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1.4.1 Early Help Guidance: Integrated Working With Children, Young People and Families With Vulnerable or Complex Needs


  1. Introduction
  2. Early Help through Integrated Working
  3. Consent and Information Sharing
  4. Undertaking Assessments
  5. The Early Help Assessment and The Team around the Family (TAF)
  6. Resolving Differences of Opinion or Judgement
  7. Equality and Diversity

    Appendix 1: Early Help Pathway

1. Introduction

CAPTION: Introduction table
1.1 To achieve good outcomes for all children, young people and families in Rotherham, at every level of need, it is essential that agencies work together using an approach known as 'integrated working'. In order to facilitate this, Rotherham Safeguarding Children Partnership has produced this practice guidance. It provides information about integrated working and details the procedures that should be followed if staff have concerns that a child or young person has additional or complex needs.
1.2 With Early Help being at the heart of this approach, it is vital that the children’s workforce acts promptly to identify needs early and prevent them from getting worse, using the Early Help Assessment tool. Working in partnership with appropriate agencies supports the Team Around the Family (TAF) process and helps to improve the outcomes for the child or young person. The provision of integrated support places great emphasis on the need to prevent issues from escalating to harm for children, by supporting their parents or carers early in the identification of a problem. Early Help Assessments should be done by a range of professionals to ensure coordination of support and intelligent information sharing across the early help system.

Scope of the guidance

1.3 This guidance is for staff in all agencies, organisations and professional groups whose work brings them into contact with children, young people and families; either in a paid or voluntary capacity. The Early Help System brings partners together in Rotherham to ensure that they are compliant with guidance provided in Working Together to Safeguard Children.
1.4 This practice guidance relates to working with children, young people and/or their families in Rotherham who are vulnerable or have complex needs, not those who are suffering, or likely to suffer Significant Harm. It is underpinned by the Rotherham Continuum of need:

If a child or children are suffering, or are likely to suffer significant harm, then safeguarding policies and procedures apply - see Referring Safeguarding Concerns about Children.

The guidance is informed by the Rotherham Multi-Agency Continuum of Need Guidance and the Multi-Agency Threshold Descriptors.
CAPTION: Introduction table continued

Aims and purpose of the guidance


The aims of this guidance are to:

  • Improve outcomes for children, young people and their families;
  • Ensure a common understanding of integrated working practice and a shared terminology and practice between workers and agencies;
  • Ensure that there is consistency and agreement in practice across all local agencies in their approach to working with children, young people and their families with vulnerable or complex needs;
  • Embed collaborative processes and procedures in place to identify children, young people and families who need Early Help, and ensure shared responsibility in the use of the Early Help Assessment;
  • Work in partnership with parents and carers, using a restorative relationship of high support and high challenge, with the child’s lived experience at the heart of all early help support.

The purpose of the guidance is to:

  • Explain key definitions and concepts of Early Help;
  • Outline the theory and practice of integrated working;
  • Underpin the Rotherham Continuum of Need and the multi-agency process for dealing with identified needs and/or shared concerns about a child, young person and/or their family which do not amount to Significant Harm;
  • Define the specific purposes for which agencies have agreed threshold levels and share information to meet their responsibilities to protect and safeguard children in need, and to promote their welfare;
  • Set out the responsibilities of agencies to implement internal arrangements to meet the requirements of the model;
  • Promote public trust, through transparency and accountability of approach in the management and handling of personal information;
  • Support individual and organisational legal compliance, to ensure best management practice.

Good Practice


The following principles should be applied at all times when working with all children, young people and their families:

  • Services provided should be flexible, easily accessed and of good quality;
  • Facilities should be made available to address the physical and emotional needs of children and young people requiring support;
  • Each agency should have clear, coherent and comprehensive policies and procedures to respond to the initial contact, referral and assessment processes, and provision of services, all of which involve families in deciding how their needs will be best met, for more information, see Referring Safeguarding Concerns about Children Procedure;
  • Assessment, plans and reviews of children, young people and their families' needs should be carried out in accordance with regulation and guidance, and should include clear objectives and a record of steps taken to achieve these;
  • The communication needs of all children, young people and their families should be met when they have contact with any agency. Information about available services should always be provided in ways which they can understand;
  • All agencies should have non-discriminatory service delivery and recruitment and employment practices which underpin a commitment to equal opportunities;
  • Workers should not be afraid to ask for help to accept assistance, or to escalate concerns if processes are failing;
  • Assumptions should not be made about how a particular family works or receives support;
  • Where there is concern about the immediate safety of a child or young person, ringing the police as appropriate, and concerns should be referred to MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub) see Key and Local Contacts. For more information, see Referring Safeguarding Concerns about Children.

