The sooner a family receives the right support, the sooner they are able to improve their situation, preventing the need for prolonged support.
Early help includes support for parents-to-be and very young children. It describes interventions and support provided to families where:
- their needs are not being met by routine or 'universal' services
- they do not meet thresholds for statutory interventions.
There are four elements to early help:
- Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) aims to provide a single and consistent point of access to advice, guidance and decision making about the right level of help needed to keep each child safe or achieve change as part of an early help response.
- Family Support Hubs that build partnerships in each West Sussex district and borough and develop a coordinated support pathway for families. They ensure families passed on by MASH are joined to the right kind of support quickly, and that local services work together to provide high quality, targeted and preventative services that respond to local need.
- A partnership of specialist keyworkers working with families. This targets families with multiple or complex needs who require coordinated multi-agency support, to prevent the need for statutory social care intervention.
- Strong partnerships that work within the local area to support families in their communities and build capacity across their services and projects to deliver an early help response.
For further details visit the West Sussex Partnership Families Strategic Plan pages.
Early help starts with our universal services, such as schools, the health service and police. The better a family is supported by these services the less likely they are to need additional help. Families that do need additional support will receive the next level.
A 'whole family' approach ensures that children's needs and welfare are being met and maintained, as well as those of their family. This is done by working with the family, local communities and others already supporting the family.
We also work closely with other family support services, such as children’s social care and those working with specialist needs.
The IPEH team
We work alongside a number of internal and external partners across West Sussex, and with all seven district and borough councils.
We also call on the skills and knowledge of services who work closely with families and children, including:
- heads and governors of schools
- Sussex Police
- the Probation Service
- health and maternity services
- voluntary organisations.
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.
2 Assessments for families
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 provides useful guidance on what characterises a good assessment. 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 Plans
What is an Early Help Plan (EHP)?
Following an assessment, the next step is to agree with the family what would improve their situation, and think 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.
Find information about the West Sussex Continuum of Need/Threshold guidance.
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. Also attached is the Think Family and Early Help training pathway for practitioners.
5 Family Support Hubs
Family Support Hubs are local district partnerships in West Sussex working collaboratively to help provide a coordinated pathway for support to families. They ensure professionals, working with families in need of early help, get support.
The aim is to provide high quality, targeted and preventative services that respond to local need and provide support for families in need.
Family Support Hub (FSH) forums are multi-agency meetings currently held fortnightly in each Family Support Hub area. They have a core group dedicated to supporting children and getting the right plans in place where an early help response is needed.
The aim of the FSH forums is to bring together those working with children and families in West Sussex and to support them by sharing knowledge, expertise and information. Opportunities for integrated intervention will be discussed for individual children and families, providing a complete picture for family support to ensure the best interventions are made.
They also provide opportunities for practitioners to:
- consider how best to meet the needs of children and young people with complex and challenging circumstances who fall below the threshold for a specialist service
- increase the confidence of staff that work directly with children at an early intervention level
- identify gaps in local services to meet the needs of children at an earlier stage
- have a place to share expertise and good practice
- improve information sharing
- clarify thresholds.
6 Contact details
Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)
Hubs have absorbed the work of Family Support Networks. The contact details below include opening times, phone numbers and addresses.
General, non-case related and non-confidential queries about early help services (where the Family Support Network or Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub are not appropriate) can be made to:
For confidential, secure email use:
Family Service Directory
You can use our Family Service Directory to find details of support groups in West Sussex.