1 Understanding thresholds
It is important that all professionals working with children and families understand how to assess and determine levels of need and intervention.
The West Sussex Continuum of Need and Threshold Guidance helps practitioners identify when additional support may be necessary to help children achieve their potential and keep them safe, whilst enabling all practitioners to work together effectively and consistently.
If you identify that a family is facing difficulties and could benefit from some support, discuss this with the parent(s) or carer(s). You may have recognised a possible need in a child or young person; it may be a change in their behaviour, an action or consequence, or something else that alerts you.
Often you will then need to seek further information to help clarify the problems or issues and prevent needs from escalating. To discuss this further, or for more information, contact your local Family Support Hub lead.
Purpose of the assessment
The early help assessment is used to help practitioners gather and understand information about the family's strengths and needs, based on discussions with them. It identifies the most appropriate way to meet those needs, and, with consent from the family, can support a 'team around the family' (TAF) approach.
What makes a good assessment?
Ofsted provide useful guidance on what characterises a good assessment in their Early help: whose responsibility? guide. The key elements include:
- asking the child for their experiences, thoughts and feelings about their circumstances
- capturing the child's voice
- consideration of each sibling's needs
- making sure both parents participate and consent to an assessment
- making sure the family’s history is taken into account in any decisions
- all professionals known to the family contributing to the assessment
- clearly identifying information needs, risks and strengths
- reaching sound conclusions based on good analysis of information.
3 Early Help Plan
Following an assessment, the next step is to agree with the family what would improve their situation by having an Early Help Plan (EHP) and thinking of actions that could start to make things better.
The EHP is a combination of:
- the assessment
- the outcomes everyone hopes to achieve, including the child/ren or young person/s
- the action plan.
Before the plan can be finalised, the family review it and check they are happy with the information it contains.
When to start an EHP
- Level 2 - Early Help: Child/young person has additional needs that can be met by support from one or two agencies working with the family. Early Help Plans used to co-ordinate support.
- Level 3 - Targeted Help: Children in families with increasing levels of multiple and complex problems. Families require a co-ordinated, whole family approach led by a lead worker or key worker, enabling the family to meet the children’s needs. Early Help Plans should be used.
Reasons for an EHP to be put in place
- Parents and children involved in crime or anti-social behaviour.
- Children who have not been attending school regularly.
- Children who need help.
- Adults out of work or at risk of financial exclusion and young people who are unable to find work or employment.
- Families affected by domestic violence and abuse.
- Parents and children with a range of health problems.
Support with Early Help Plans
If you need advice or additional support in starting or completing an EHP, contact your Family Support Hub lead, who will:
- provide relevant advice and practice guidance
- signpost you to appropriate services to support families
- provide support in managing your EHP or with using the Holistix case management tool
- enable you to access an Early Help Network forum.
4 Recording with Holistix
Holistix is a secure, multi-agency, web-based case management system used to record, share and store information.
As a bespoke assessment and planning tool available to all professionals who support families and young people, it allows for greater information sharing between services and organisations. This enables a truly multi-agency approach to families so they can receive the help they need at an early stage.
Access to Holistix
You can access Holistix from the link below:Access Holistix (external link)
If you need to request access to Holistix email your local Family Support Hub lead.
West Sussex County Council also offers system-user training sessions for practitioners and their managers. All training is available to book through the Learning & Development Gateway.
For examples of how assessments should be recorded in Holistix, view the attached case studies of three fictional families. We have also attached our training pathway for practitioners.
5 Working in partnership with West Sussex Scouts
Scouting has many opportunities for a child to develop their social skills, self-confidence, respect for authority and personal leadership.
We have a partnership agreement with West Sussex Scouts which supports eligible children referred by keyworkers or partner agencies.
This means the child:
- is prioritised for scout membership
- may qualify for help with financial necessities. This means families can liaise with leaders about support towards the cost of buying a uniform or paying for trips and activities.
Find out more about the referral process on the West Sussex Scouts website.