Legal context

1.8 Integrated working is outlined in the statutory guidance supporting Section 10 (inter-agency co-operation) and Section 11 (safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children) of the Children Act 2004. Integrated working is key to ensuring good outcomes for children, young people and their families. Practice is also informed by Working Together to Safeguard Children.

2. Early Help through Integrated Working

CAPTION: Early Help through Integrated Working

There are several key areas where integrated working delivers an effective Early Help system. These include:

  • Information sharing, which is at the heart of integrated working. Improving outcomes for children, young people and families with vulnerable or complex needs is dependent on professionals sharing information with the child, young person and their family and with each other. Information should be shared in accordance with the seven golden rules of sharing information. See Information Sharing Procedure and Information sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (HM Government);
  • The Early Help Assessment (EHA) is Rotherham’s common assessment tool for children and families with additional needs and should be used by all agencies working with children, young people, and their families with vulnerable or complex needs. The EHA supports practitioners to assess holistic needs earlier and more effectively and promotes collaboration and information sharing;
  • The Lead Professional role is crucial in co-ordinating the actions identified in the assessment process. The Lead Professional provides a single point of contact for children, young people and families with vulnerable or complex needs and ensures a coherent package of services, where there is more than one agency involved. They are also responsible for the coordination of the work, including the organising and chairing of the Team around the Family (TAF) meetings;
  • Multi-agency working will include the Team around the Family (TAF). This is a team of practitioners who work directly with the child(ren), young person and family to share information and hold timely meetings and reviews. They work effectively together with the family to improve the outcomes identified in the plan through the Early Help Assessment, ensuring they are achievable and addressing any barriers to achieving positive outcomes;
  • Leadership and management. This includes providing effective support and supervision to staff working with children, young people and families; ensuring the safety of their staff and personal development needs, including training, are met. It should ensure that case management decisions are made in a timely way.

What is Early Help?

We know it is better to provide focussed support when problems first emerge, rather than delivering a more costly statutory intervention when the needs have escalated. The right early help services at the right time can prevent emerging problems from getting worse and becoming deep seated or entrenched. Through our Early Help Strategy we are committed to improving outcomes for children and families in Rotherham and at the same time reduce the demands upon specialist and statutory, higher tier services. In Rotherham, most children, young people and family’s needs are met by universal services (services that are available to everyone). For those children and families who need some additional help, our Early Help Services will provide support and expertise to the child and family. Building on a One Family, One Worker, One Plan principle our Early Help Assessment, will ensure they receive all the support they deserve. For more information, see Rotherham Multi-Agency Continuum of Need Guidance and Multi-Agency Threshold Descriptors.

Aims of Early Help


There are several common aims to Early Help, including:

  • To promote early intervention to assist children, young people and families who have vulnerable or complex needs and are therefore vulnerable to poor outcomes;
  • To share information and complete holistic assessments;
  • To plan and deliver SMART, planned interventions in response to need at the earliest opportunity;
  • To provide services to improve outcomes for children, young people and families;
  • To review and measure outcomes for children, young people and families;
  • To establish a common language to describe children's development and circumstances;
  • To work in partnership with children, young people and families in the assessment process;
  • To avoid repeat interviewing of children and families and duplication in assessment processes;
  • To have a confident workforce, trained and supported to deliver high quality services to children, young people and families in Rotherham;
  • To standardise, streamline and ensure a high quality of record keeping;
  • To use technology to assist practitioners to work effectively and deliver timely assessment and plans.

Problems can occur at any time in children's lives and our services need to be responsive to emerging needs at all ages. Early Help is not just aimed at preventing abuse or neglect but at ensuring the best start and improving the life chances of all children and young people, by working with their families. There are nine integrated Early Help Teams based across three localities - North, South and Central - who can provide advice and support for the whole family on issues such as:

  1. Parenting and behaviour management;
  2. Emotional wellbeing;
  3. Substance misuse;
  4. Domestic abuse;
  5. Financial advice and support, housing and progression to work;
  6. Staying safe – outdoors and online.

