow your own agency procedures in terms of planning and reviewing services.

10.3.2 If the needs of the child or young person identified are broader than the assessing agency can address

If the needs of the child require are significant and require the input of more than agency, the practitioner undertaking the Early Help Plan should adopt the interim role of Lead Practitioner, broker support from other services and convene a Team Around the Family meeting (see Section 13, Team around the Family (TAF)). The Early Help Team are available to provide support and guidance when it is difficult to identify a suitable Lead Practitioner. The Early Help Plan should be shared with the Team Around the Family to prevent the young person or child and their parents/carers having to retell their story to repeat practitioners.


11. Completing the Early Help Plan

It is expected that in most cases there should be no more than two weeks between initiating the Early Help Plan and finalising it. This allows time for other practitioners to be involved in the process but ensures that the family is not waiting unnecessarily.

More comprehensive information gathered at an earlier stage leads to more targeted plans and better outcomes for children and young people.

11.1 Storage

Once complete:

  • The Early Help Plan must then be logged centrally with the Early Help Team through the Early Help electronic system or via a hard copy and with your own agency records;
  • Given to the family;
  • Given to the Team Around the Family prior to the meeting.


12. Early Help Plan, Team around the Family (TAF) and Review Timescales

These are the local timescales to support effective and timely interventions with children, young people and their families through the Early Help process:

  • It is expected that the Early Help Plan will be completed within 2 weeks of it being initiated and then logged centrally via the Early Help Team;
  • It is expected that the initial Team Around the Family meeting will take place within 2 weeks of the date of the Early Help Plan;
  • The Team Around the Family should agree the first review date at the initial meeting. These will vary depending on circumstances but usually, the first review should take place within a period of 4 weeks from the date of the initial Team Around the Family meeting;
  • The Team Around the Family should agree subsequent review dates and these will vary depending on circumstances but in most cases, subsequent reviews will take place at no longer than 8 weekly intervals unless circumstances suggest otherwise.


13. Team around the Family (TAF)

The Team Around the Family (TAF) is a group of practitioners and extended family members, if agreed, who come together through the Early Help process to meet the family’s identified needs. The role of the TAF is to:

  • Bring together the relevant practitioners associated with the young person, child or family to address unmet needs;
  • Co-ordinate support from all agencies involved with young person, child or family to address problems in a holistic way through an agreed written outcome based support plan which clarifies each team member’s responsibilities;
  • Ensure that the young person or child and their parents/careers are equal members of the team;
  • Reduce duplication and supports a common service delivery approach;
  • Decide who will be the Lead Practitioner (LP) to co-ordinate support plan;
  • Establish an agreed understanding about confidentiality at the outset;
  • Clarify the need for consent to share information and with whom information can be shared;
  • Operate on the basis that the Team Around the Family meeting is part of a process, not a single event and can be ‘virtual’ as well as actual;
  • Ensure the Early Help Plan has been undertaken and contains all relevant information;
  • Clarify what service and support agency representatives are able to offer, including community supports such as clubs to attend;
  • Devise a support plan arising from the TAF and clearly specify individual responsibilities and outcomes;
  • Agree time scales for activities and a review;
  • Reappraise the support plan and revises actions in the light of changing circumstances. In this event the Lead Practitioner needs to be able to call on the team and expect their co-operation in this;
  • Establish clear lines of communication to ensure the Team Around the Family are kept informed (most importantly the young person or child and their parents/carers);
  • Ensure that all involved are relevant to the support plan and TAF.

13.1 Involvement of Children, Young People and Families

Young people or children and their parents/carers should always be invited to Team Around the Family meetings. Their views are essential to the process. The Lead Professional should meet with the young person or child and parent/carer before the start of the meeting and explain how the meeting will be run and answer any questions they may have. Interpreting services should be available if required, cultural sensitivities observed, the venue should be accessible and meetings timed to take account of the other commitments of the family.

Where young people or children and their parents/carers prefer not to attend a TAF meeting, clear lines of communication and feedback regarding the outcome of the meeting should be agreed with them by the Lead Practitioner.

In some circumstances, it may be useful for practitioners to have a pre TAF meeting to clarify what possible support and interventions are available to ensure that the actual TAF meeting will run smoothly and effectively. It could be an opportunity to access advice from specialists, such as speech and language.

