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Early Help assessments - questions and answers for professionals
The name ‘ CAF ’ has changed to Early Help Assessment. This reflects that now we are using Signs of Wellbeing, we have moved away from the structure specified in the CAF framework. We also think Early Help Assessment is easier for everyone to understand.
How do I get a signature on the electronic Early Help forms
Those signing the Early Help forms should sign a paper copy which is held on the Lead Professional case file. If you are sending in the forms electronically you can type in the space where the signature goes the words ‘signature held on file’ and record the date of the signature.
How do I let the Early Help Brokerage team know about a change of Lead Professional?
Email: EHB@cheshireeast.gov.uk with updated forms to tell them that the Lead Professional has changed from xxxx to xxxxxx and their contact details and we can make the changes on our case management system.
What do I do if a new Lead Professional cannot be identified?
If there is reluctance for whatever reason to take on the lead professional role, and normal conversations cannot resolve this, the matter should be escalated to your line manger who should discuss with the proposed lead professional's manager. The needs of the child should be borne in mind when considering this. Contact Early Help Brokerage if this is still not resolved.
Can I do an Early Help Assessment or be a lead professional without being Signs of Safety trained?
Yes you can in the short term. If you have identified that a child has additional needs, then that child needs to have an assessment as soon as possible. You can ask someone in your agency that has had the Signs of Safety training to assist you.
You could also contact the Early Help Brokerage team who have practitioners with Early Help Assessment experience who can support you through the process. You should book onto the Signs of Safety 2 day training as soon as possible to benefit from the multi agency training that will help you put the Early Help process into context and give you more detail.
What do I do if other professionals don’t turn up for Early Help meetings?
If a professional member is unable to make a meeting they should contact the lead practitioner to let them know. They should give a written report in their absence that can be shared at the meeting.
If one agency is persistently absent follow up directly and if necessary escalate through line management.
One manager talking to another manager often solves the problem. If the problem is not resolved your manager will report the situation to the Brokerage team. You must evidence what has happened, when and how you have tried to manage this.
How often do I need to review the Early Help plan?
National Guidance recommends 3 months, however this is a needs based process and meetings can be held more frequently.
Remember, this should be as often as is needed to make sure the plan is working and is kept on track for the child or young person.
Do I need to do an Early Help assessment if a child/family has been stepped down from social care?
If there is relevant up to date assessment information from social care, you will not need to do an Early Help assessment, but you will need the assessment information from social care.
You will need to create an Early Help plan with the family. The worries that this plan needs to address should be clear on step down from Children’s Social Care.
Please refer to the Step Down on the LSCB which explains this process.
Can a teenager give consent for an Early Help Assessment without their parents knowing?
National guidance is clear that children aged 12 or over may generally be expected to have sufficient understanding to make their own decisions – this has to be made on a case by case basis taking the child maturity into account. It is recommended that practitioners encourage children under 16 years to involve their parents/carers.
What do I do if a child’s parents won’t consent to an Early Help Assessment?
Early Help Assessments cannot go ahead without consent from the child's parents (unless the child themselves is of sufficient age and understanding and has consented in their own right as above). You will need to consider whether this leaves the child at greater risk and consider a referral into Children’s Social Care.
However, there may be alternative ways of dealing with this situation. Have further discussions with parents. If the answer is still no, and you feel the child is not at risk, or the situation is not meeting the thresholds for social care services, then you will need to consider how to offer support in a less structured or formal way.
Your work can still carry on but perhaps in a less coordinated way than you would have liked. You will need to make sure you record all that you have done with regard to the offering an Early Help assessment and the reasons why this has been unable to proceed.
There are some circumstances in which an assessment, either an Early Help assessment or an assessment led by social workers under the National Assessment Framework is legally necessary, for example for Direct Payments for children and young people with a disability.
What if only one parent is agreeing to an Early Help assessment?
National guidance states that the consent of one parent is sufficient, so if parents are living separately you should normally obtain consent from the parent the child is living with.
However each situation is different and you will need to manage each situation carefully so as not to exacerbate situations and potentially put people at risk. For further guidance refer to national guidance – The Common Assessment Framework for children and young people pages 60/61 (PDF, 2MB).
If I have concerns about more than one child in a family do I have to do an Early Help Assessment on each child?
Early Help assessments should take account of the needs of the whole family. Within the Early Help assessment, different of individuals should be reflected
Some information may be the same e.g. the family and environment issues. The Early Help plan should be a joint plan for the family. Some issues may be outside your remit or expertise and you will need to involve other professionals to meet the needs of the family.
Ideally there should be one lead practitioner for the family but if, for example there are big age differences with a wide range of identified needs, it may be appropriate for two practitioners to jointly undertake the lead practitioner role liaising closely together to ensure continuity for the family and consistency of advice.
If there is more than one child in a family with a Early Help assessment/plan in place, can we hold joint meetings?
If a family has more than one child with a Early Help assessment/plan do I need to be lead practitioner for all children?
No, there can be more than one, for example for different schools. Joint meetings may be held.Ideally it is easier for the family to have one Lead professional. It is important the child/young person and their family are comfortable with arrangement and that communication and information sharing is given a high priority.
Do I have to fill in all the boxes on the Early Help forms - what if they are not relevant?
Yes. All the boxes are relevant to assessing the needs of the child and the family.
Make sure you ask the family and other professionals for their information - everyone needs to be part of the assessment and plan.
How much information do I need to put in the assessment?
Information should be correct, relevant, up to date and meaningful. State the facts and include the views of the child/young person and parent. The information doesn’t need to be lengthy but does need to give a clear picture of the impact on the child/ young person. Consider using the first, worst and last time something happened to summarise the frequency and impact on the issue.
Can I hold an Early Help meeting without the child/young person/parent/carer being present?
If a parent does not attend you can have a professionals meeting but this should not be recorded on Early Help forms. Book a new meeting with the family and their network as soon as possible.
What age should I start including the child’s views on the Early Help forms?
The child's voice is essential and should be documented on all forms. This can be represented via observations for the non verbal, very young or unborn.
What support should I expect from my Manager?
As a practitioner undertaking Early Help assessments, you should be able to seek support and advice from your manager and receive appropriate supervision.