Early Help advice for parents

There are a number of measures in place to help protect children's safety and wellbeing. They are designed to give you or your child the help you need as quickly as possible to stop issues getting worse. 

Ways we can support 

​What is early help?

Every family goes through challenging times at some point. Early help means working with you and your family so that small problems don’t become big problems.

Early help is for everybody, for families with children and young people of any age. And it’s your choice whether to have it or not.

Why would I want early help?

There are lots of reasons why people look for early help. It could be that you’re worried about your child’s health, development or behaviour, or how they’re doing at school, or perhaps because you are caring for a disabled child. It may be that you’re worried about money or housing and how that is affecting your family. Maybe your child or family is affected by domestic abuse, drugs, alcohol, or crime. Perhaps your child is a carer for other people, or maybe you’ve had a bereavement in the family that’s made life a challenge.

Where can I get early help?

If you feel you and your family might need support to solve some problems, you can ask someone in your life that you trust about early help. This might be a teacher at your child’s school, your GP, your health visitor, nursery practitioner or your housing support worker. If you find this difficult, you can always contact the early help support line to ask for advice (contact details are below). We’ll work with you to find someone for you to talk to.

Sometimes if someone is worried that you’re having some problems, they might ask you if you would like to talk about early help.

What will happen when I ask for early help?

The person you trust in your life will talk with you about the problems you’re experiencing. They will ask what help and support you think you might need. This is called an early help assessment.

Early help assessment is nothing to be worried about. It’s just a conversation to work out how to help you stop small problems turning into big problem. You can talk about things that are going well and things that you’re proud of as well as things that you’re finding a challenge.

This person will also talk with your child or children in your family to make sure they understand how they are feeling and anything they think they might want some help with.

Together you’ll agree what to write down so there is a record of what you talked about.

What happens next will be different for every family. You might make a plan with the person you spoke with to sort out the problems. You might want to meet with other people who might be able to help. This is called a team around the family meeting. Or you might want to get a service (like family support, therapy, or a children’s centre) to give you the help you feel you need.

These are just examples. You have control over what happens next and can say what you want.

If you decide you’d like some help, the person you talked with will ask if they can share details of your conversation. You need to be happy with this and give your permission. This is to make sure the people who will be supporting you are able to do a good job for you and understand the journey you and your family have been on.

Sharing information

There may be times when the person you talked to has to share information. This includes:

  • if they think a child is at risk of harm
  • if they think an adult is at risk of harm
  • if they think the information could help prevent or detect a serious crime

Social care won’t get involved unless one of these things happens, or unless the circumstances in your family change and become more serious.

Remember, it’s your choice to have early help. And early help is just to help you and your family stop small problems turning into big problems – and hopefully into no problems at all.

What can I do next?

If you’d like to find out more about early help, talk with someone in your life that you trust or contact us online.

Make a request for Early Help advice

​The Early Help Assessment (EHA) is a process designed to help you support your child.

It will help:

  • your child receive the right support before a small need grows into a larger one
  • create a shared assessment, so that you and your child will not have to repeat the same information to different workers
  • ensure that everyone involved with your child – such as teachers and health visitors – works together to support your child

When is it used?

It is used if you or someone who works with your child, (for example from their school or children's centre) would like them to receive extra support.

You complete the assessment form with the worker. By doing this you will identify strengths and needs and whether other services might be needed to support you or your family.

Who is involved?

It has been adopted by all the professionals who work with children and young people in Northamptonshire. This means there is support from schools, children's centres, school nurses, health visitors, police, county council, district and borough councils and more.

Does my child have to start an EHA?

It is your choice whether you accept support. You have to agree who is involved in this process. You will be given a copy of the form and will be told who will see it, where it is stored and how it will be used.

Older children may feel able to discuss their situation on their own with the worker. A young person's wish to keep information confidential from parents may be respected by the worker, where this is in the young person's best interests.

What happens next?
Action plan

Based on the information you and your child provide, the worker can begin to complete an action plan with you and all those who can help your child. This may take place straight away or the worker may need to make some enquiries and contact you again.

Is more support needed?
Team around the family

If the action plan identifies that support is needed from other services, a team around the family (TAF) will be formed.

A TAF is a group of people who regularly meet with you to support your family. They work together with you to ensure all needs are met in a co-ordinated manner. A member of the team around the family may be chosen as lead professional.

Lead professional

The lead professional will keep you informed, listen to your views and support you. They will also being together all the services supporting your child. You and your child will have a key input into who should be the lead professional.

How is our information used?

