Early Help

Providing early help is more effective in promoting the welfare of children than reacting later. Early help means providing support as soon as a problem emerges, at any point in a child’s life, from the foundation years through to the teenage years.

Early help can also prevent further problems arising. For example, if it is provided as part of a support plan where a child has returned home to their family from care, or in families where there are emerging parental mental health issues or drug and alcohol misuse. (Working Together 2018)

A family may need early help support if they have a child who:

  • is disabled and has specific additional needs
  • has special educational needs (whether or not they have a statutory education, health and care plan)
  • is a young carer
  • is showing signs of being drawn into anti-social or criminal behaviour, including gang involvement and association with organised crime groups 
  • is frequently missing or goes missing from care or from home
  • is at risk of modern slavery, trafficking or exploitation
  • is at risk of being radicalised or exploited
  • is in a family circumstance presenting challenges for the child, such as drug and alcohol misuse, adult mental health issues and domestic abuse
  • is misusing drugs or alcohol themselves
  • has returned home to their family from care
  • is a privately fostered child

If you are working with a family who need additional support, using the thresholds and pathways will help to identify when an Early Help Assessment (EHA) should be started with a family. 

Early Help Assessment process

The EHA is a simple way to help identify the needs of children and families and make a plan to meet those needs. Its purpose is to provide a co-ordinated response so no-one misses out on the support they need. It is used by all agencies in Northamptonshire who are delivering early help to the families they work with.

The EHA can be used to support children and young people between 0 to 19 years, including unborn babies, and can also be used with consent up to the age of 24 (where a young person has a learning difficulty or disability). ​

You need to talk to the child (if age appropriate) and their family about your concerns and about the support that you can offer. If they would like extra support you need to start the Early Help Assessment. They need to understand and feel comfortable with it and know that its purpose is to help them. They need to consent to you sharing the information to access services and you should share the privacy notice with them.

You will need to hold consent from the family to share their EHA.

Start an EHA

You can use the guide below for instructions on signing up to use the referral form, logging in and saving completed copies of your referrals.

What happens if I can't get consent?

Complete the request for advice form for support.

Request early help advice

At this point you need to plan how to meet the needs you have identified in the EHA.

The EHA might identify needs which your agency can’t meet on its own. In this case you will need other professionals or services to help.

  • If you know who to involve, arrange a team around the family (TAF) meeting.
  • If you need help or advice on who to involve, complete the online request for advice form. Once submitted an Early Help Coordinator will contact you to discuss what support may be available.

Request early help advice

If at any point you are concerned about the immediate safety or welfare of the child or young person, seek immediate advice from MASH on 0300 126 1000 at the end of the discussion.

The TAF meeting brings together a range of different professionals to support the family following the EHA. The purpose is to bring people with specialist knowledge together to work out how best to support the family.

The family and child or young person should attend and it is important to engage with them throughout the process.
Remember this is a voluntary process – you can’t force the family to attend or take part.

What information do I need?

Key points to remember about your discussion are:

  • Working together - You and other services are working with the child or young person and their family to find solutions. Often they will know better than you.
  • Listening to the child or young person - An assessment should never be done without talking to them.
  • Voluntary - If the child, young person, or family member doesn’t want to take part, you can’t force them.
  • Focussed on the positives - This is a chance to talk about what a family does well, not just their challenges.
  • Leads to a plan - An assessment should lead to an action plan that helps a child, young person or family.
  • Transparent - The child, young person or family should know what is happening at every point and have given their consent.

If at any point you are concerned about the safety or welfare of the child or young person, seek immediate advice at the end of the discussion.

Complete the online request for advice form for the next steps when you have started your TAF meetings and find:

  • you need support to identify which services may be able to work with you and the family
  • the family's needs meet Level 3 for targeted support
Request early help advice

When the family and services agree all the actions on the action plan have been achieved, and further additional support is no longer required, an online closure form needs to be completed and submitted. This will ensure that the completion is recorded and records are closed on NCC’s case management systems.

EHA closure form

What happens if I need help?

If you have any queries about the Early Help process, please contact us using the request for advice form.

Request early help advice

Supporting information