Neglect toolkit - early help guidance

What is early help?

The right early help services at the right time can prevent emerging problems from getting worse and becoming deep seated or entrenched. Early help in Southampton can be delivered by any services who come in to contact with children. More targeted specific interventions can be provided by the Children and Families First Service. It is an integrated offer which includes the following professionals:

  • Family Support Workers
  • Social Workers
  • Health Visitors
  • School Nurses
  • Family Engagement Workers
  • Play Workers
  • Voluntary services
  • Commissioned services

The Children and Families First service ensures that there is a whole family approach from birth to 19 years, with the child being the central focus. Children and Families First Service supports families from the earliest opportunity, to ensure that children have the best start in life.

When a child/young person/family needs something extra, early help is the initial response offered by all services in contact with children, young people and families. We provide early help is to build on children and families capacity and resources to manage their own dilemmas, resolve their own difficulties and prevent further problems in the future.

In Southampton, most children, young people and family’s needs are met by universal services (services that are available to everyone). For those children and families who need some additional help, Children and Families First Service will provide support and expertise to the child and family. Building on a One Family, One Worker, One Plan principle our Early Help Assessment, will ensure they receive all the support they need.

Aim of early help

There are a number of common aims to early help, including:

  • To promote early intervention to assist children, young people and families who have vulnerabilities or complex needs and are therefore at risk of poor outcomes
  • To share information and complete holistic assessments
  • To plan and deliver SMART, planned interventions in response to need at the earliest opportunity
  • To provide services to improve outcomes for children, young people and families
  • To review and measure outcomes for children, young people and families
  • To establish a common language to describe children's development and circumstances
  • To work in partnership with children, young people and families in the assessment process
  • To ensure children and families only have to tell their stories once
  • To have a confident workforce, trained and supported to deliver high quality services to children, young people and families in Southampton
  • To standardise, streamline and ensure a high quality of record keeping
  • To use technology to assist practitioners to work effectively and deliver timely assessment and plans

Problems can occur at any time in children's lives and our services need to be responsive to emerging needs at all ages. Early intervention is not just aimed at preventing abuse or neglect but at ensuring the best start and improving the life chances of all children and young people, by working with their families. There are seven integrated Children and Families First Teams based across three localities – East, Central and West - who can provide advice and support for the whole family.

In Southampton, the early help system is made up of service users, community resources, universal service providers and targeted services working together to enable families to manage their own dilemmas and solve their own problems, making whatever changes are necessary to secure the well-being of their children, enabling appropriate risk management in the community and a proportionate response to risk and need.

The Southampton Early Help Assessment is a tool used by all partners to assess the early help needs of a family and individual family members. This can be used where there are emerging concerns around neglect. It is a multi-agency gathering of information in order that any additional needs within a family can be understood and the process of providing or accessing support can begin. This will mean that the family and everyone involved can make a plan to provide that support. Part of that process may include a Team Around the Family (TAF) meeting taking place, with the family to discuss the help they need and who will provide it.

If at any point in the process, a child or young person is considered to be at risk of significant harm, a direct referral to the Children’s Resources Service (CRS) or a call to the Police may be necessary.

For all Early help support consent must be obtained.

Step Down from statutory support

Step Down enables professionals from Children's Social Care, Children and Families First Service, and a range of other partners to support the child/family intervention and plan as they move from requiring statutory, safeguarding and specialist support to targeted and universal services and interventions. Professionals from a range of services and sectors are crucial to the step-down process as they enable continued support for children and families once statutory services step out and close.

Step Down is an extremely important function to ensure that children and families receive consistent, seamless support, at the right time and from a range of professionals and partners across Southampton. When children/families have received a statutory intervention and have progressed positively, it is important that the progress made is sustained and that children and families do not feel that they are being passed from 'service to service'.

When Children's Social Care intends to stop working with a child and family, it is important to discuss with the child, family and professionals involved to agree if a step down to early help services would help (this includes schools, health, commissioned services, voluntary groups etc). The social worker should gain consent from the child/family for early help services to continue the plan and seek agreement on who will take on the Lead Professional role.

To support the above process weekly step-down panels (Resource panel) occur between community organisations, Children and Families First and Children's Social Care.

You can visit the Southampton City Council Children and Families First pages.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary
NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight
Southampton City Council