The information which you and your child provide will only be shared with your consent. However, there may be times when the people working with you need to share information.

For example:

  • when they need to find out urgently if a child is at risk of harm
  • to help a child who is at risk of harm
  • when an adult is at risk of harm
  • to help prevent or detect a serious crime

How to contact us

To start the EHA process:

If you think an EHA may benefit you and your family, you can contact your midwife, your child's health visitor, children's centre, school or get in touch:

Make a request for early help advice

During the EHA process:

Your lead professional is the single point for you to contact if you need advice about your plan or what is happening next. You will be able to agree who this will be at your TAF meeting.

Your lead professional will share their contact details with you so that you can contact them directly.

​The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) is a county wide partnership that supports children and young people in need.

The purpose of the MASH is to make the right decisions for families at the right time. Professionals from a range of organisations work together to keep vulnerable children and young people safe, including:

  • Northamptonshire County Council
  • Northamptonshire Police
  • NHS and health services
  • Probation Service
  • Youth Offending Service
  • East Midlands Ambulance Service
  • Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service

Why has my child been referred to MASH?

Whenever anyone is worried about a child’s safety, for example a teacher or health visitor, they will make a referral to the MASH team.

Children and young people may also come to our attention because:

  • you have requested support directly
  • a professional  feels your family needs help or support
  • you or someone in your family has had dealings with the police
  • your child tells someone about abuse, either emotional, physical or sexual

Can my child be referred without my permission?

We will need to ask your permission to refer your child to the MASH. The only time this will not happen is if we have concerns that your child is suffering, has suffered, or is likely to suffer harm.

What happens when my child is referred?

The MASH team will gather relevant information about your child and family.

A senior social worker will then decide if your child needs support from the MASH or whether other support can be given.   

Once we have all the information we need, we will let you know the results of this referral:

  • It raises serious concerns or identifies complex needs and is being passed to Children’s Social Care.
  • It does not raise concerns but it is agreed your family would benefit from some extra support.
  • It has identified your child has additional needs which will be reviewed through an Early Help Assessment.
  • It raises no concern and your child can be supported by regular support services.

Data protection – will we share your information?

Information will only be shared with other professionals and/or agencies where:

  • there are believed to be child protection issues; or
  • information is required to ensure your child receives the right assessment for services.

Will I find out what is happening?

Unless there is a safeguarding concern you will be contacted by the MASH team or service you have been referred to. They can update you on what action has been taken.

If your referral is progressed to Children’s Social Care, the social worker will contact you for a discussion or to arrange a time to meet with you and your family.

What do I do if I am not happy?

If you are not happy about the way the MASH team deals with any referral about your family, contact the MASH Team on 0300 126 1000.

If you are still not happy, you can make a complaint to the customer feedback team on 01604 636 436.

How the MASH has helped families

Case study 1 - Self referral:

A self-referral was made by a parent expressing concerns about her own and her younger children’s safety due to her eldest child ‘kicking off’ in the home. MASH police revealed that there had been many calls out to the home. School information showed that all of the children within the household are presenting with behavioural difficulties and on occasions had turned up to school with injuries.

The multi-agency approach enabled children’s social care to immediately address the safeguarding issues.

Case study 2 - Anonymous referral:

An anonymous referral was received by the MASH from a neighbour concerned that a young child was being left unattended in the home for periods of time. Additional research within the MASH revealed that the parents have spoken to the health visitor and that they were struggling financially and needed to take extra shifts at work.

The multi-agency approach enabled children’s social care to immediately address the safeguarding issues and for health to address the additional concerns.

Case study 3 - School referral:

A school contacted MASH because they were concerned about a pupil who had poor school attendance. This had not been a problem in the past but the pupil’s parents had just separated. Information gathered in the MASH showed that up until recently, the child had attended school regularly. He had recently been referred by the doctor to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) as he had been having severe temper tantrums at home. The MASH were able to ascertain quickly that there were no immediate safeguarding concerns and the family were passed on to the early help team to support the school in putting together a plan for the family.

​What is stepdown?

Step down means things in your family’s life are at a point where social care don’t need to be involved anymore. It means your time with a social worker is coming to an end.

What happens during step down?

Step down is different for every family. You might feel ready to get on with life without any extra help from anyone. Or you might feel that you still need support from a service (like family support or therapy or a children’s centre) to help you and your family keep making progress and keep feeling stronger.

Your opinion, and the opinion of your children, is very important in this decision. Your child’s social worker will talk with you all about next steps and you will make a plan together.

