Identifying needs at an early stage using the Early Help Assessment gives agencies working with children, young people and their families a common tool to understand the needs of the child or young person and their family. It is only once the full needs are identified that the appropriate support can then be put in place.
The Early Help Assessment covers 6 key areas of need that should be assessed:
- Health and wellbeing
- Families where children need help
- Economic wellbeing
- Community engagement
View the Assessment Guidance page for further details.
Within the assessment it is important to highlight the strengths and resources within the family. This is a useful focus when agreeing the action plan and helping other agencies to understand the protective factors within the family and identify how they can facilitate change. The more strengths present, the lower the risk will be and as support progresses it would be expected that risk factors decrease and strengths increase.
It is not expected that practitioners will be experts in all areas of the assessment. During the assessment stage the Team Around the Family (TAF) can begin to be established. The practitioner completing the assessment will act as the Lead Practitioner until their role in supporting the family comes to an end. The Lead Practitioner can call upon their colleagues supporting the family to assist in the assessment process.
This involves working with the child or young person and their family and undertaking the assessment with them. You will need to make sure they understand what information you are recording and what is going to happen to it. You should consider the child or young person within their family relationship. It will help to use plain, jargon-free language that is appropriate to the age and culture of each person, explaining any unavoidable technical and professional terms.
Remember, the discussion does not have to be highly formal or presented as a ‘big event’. You will want to use a method and style that suits you, the child or young person, their parent/carer, and the situation. Apart from a pre-natal assessment, it is not possible to do an Early Help assessment without seeing or involving the child or young person.
The Early Help assessment is a way of recording your discussions with the child or young person and their family, and other knowledge and observations.
The key points to remember about your discussion are:
- it is collaborative – you are working with the child or young person and their family to find solutions, and they will often know better than you
- you should consider the child or young person’s and family’s strengths as well as needs, and these should be recorded
- you should make use of information you have already gathered from the child or young person, parent or other practitioners so they don’t have to repeat themselves
- if the child or young person and/or their parent/carer don’t want to participate, you can’t force them – it is a voluntary assessment
- if you are concerned about the safety or welfare of a child or young person, you should follow Sefton’s LSCB procedures or talk to your safeguarding lead
- if you are worried about your own safety, act accordingly. If you are not sure, seek immediate advice
- at the end of the discussion, you should be able to understand better the child or young person’s and family’s strengths and needs, and what can be done to help
6 Step Assessment
- explain why you are recording information and what will happen to it
- make sure the child or young person and family understand who else will see their information
- make sure they understand that the assessment is a resource to help them when accessing services
- check they fully understand and consent to undertaking an Early Help assessment and recording the information (either on paper or electronically)
- you should always encourage children or young people under 16 to involve their parent/carer as appropriate
- do not assume that children and young people with a disability or learning disabilities are not capable of understanding
- Gather the basic details about the child or young person and their family. This is the minimum information that must be captured as identifying details.
- It may be helpful to include the relationship to the child or young person of any person listed in the section ‘People present at assessment.’
- This is a free-text section which you can use to record the child or young person’s family and home situation (e.g. who they do and don’t live with – parents, siblings and other significant adults).
- You may also wish to include addresses and contact numbers, where appropriate.
- Complete the details of the person conducting the assessment.
- Complete details of the universal services working with the child or young person and their family.
- Also complete the details of other services working with the child or young person that are relevant to the assessment.
Go through the main assessment areas. You should consider each of the 6 broad groups separately (where a field is not completed, you must indicate that it is not applicable, i.e. why you have left it purposely blank). Also consider the risk factors from the assessment triangle (see diagram below):
- Development of child or young person: how well are they developing, including their health and progress in learning.
- Parents and carers: how well parents are able to support their child or young person’s development and respond appropriately to any needs.
- Family and environmental: the impact of wider family and environmental elements on the child or young person’s development and on the capacity of their parents.
For each broad group:
- You should explore areas around your immediate concern, so as to look behind the presenting issues and come up with a more holistic view.
- You do not need to comment on every element; include only what is relevant.
- You are not expected to diagnose problems in a professional field other than your own. But you must consider the whole child or young person, not just your own service focus.
- You should also focus on areas of strength in the family, not just needs.
- The discussion should be supportive and non-threatening.
- Don’t be put off by the language in which some of the elements are expressed.
- Wherever possible, you should base the discussion and your comments on evidence, not just opinion.
- Evidence would be what you have seen, what the child or young person, and family members, have said.
- Opinions should be recorded and marked accordingly (for example ‘Michael said he thinks his dad is an alcoholic’). In recording information on the form, you should be mindful of how the information will be used and who will see it.
- You should include what is relevant to your assessment, but you should not include confidential information (e.g. from health records) unless it is directly relevant and the child or young person/parent explicitly agrees that you should.
Information Sharing and Consent
It is essential to complete this section otherwise the information in the assessment cannot be shared with other agencies. Please note that for the family sections, consent must be gained from each member of the family whose information is contained in the assessment. If one family member does not consent – their information cannot be shared. It is still possible for support to be provided by the practitioner the information was revealed to but they are unable to share any information without consent unless it falls under the safeguarding procedures where consent is overridden.
Working with unborn babies
All pregnant women should have a midwife she knows and trusts to co-ordinate her pregnancy care. If you are not that person, this will be a key person to consult if undertaking an Early Help assessment with a pregnant woman.
Working with young people
You should try to involve and work directly with infants and very young children in a way that is most appropriate for them; for example, through observation, play and thoughtful conversations. Most infants and their parents will have at least some contact with the midwife, health visitor and/or GP. If you are completing an assessment for an infant, and the parent agrees, you should contact these practitioners.
The Early Help assessment is generally used with children and young people up to the age of 18, but its use can be extended beyond 18 where appropriate, to enable the young person to have a smooth transition to adult services. In the case of the Connexions service, the Early Help assessment can be used with young people up to the age of 19, and up to the age of 24 where a young person has a learning difficulty or disability.
For older young people, you should consider possible current and future needs for adult services, and transitional arrangements. For example, you may need to think about whether adult services are more appropriate to a young person in their late teens or, if a young person is already accessing children’s services, you may need to help manage their transition into adult services.
The possibility that a teenage boy is a father is a question that should be considered when assessing teenage boys, as their needs can be as complex as those of a teenage mother and are often not addressed.
Engaging with fathers and father figures
Fathers or father figures sometimes find it difficult to engage with services. It is important to make it clear that you welcome their involvement as much as that of mothers.