The vision and priorities of this Plan are based on the commitment of early help for children, young people and families.
What do we mean by early help?
Identifying as early as possible if a child or family need support and helping them to access services, working together to ensure that this has maximum impact. In other words, offering the right help at the right time.
This is as true within educational settings, as in families and communities.
We recognise that families are the most important influence on children and young people, and that some need more support than others to develop the skills and resilience needed for parenting and family life. By providing early help, our aim is to support families to break out of a cycle of poor outcomes, protect children from harm and maximise their opportunities to experience supportive relationships, to enable them to achieve during their time at school.
Effective early help has four elements:
- Identification: professionals use all contact with children and families as opportunities to identify any additional needs.
- Assessment: the scale and nature of the problems are understood and a plan for offering help is developed.
- Support: appropriate support is offered/provided based on the agreed plan.
- Evaluation: checks are made to determine if the support has been effective and, if not, other strategies are implemented.
Early help crosses the full range of services for children, young people and families, provided by all Children’s Trust partners:
- Universal services indentify risk, promote resilience and ensure that families know how they can access further information and support. Services include: schools, children's centres, childcare providers, doctors, health visitors and maternity services.
- Targeted services provide timely access to high-quality services, based on knowledge of what works and targeted to address indentified risks or issues. Services include: parenting programmes, one-to-one tuition for pupils, youth support services and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
- Specialist services provide high-quality specialist support for families facing specific and potentially multiple problems, including substance misuse and offending.
Strong partnerships across the Children’s Trust are vital in this respect, particularly those between health visitors, doctors, maternity services, children’s centre staff, teachers, social workers, dentists, childcare providers and voluntary and community organisations.
In Hampshire, early help is facilitated by:
- an effective referral and assessment process, co-ordinated by locality teams, based on a shared understanding of the thresholds for services (as contained within the Children’s Trust threshold chart)
- local expertise and co-ordination of services through Local Children’s Partnerships
- strong home-to-school links, with teachers identifying problems/risks and enabling parents/carers to ask for help when needed
- schools identifying problems with children’s development or learning, and intervening to ensure they get back on track, working with parents/carers to achieve this
- the new core purpose for children’s centres, focusing on identifying, reaching and helping the families in greatest need
- the Healthy Child Programme (0-19), with universal health services using a tool to identify families requiring early help; and the health and development review for children aged two, to two and a half (to be combined with the Government’s proposed early education and childcare summaries of a child’s progress)
- use of proven best practice/knowledge about what works and the development of new strategies that can be shown to be effective.
The benefits of this approach are well evidenced; showing that providing help early, at the right time, can significantly improve overall life outcomes for families. It can mean the difference between educational success and failure. It can also mean the difference between a child staying at home, or entering the care system. Our approach to ensuring there is sufficient provision of early help in the county is outlined within actions for priority 4.