Early Help is providing the right support to families, at the right time, to achieve change that lasts. It can be provided at any stage in a child or young person’s life, from pre-birth through to the teenage years.
Early help services can be delivered to parents, children or whole families, but the main focus is to improve outcomes for children and help prevent any situation from escalating, or further problems arising.
Intervening as early as possible, regardless of the age of the child or young person, can positively improve their outcomes.
As with safeguarding children and young people, early help is everyone’s responsibility. The first person to offer support to a child or young person and their family should be the practitioner identifying the issue.
However providing effective Early Help is a collaborative approach not a provision and relies on local agencies working together with families to meet their varied needs. Early Help can be provided through a single agency or a multi-agency response as appropriate to the needs of the child and family and the concern.
Please refer to the Portsmouth Thresholds Document as this describes the needs a family may be experiencing that indicate they might benefit from Early Help. This type of support is described as ‘Tier 2 – Additional’ in the indicators of need.
Signs that a child or young person may benefit from early help include:
Some groups of children may be more likely to need early help than their peers. These include children who:
(Department for Education (DfE), 2018)
Early Help is voluntary and consent from children, young people and their families to work with them should always be sought.
When talking to families that may benefit from early help, it’s important to:
Early Help Tools
The Early Help Assessment (EHA) should be used when families have agreed to receiving Early Help. The EHA will help to identify the family’s strengths and difficulties that they may be experiencing, and agree a plan to set strategies to support the identified needs. There is also a template to be used for reviewing the Early Help support a family has been receiving and a monthly progress monitoring form that can be used by the Lead Professional.
There is a Step by Step Guide to the Early Help Assessment which details how to complete this with families if you are unfamiliar with the process. There is also an example Early Help Assessment that gives a suggestion of this can be used with a family.
The following tools have been developed to help you gain the views of children and young people:
What is a Lead Professional? As part of an Early Help assessment, a Lead Practitioner will be identified by the family to co-ordinate their plan and the services that will be supporting them. This can include:
Early Help is provided by universal services as soon as they become aware that a family needs additional support. Any professional working with the family who identifies that a family is having difficulties that is affecting the child’s well-being should have a conversation with the family to explore the situation and work with them and other professionals to coordinate an appropriate plan of support
Some families may have difficulties that become more complex and may require a targeted intervention. A referral to Early Help and Prevention could be completed to enable this support to take place. The service is provided by Portsmouth City Council and Solent NHS Trust.
There are two routes for referrals into Targeted Tier 3 services namely via either the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) or Step across from locality Social Care Teams.
For children aged 0-5 this is led by Health Visitors and for children aged 5-19 it’s provided by Family Support Workers.
Some referrals into Health Visiting are received through allocations, but the majority of referrals are received via the Midwifery service or through Health Visitor assessment when meeting the families in the antenatal period.
Specialist areas include: parenting, children with disabilities, substance use, education, young carers, LGBTQ+, housing, parental mental health, exploitation, reducing offending behaviour, behaviour change and loss and bereavement.
Where there is consent, the Targeted service is able to work with the family to complete an Early Help Assessment and produce a plan with actions with the aim of improving the outcomes for the family. This plan will be reviewed with the family and relevant professionals. This could be stepped across to wider partners for the support to continue once the targeted aspect of the plan has been completed.
Descriptors of the level of complexity that defines the difference between offering support at Tier 2 by universal services or Tier 3 by targeted services are set out in the Thresholds Document.
Delivery is led by both professionals and trained volunteers at a variety of venues, including family homes, schools, community centres and the city’s Family Hubs.
There is open access to the universal service offer that includes Health Visiting and Midwifery services including:
There is also specific provision for Children with Disabilities, Young Carers, Parenting service and LGBTQ + young people
For any information relating to the services above please contact Early Help and prevention on the email below. The LGBTQ+, Parenting and Young Carers teams have their own direct email – also listed below.
You can also contact our Family Hubs directly using the phone numbers below:
Turner Road, Buckland, PO1 4PN
T: 023 9273 3440
Omega Street, Southsea, PO5 4LP
T: 023 9282 1816
Perth Road, Southsea, PO4 8EU
T: 023 9282 7392
Doyle Avenue, Hilsea, Portsmouth, PO2 9NE
T: 023 9266 0866
Cheltenham Road, Paulsgrove, Portsmouth, PO6 3PL
T: 023 9238 5995
These One Minute Guides are useful summaries to help you understand how the Early Help process works in Portsmouth, and so that you are better able to explain it to families