13.2 Suggested Initial Team around the Family Meeting Agenda

  • Welcome and purpose of meeting;
  • Introductions and apologies for absence;
  • Outline of needs identified in the Early Help Plan;
  • Views of family and child/young person;
  • Agreement on actions and development of support plan;
  • Analysis and summary of outcomes;
  • Date & time of next meeting.

13.3 Suggested format for Team around the Family Review meetings

The Chair for the Team around the Family Review meeting should be the Lead Practitioner.

  • Welcome all attendees to the meeting;
  • Explain the purpose of the meeting and whom the meeting is in respect of;

    (E.g. “The purpose of this meeting is to review the plan of support for name of child/young person as set out in the support plan. The expected outcome of this meeting will be to agree next steps having considered the actions carried out to date).
  • * Explain the confidentiality status of meeting;

    (E.g. explain what information will be recorded and shared and with whom, explain limits of confidentiality and ensure service user rights are understood).
  • Ask all attendees to introduce themselves and explain their current involvement and/or possible future role;
  • Discuss the progress against the outcomes, actions and interventions as set out in the support plan. The views and opinions of the young person or child and parent/carer should be encouraged throughout;
  • Confirm next steps, for example:
    • Continued support needed. Team Around the Family continues with the current outcomes and action plan, confirm Lead Practitioner and set new review date;
    • New issues identified. Revise outcomes and action plan or draw up a new one, confirm who will be Lead Practitioner and set a new date for review;
    • Involvement required from Tier 4 services. Lead Practitioner should follow referral procedures to appropriate service(s) and support the referral by providing the Early Help Plan and most recent TAF minutes.
    • Needs met. Case closed and analysis and outcome recorded in review documentation.
  • Summarise the outcomes of the meeting and ensure the young person or child and parent/carer are in agreement with and clear about who is involved, who will do what and what happens next. The young person or family and all members of the team Around the family should receive a copy of the review minutes and any additional notes and documentation.

13.5 Suggested Agenda for a Team around the Family Review

  • Welcome and purpose of meeting;
  • Introductions and apologies for absence;
  • Consider progress and outcomes from support plan;
  • Agreement of next steps;
  • Summary of outcomes;
  • Date & time of next meeting.


14. Handover and Closure Arrangements

14.1 What happens when a new Lead Practitioner is required?

This may occur at normal transition points (e.g. moving from primary school to secondary school) or because staff leave, change roles or enter a period of long term absence or because the main needs of the child have significantly changed.

It is extremely important that an effective 'hand over' takes place when a new Lead Practitioner is required: practitioners should not hand over until they are clear that this can be done safely and effectively.

All actions must be recorded on the TAF review form and logged. There needs to be a clear communication strategy for the transition, particularly with regards to consultation with the family and briefing the new lead and the rest of the team.

Under no circumstances should a Lead Practitioner withdraw from a case without an effective handover where there are still needs to be addressed. Effective handover arrangements must be logged with the Early Help Team and recorded centrally on the Early Help electronic system.

14.2 What happens when work is completed?

Where needs have been effectively addressed and the young person or child and their parents/carers are being effectively supported in universal services, the Lead Practitioner should record and log this with the final review documentation.

14.3 What happens to the role of Lead Practitioner if another intervention is required in the future?

The Team Around the Family will need to determine whether the same Lead Practitioner is appropriate to co-ordinate services to meet the new needs of the child/family. If not, the Team Around the Family should agree a new Lead Practitioner from the current Team Around the Family or from new services coming on board to support the family. The new Lead Practitioner should contact the agency of the most recent Lead Practitioner (if not represented in the new Team Around the Family), as well as consult the family, to update the Early Help Plan and draw up new outcomes and an action plan.

14.4 Handover to new Local Authority area

When a child/young person moves to another area, the Lead Practitioner should contact the Early Help Team in the new authority and log with them that an Early Help Plan has been undertaken. Unless the case requires no further intervention, the Lead Practitioner should be passing responsibility to a Lead Practitioner in the new area, just as they would if there was a change in circumstances within their own Local Authority. The Early Help Team in the new area should be able to help with this. The Lead Practitioner must also inform the Early Help Team in their own Local Authority of this change of circumstances and copy them into any transfer information.


15. Introduction to the Role of the Lead Practitioner

  • Acts as a single point of contact that the child or young person and their family can trust, and who is able to support them in making choices and in navigating their way through the system;
  • Co-ordinates the actions agreed by the Team Around the Family to ensure effective delivery which provide a solution-focused package of support and that the family receive the agreed interventions;
  • Reduces overlap and inconsistency;
  • Co-ordinates the regular review of the plan agreed by the Team Around the Family;
  • Supports the child through key transitions and ensures a careful and planned handover takes place where it is more appropriate for someone else to be the Lead Practitioner;
  • All Team Around the Family members are responsible for updating the Lead Practitioner with developments and progress.

