Early Help Assessment (EHA)
For further information on local Early Help Services and their Early Help Assessment (EHA) please click on the relevant area:
AMENDMENTThis chapter was reviewed and refreshed where required in December 2020.
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.
Effective early help relies upon local organisations and agencies working together to:
- Identify children and families who would benefit from early help;
- Undertake an assessment of the need for early help;
- Provide targeted early help services to address the assessed needs of a child and their family which focuses on activity to improve the outcomes for the child.
2. Undertaking an Early Help Assessment
What are the principles of Early Help?
For children and young people to have the best possible start in life and in order to achieve this we have agreed the following key principles to help guide our approach:
- Early Help and timely intervention: partnership resource is directed at preventing problems before they arise;
- Integrated working: children and young people and families receive support for all of their needs through a single offer;
- Flexible pathway and tools that recognises children and young people will move between different levels of need as their needs and circumstances change;
- Participation and co-design with children, young people, and their families;
- Early Help is everyone's responsibility: it requires everyone to work together to put the child or young person at the centre of everything they do to meet their needs and improve outcomes.
In practice this will mean that a wider range of people with varied skills and experience will be working with families to:
- Undertake an Early Help Assessment to identify needs;
- Agree who should be the Lead Professional;
- Through an Action Plan agree with the family what key tasks and expertise or knowledge is additionally required to bring about change and improve well-being as part of the Team Around the Family approach.
What is an Early Help Assessment?
The Early Help Assessment is used to help the first professional gather and understand information about the strengths and needs, based on discussions with the family. The holistic assessment identifies the most appropriate way to meet those needs, and with consent of the family can support a Team around the Family approach.
What makes a good quality Early Help Assessment?
A good quality Early Help Assessment should be:
Empowering – making sure that the child or young person and/or their parent/carer is supported to participate and it is a collaborative Assessment.
Developmental – supporting the child or young person and parent/carer to adopt a solution focussed approach to the discussion.
Accessible – for all concerned, including the efficient use of time and resources (e.g. equipment and interpreter).
Transparent – the purpose of the Assessment is clear, discussion is open and honest and there are no hidden agendas, all understand the possible outcomes of the Early Help Assessment.
The principles underpinning it should include:
Validity – the Assessment has assessed what is intended to assess (i.e. the strengths and needs of the child or young person).
Accuracy – the Assessment provides an accurate representation of the strengths and needs of the child or young person.
Clarity – the Assessment is clear, concise and understandable by all those involved and any practitioners who may get involved or take responsibility for the child or young person's case at a later point in time.
Inclusive – the Assessment represents the views and opinions of the child or young person and/or family; this reflected through their language and expressions.
Equal Opportunity – the assessment is not biased and gives positive expression to the opinions and experiences of the child or young person and/or their parents/carers without prejudice or discrimination.
Authenticity – the Assessment is an accurate, evidence based record of the discussion.
Professionalism – the Assessment is non judgmental and follows organisational codes of practice for recording/writing public documents.
Outcome based – the Assessment promotes an approach that focuses on what the child or young person and their parents/carers want to achieve.
Practical – the Assessment identifies the strengths and needs clearly and specifically to allow for identification of appropriate actions.
3. Getting Consent to Use the Early Help Assessment
You must have consent to share information. A young person aged 16 or over, or a child under 16 who has the capacity to understand and make their own decisions may give or refuse consent. You should follow current guidelines or local procedures to establish competency in relation to having capacity to consent. It is not simply based on age, it is based on a capacity to understand any consequences of consent or non consent in the particular circumstances and make a specific decision at the time it needs to be made. This can be with or without the parent or carer's consent.
What if I don't get consent?
You cannot proceed with the Early Help Assessment, even if you have identified additional needs. You must respect the wishes of parents, carers or young person. Just because you haven't got consent doesn't mean you don't do anything. Identify what work can be initiated whilst you continue to discuss with them the Early Help process.
Where any professional is involved with a child/young person who is subject to a Early Help Assessment (EHA) action plan has reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm, s/he should make a referral to Children's Social Care for the child protection procedures to be initiated. It is good practice for the lead professional/Early Help Assessment (EHA) Co-ordinator to be informed of the referral immediately. An attempt to contact the lead professional/Early Help Assessment (EHA) team, however, should not, under any circumstances, delay the process of referral.
4. What Happens at the Team around the Family?
A Team Around the Family is a multi-agency meeting. The meeting follows the completion of the Early Help Assessment with the family, and is a way of communicating issues and agreeing next steps of the Action Plan. It brings together the family and those identified agencies who are working with the child, young person, or family. The multi-agency meeting gives you an opportunity to explore creative options, identify overlaps or gaps and develop good working relationships with workers from other agencies. The multi-agency meeting also provides the opportunity to agree a different Lead Professional if necessary.
5. What is the Role of Lead Professional?
- Lead a "single offer" of local co-ordinated service to families through a "Team Around the Family";
- Co-ordinate the delivery of an agreed Action Plan. Monitor and review until outcomes are met;
- Act as a single point of contact for the child, young person and family.