Early help is providing the right children, young people and families with the right support, in the right place at the right time. We all believe that by supporting children and families earlier we can stop any problems they are facing from getting worse and help them to find the solutions that will make their lives better in the future.
We can do this by working together, building on children’s and families’ strengths, and developing their capacity to make positive changes for themselves.
Early Help for children, young people and families
We recognise there is sometimes some confusion with different terms, so hope the following definitions are helpful:
Early Help (0-19 years)
The term Early Help is used to describe the process of taking action early and as soon as possible to tackle problems and issues emerging for children, young people and their families.
Early Years (0-5 years)
Early Years refers to children from birth to the age of five. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to five years old. All schools and Ofsted-registered early years providers must follow the EYFS, including childminders, preschools, nurseries and school reception classes.
Early Support (0-5 years)
Early Support in Peterborough is a pathway for children in their pre-school years with complex health, education, or care needs. These children will require considerable ongoing support from across education, health and care. This includes:
- children who have great difficulty communicating
- children who have sensory or physical difficulties
- children who have complex health needs
Early Help strategy - Strong Families, Strong Communities
Peterborough City Council has worked with a wide range of partners to develop a new Early Help Strategy called Strong Families, Strong Communities. This strategy sets out a partnership vision and action plan for Early Help for the next five years.
Early Help assessments
The Early Help journey for families in Peterborough starts with an Early Help assessment. It is an impartial and honest assessment of strengths, opportunities and challenges that is undertaken with the family, and only ever with their permission. It should be completed when more than one unmet need would benefit from a multi-agency support approach.
The Early Help Assessment is normally initiated by a trusted professional with whom the family already have a relationship and with whom they are happy to share their concerns and worries. This might be a Learning Mentor, Student Support Officer or Family Worker at the child’s school or setting. Equally, it might be a Housing Officer or Health colleague. All professionals supporting families will have been provided with the opportunity to engage in training to ensure they are skilled and knowledgeable to work with the family.
More guidance on the early help assessment tools and process is available in the Effective Support for Children and Families in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire document.
Partner agencies supporting families with Early Help are asked to complete a registration on Firmstep which will give them access to our Liquidlogic Early Help Module (EHM) electronic case recording system. Partners are encouraged to log into EHM prior to initiating an Early Help Assessment to check if there is already one open that they can contribute to.
Liquidlogic Early Help module for partners
Information for Early Help professionals
An information leaflet has been produced to assist professionals talking with families about what Early Help is. This is available in a number of different languages, copies of which are provided below. Hard copies are available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accessing targeted support
Early Help assessments (EHAs) are also used as a gateway to access several other forms of support. An Early Help assessment needs to be completed by a professional looking to access a neurodevelopmental assessment in both Peterborough and Cambridgeshire and the Early Support Pathway in both local authorities. In Peterborough, an EHA is also needed to access a place on a commissioned evidence-based parenting programme, a Behaviour Panel referral, a Family Worker and specialist sleep support.
Peterborough has three locality-based Multi-Agency Support Group (MASG) Early Help panels. The MASG panels are multi-agency groups of professionals that use their skills, knowledge and expertise to consider multi-agency interventions that will best meet the assessed needs of a child/family. Cases to be considered are usually where:
- The needs are either unclear or such that additional resources are needed;
- The family have been supported in the Community through an Early Help Assessment and Team around the Family (TAF) meetings but little progress has been made;
- There have been difficulties in developing an effective multi-agency support plan;
- A transition package of support may be required for a family who have recently been open to Children’s Social Care who need a range of co-ordinated targeted support to maintain and sustain progress;
- Practitioners have identified the need for more specific, targeted and sometimes, funded pieces of work to more appropriately address the needs of a family.
To effectively work with children, young people and families it will be important to share information with services who can help. As a Local Authority, we record all the Early Help Assessments completed on an electronic case management system called the Early Help Module. It is important that families know and record how we use their information.
The Early Help Assessment process is entirely voluntary. It is important that the professional who gathers the information for the assessment asks the family to confirm that they are consenting to the assessment and have been told about the Local Authority keeps and uses the information. This allows the information in the assessment to be shared with the services that can help.
Poor health or complex health needs
You can find information on children or young people with disabilities and complex health needs on our Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Local Offer.
Child or young person with special educational needs
You can find information on children or young people with special educational needs on our Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Local Offer.
Professionals - reporting safeguarding concerns
Make a referral for a child or young person in need, or where there is reason to suspect they are likely to suffer significant harm because of abuse or neglect. You can report a safeguarding concern from the Joint Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Safeguarding website and use the online form on this page to make a referral. There is also full supporting guidance, risk assessment tools and threshold information.