15.1 Who can be a Lead Practitioner?

It is possible that any practitioner could take on the Lead Practitioner role, as the skills, competence and knowledge required to carry it out are similar regardless of background or role. For most children and young people with additional needs requiring support from a Lead Practitioner, it is anticipated that the person carrying out this role will be drawn from the range of practitioners who are currently delivering early intervention support with that particular child/young person or family.

What is important is that where staff take on the role of Lead Practitioner, this does not create a new burden but results in children and young people gaining access to better co-coordinated and targeted support. Whereas in the past several practitioners may have been “leading” on the same cases the Lead Practitioner role should enable the workload to be streamlined. With one person taking the lead for each case duplication can be avoided and families will experience a more coherent and joined-up approach. However, to gain this benefit all agencies must be prepared to collaborate, taking on the lead role for some cases and participating as Team Around the Family members for other cases.

In some cases the Team Around the Family may include staff from other Local Authorities, e.g. a child resident in Newcastle but attending school in another Local Authority.

15.2 Supervision and Support for the Lead Practitioner

An appropriate level of supervision and support should be available to all those taking on the Lead Practitioner role regardless of the organisation to which they belong. Different agencies organise support and supervision for their staff in different ways, e.g. Health Services may differentiate between management and clinical supervision. The precise means of support and supervision to be provided are not defined in this protocol but are expected that all agencies will provide support for Lead Practitioners in line with the following basic principles:

  • Practitioners should have access to regular, recorded meetings with their line manager;
  • These should include the identification of any training and development needs relating to the role;
  • Any issues about workload management should be addressed;
  • Any issues about intra/inter agency relationships in a multi-agency context where advice or manager intervention is required should be addressed;
  • There should also be an opportunity for casework discussion to review progress and support problem-solving;
  • Staff should also be clear how they can access support, if necessary, between scheduled meetings;
  • Line manager should quality assure and oversee the quality of practice of their members of staff when acting as Lead Practitioners.

15.3 Lines of accountability and conflict resolution

The successful delivery of a Lead Practitioner role is dependent on having a broad, cross-agency management framework in place. It is not practical to expect individual practitioners to be able to resolve difficult issues or draw together practitioners from other agencies without an effective management, supervisory, conflict resolution and accountability structure Around them.

This could place undue pressure on those individuals and could also result in continuing fragmentation and inability to deliver coordinated action for children, young people and families.

In Newcastle, the line of accountability runs from the Lead Practitioner, supported by the collective responsibility of the Team Around the Family, through line management in their home agency. It is the responsibility of the home agencies for the Lead Practitioner and members of the Team Around of the Family to oversee the quality of the practice of their practitioners to ensure that cases are managed effectively and safely.

Where there is a dispute or a concern about access to services, thresholds, the lead role, management of risk or progress of plans or the contribution of a partner agency, it is expected that those practitioners involved in the team Around the family will escalate these issues through their home agency line management arrangements. Where these conflicts are not resolved, the Early Help Team will either mediate between the agencies involved or provide a case consultancy meeting with the TAF to resolve difficulties.

The management of the Early Help process is undertaken through the coordinated arrangements described in these procedures which are agreed by NSCB.

In practice, delivery of the Early Help Process will be overseen by a collective group of managers from a range of agencies called the Early Help Steering Group which will oversee audit and performance management arrangements regarding the Early Help process and identify training gaps. Regular performance management reports regarding the roll-out of Early Help is presented to the NSCB for workforce development purposes.


16. Specific Circumstances

16.1 Transfer from specialist services

You might use the Early Help process as part of a transfer procedure when a child or young person is coming to the end of a period of support from a specialist service. In these circumstances the Early Help Plan should be used to ensure that in cases where the child or family has additional needs which no longer require a specialist response there is a coordinated plan in place to meet these needs. The most common example of this will be families who no longer require involvement from Social Care or where a court order or support supervised by the YOT has expired.