You and your child’s social worker will start making this plan for the future at least 6 weeks before your child’s social worker stops seeing you. Decisions won’t happen without you. If you do feel you still need support, you can say what help you think you and your family might need.

If you feel you would still like support, you and your child’s social worker will find someone in your life to help. We call this a lead professional. This person might be a teacher at your child’s school, or your GP, or your health visitor, or your housing support worker.

If you feel you need a lot of help and support, your lead professional might be a family support worker or a therapist. These are just examples. You and your child’s social worker will work together to find the right person for you.

Whoever it is, it’s really important that you are happy and comfortable with that person because you’ll be spending some time with them in the coming weeks and months. They will help you keep things on track.

There will be a meeting with you, your child’s social worker and your new lead professional. It’s your chance to say what’s important to you, talk about how far you’ve come, and what you and your family still want to work on to keep getting stronger.

Your child’s social worker will need to share some information about you and your family with your new lead professional. You need to be happy with this and give your permission. This is to make sure the new person supporting you is able to do a good job for you and understands the journey you and your family have been on.

Once you’ve spent some time with your lead professional, your child’s social worker will gradually see less of you. After 6 weeks, your child’s social worker will write to you to say that your time with social care has ended and your new lead professional will be supporting your family.

What if I’ve got concerns?

We know it can be an anxious time when your child’s social worker leaves. That’s why it’s so important that we find someone else who can be there to support you and your family if you need it.

If you’re worried, or have questions, please tell your child’s social worker.

​Why are you having an assessment?

Either you, or someone else on your behalf, has asked for help with an issue which affects your child (children) or they may be worried about you and / or your child (children).

What is a Child and Family Assessment?

To help us in our work with you, we need to know more about you and your family. A social worker, with help from you, your family and other agencies, will gather information about you.

Your family’s written agreement will be needed before we speak to other people or other agencies. This process of getting to understand the situation, needs and wishes of your child and family is called a ‘Child and Family Assessment’.

A Child and Family Assessment helps to agree with you what help and support you and your family might need and who could best give this help.

How long will it take?

A Child and Family Assessment is completed when there is enough information to make a decision about what support you may need. The length and depth of the assessment will be agreed by your child’s social worker with their manager.

If we are going to continue with the assessment beyond 10 days, a meeting will be arranged for us to meet with you, and all the other agencies who are involved with your family to agree a plan of work. This is where you will meet the social worker who will ensure the actions agreed at the meeting are carried out and completes the Child and Family Assessment.

During our involvement with your family, we may need to refresh the Child and Family Assessment to reflect the current situation.

How can you help us?

Most parents want to do their best for their child (children). Completing the assessment will help your child’s social worker recognise the strengths you and your family have, as well as any areas of difficulty.

How is a Child and Family Assessment carried out?

Your child’s social worker will meet with you and your family a number of times. With your written agreement they will also talk to other people and professionals to gather and share relevant information to complete the Child and Family Assessment. They will always do this in a way that helps you to have your say and encourages you to take part. Where children are old enough to take part in the assessment, the social worker will help and encourage them to do so.

Every effort will be made to take account of your ethnic and cultural heritage in the assessment. We can arrange an interpreter to help us communicate with you in your first language.

After the Child and Family Assessment has been written by your child’s social worker and authorised by their manager, this will be sent to you in the post. If you need it translated into another language this will be arranged for you.

If you do not agree with what is written in the assessment, you can record your point of view on the assessment document and return this to the Children’s Team that completed the assessment and they will ensure your views on the assessment are clearly recorded.

What can you expect of us?

  • We will listen carefully to what you have to say, offer advice and, if appropriate, support you to bring up your children and deal with any areas of difficulty.
  • We will keep you informed about what we are doing and thinking.
  • With a little help most families can sort out their difficulties and our aim is to help you do that.

What do you do with my information?

Your written consent to share information about you with other relevant people and agencies is important. Your child’s social worker will discuss this with you. You will be asked to sign a consent form.

We will record any relevant information we gather on computer records. You will be given a leaflet explaining your rights to see information held about you.

We treat any information you give us in confidence within the organisation, among those needing to know. If we need to discuss it with anyone else, we will usually ask your permission. The only exception is if we get information that suggests there are child protection issues. Your child’s social worker will discuss this with you.

How to contact us

If you think your family could benefit from early help, you can contact your midwife, your child’s health visitor, children’s centre, school or request an Early Help Assessment (EHA) by getting in touch with our helpdesk:

Email: earlyhelpadvice@nctrust.co.uk

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