Early help is important because spotting a problem early on in a family is better for them and the child, allowing them to receive the needed support to overcome the problems before they become more pressing, complex and potentially dangerous.
Why Early Help?
Early help is important because spotting a problem early on in a family is better for them and the child, allowing them to receive the needed support to overcome the problems before they become more pressing, complex and potentially dangerous. This can only be done effectively if agencies work together to: identify children and families who would benefit from early help; undertake an assessment of the need for early help; and provide targeted early help services to address the needs of a child and their family.
About the research
The evaluation of the Streatham pilot was done using quantitative and qualitative research methods, including case audits carried out by social care ‘advanced practitioners’ and experienced managers, interviews of the internal pilot team by Healthwatch, partnership feedback surveys, focus groups with health, education, youth and voluntary sector services, and evaluation of pre & post pilot referral data.
What we found
The evaluation found positive results including:
- Significant improvement in the relationships between partners working in Children’s Services in Streatham, leading to effective working relationships, to help ensure that vulnerable children are properly looked after.
- Evidence of stronger professional practice, around timeliness of assessment, collaboration across different agencies, whole family engagement and use of community resources to ensure sustainable support.
- Training and group supervision was well received by partners, creating a shared language and understanding of the common issues affecting families and how to recognise needs.
- Outcomes for families were found to be effective, with strong relationships being built between the family and lead professionals, leading to quick access to a range of services.
Recommendations for the future
The report made some recommendations based on learning from the pilot:
- Whilst the model was successful at bringing the partnership together, more direct capacity building work and follow-up needs to take place to enable all involved partners.
- Further work is needed to shift support to being based on families’ needs instead of standardized thresholds.
- There needs to be more help for practitioners to engage in challenging conversations with all family members effectively in assessment interventions.
- Mechanisms to involve all relevant agencies need to be improved, as primary care and CAMHS partners, for example, struggled to find the capacity to fully participate in the pilot.
- To fully ensure that more families can help themselves, there should be opportunities for families to self-refer and access advice and guidance services directly, for example via an up to date and accessible service directory.
The pilot was largely successful in delivering the partnership vision for Early Help Services in Streatham and there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the model could be used borough wide once the recommendations in this evaluation report are taken up.