17. Early Help and Children’s Social Care (CSC)

17.1 Step Down Process

Once families have been agreed as no longer requiring a service from Children’s Social Care and that their needs can be met by universal and targeted services, it is important to ensure an effective transfer to a Team Around the Family to avoid unnecessary re-referrals to Children’s Social Care. This is known as a Step Down. In this instance, the Social Worker will:

  • Arrange and attend a Team Around the Family meeting (with the consent of the family) to ensure an effective transfer to Early Help;
  • Discuss and agree who is to take the role of the Lead Practitioner when the case is closed to Children’s Social Care;
  • Record the agreed action plan on the Early Help Team Around the Family document;
  • Log the Early Help Plan with the Early Help Team. This should include a copy of the Child and Family Assessment with consent from the family;
  • Record the Early Help Unique Number on the closure record on CareFirst;
  • Provide the Team Around the Family with details of the Early Help Team and the support on offer if they require additional help or information about appropriate resources.
If the Team Around the Family or Lead Practitioner are not confident or require support with the Early Help Plan then a member of the Early Help Team can be invited to attend the meeting.

17.2 Referral

When a contact or referral is received by Children’s Social Care which does not meet their thresholds for a Tier 4 response, they will make a recommendation about whether an Early Help Plan is an appropriate response in view of the identified needs of the case. If an Early Help Plan is appropriate the Duty Social Worker will gain consent and notify the Early Help Team (see Appendix 1: Step down flowchart). They will also speak to an appropriate practitioner working with the family to request that they complete the Early Help Plan and pull the Team Around the Family together. The Early Help Plan should be completed within two weeks and a Team Around the Family held within four weeks. Paperwork should be submitted to the Early Help Team.

When the Early Help Team receive notification from Children’s Social Care to say that an Early Help Plan is being completed they will monitor the progress of the Early Help Plan. If they feel that they need support to pull together an Early Help Plan then the practitioner will be advised that they can request help by completing the Early Help Request document on the website. For general advice and support call the Early Help Team or email earlyhelp@newcastle.gov.uk

17.3 Role of Children’s Social Care Managers on Transfer to Early Help

On closure, managers should check that the step down process has been followed and that the closure record details the agreed action plan (or where this is recorded), details of the Lead Practitioner and team members, the date of the next TAF meeting and the Early Help number that has been allocated.

17.4 Specific Issues about Transfer to Early Help

If Children’s Social Care have undertaken a Child and Family Assessment there is no need for an Early Help Plan to be completed as well. The Statutory Assessment and plan should be logged with the Early Help Team as the Early Help Plan. The key is to ensure that there is a clear support plan setting out the agreed outcomes and the actions identified for the family and the TAF to achieve. The allocated Social Worker should advise the Lead Practitioner about this to avoid duplication/unnecessary paperwork.

It is anticipated that the person carrying out the role of Lead Practitioner will be drawn from the practitioners who are delivering support to the child/family either through a care team or TAF. Ideally the Lead Practitioner should be someone that the family have chosen and feel they have a good rapport with.

Sometimes professionals feel unable/are unwilling to take on the role of Lead Practitioner. The allocated Social Worker should identify why there is a difficulty in identifying a Lead Practitioner. There may a possibility for this role to be shared or for someone to agree to be Lead Practitioner for a set period of time. In addition, support can be offered by the Early Help Team to professionals who feel they need to build their skills to take on the role of Lead Practitioner. Should the allocated Social Worker continue to have difficulty in identifying a Lead Practitioner they should initially discuss this with their team manager and if matters cannot be resolved then this should be referred to the Early Help Team for support and resolution prior to closing the case.

The allocated Social Worker should listen to the concerns raised by the team of professionals involved with the family and address the concerns identified. If the allocated Social Worker is satisfied that a TAF is the appropriate forum for meeting a child’s needs and professionals’ concerns about Children’s Social Care closing the case persist a Signs of Wellbeing case consultation can be arranged with the Early Help Team. This case consultation process will map out the ongoing needs of the family and create a plan to address the needs identified.

17.5 Supporting Families Plus Panel

The Supporting Families Plus Panel is a group with the remit of identifying appropriate resources and providing advice and support to practitioners/agencies in undertaking an Early Help Plan. The Panel monitors cases exiting Children’s Social Care at the point of referral, Statutory Assessment, and on closure of Complex Child in Need plans to ensure that ongoing support to the child and their family is in place. The Panel also considers cases referred to the Early Help Team where there are complex issues, or the case is not progressing or where there are resource issues to be resolved.


Appendix 1: Step down flowchart

Click here to view Appendix 1: Step down flowchart

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