Identifying, assessing and meeting the needs of children, young people and their families in Rotherham who require Early Help

2.4 Early Help teams and the services that they provide are accessed when issues become complex and require targeted additional family support. If a Lead Professional has carried out the EHA and offered support but progress is not being made, they can contact the MASH to discuss securing additional, targeted Early Help support or escalating to Children’s Social Care for statutory intervention.
2.5 2.5 It is important to address identified need through multi-agency Early Help approaches wherever possible. The aim is to prevent crises, to avoid entrenched situations, and high level services being inappropriately introduced to the detriment of children, young people and their families.
2.6 An important principle of integrated working is that a request for involvement of other services for a child, young person or family does not mean a transfer of responsibility; it involves shared responsibility and joined up services.
2.7 All Early Help Assessments will be co-ordinated by a named Lead Professional who can be from a range of agencies e.g. health, schools, voluntary sector or Early Help.
2.8 The progress of the Early Help Assessment should be monitored regularly and discussed through respective line management and supervision arrangements of the Lead Professional. An agency's overall participation in this integrated working framework will be monitored by Rotherham Safeguarding Children Partnership, through its auditing process.

When concerns affecting a child and family no longer require statutory involvement it is important that good progress is sustained. When Children’s Social Care intends to step out of a case, it is important to discuss with the child, family and professionals involved to agree a structured step down process to Early Help targeted or universal services.

The Social Worker should ensure an effective handover to Early Help provision and seek agreement on who the Lead Professional will be. When a decision is made that Children’s Social Care will step out, (and joint agreement from Children’s Social Care and Early Help is given) assessments and plans (where in place) should be shared that contain clear actions defined for the new Lead Professional.
2.10 The Social Worker that is stepping out holds responsibility to carry out a joint visit with the new Early Help Lead Professional. The visit should take place within 10 working days of the panel and the family should be informed by the Social Worker to confirm arrangements.
2.11 The Early Help Lead Professional should then start to work with the child/family immediately following the actions identified and work to transfer the Social Work Assessment to the Early Help Assessment paperwork. The Early Help Lead Professional should ensure that key actions are implemented and that the assessment process remains seamless and new concerns are discussed, addressed and escalated appropriately at TAF or review meetings. Further guidance can be found in the Early Help & Children’s Social Care Co-Working Framework.

Case Recording

2.12 All agencies working with children, young people and families should ensure that case recording is an integral part of case management. Each partner agency will have individual case recording arrangements, which will be either a local or national system. Timely case recording is an essential part of case work, and should be supervised by Line Managers. Case records can also be monitored by Rotherham Safeguarding Children Partnership as part of the auditing process.

3. Consent and Information Sharing

CAPTION: Consent and Information Sharing
3.1 Sharing information is essential in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people and ensuring they get the early help needed to achieve positive outcomes. Agencies should be committed to protecting the privacy of children, young people and families and to maintaining the highest standards of security and good data management. For more information, see Information Sharing Procedure and Information sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (HM Government).
3.2 Clear policies and good working relationships, based on professional respect and trust, diminishes organisational and cultural obstacles between partners. This also enables an open and positive approach to information sharing.
3.3 Practitioners should proactively inform children, young people and families, when they first engage with the service, about their service's policy on how information will be shared, and seek their consent. The approach to information sharing should be explained openly and honestly. Where this is done, young people and families will be aware of how their information may be shared and experience shows that most will give consent. Consent and all information sharing decisions should always be recorded in case records, along with the wishes and feelings of children, young people and families. Agencies should refer to their own information sharing policies for further guidance.

Sharing information where there are concerns of significant harm

3.4 It is critical that all practitioners working with children, young people and their families are in no doubt that where they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child or young person may be suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, they must refer their concerns to MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub) see Key and Local Contacts (and the police if it is an emergency or a crime is being committed). For more information, see Referring Safeguarding Concerns about Children.
3.5 You should always seek to discuss any concerns with the child, young person and their family. However, inability to make contact should not delay or prevent referral being made. Circumstances where you should not seek consent are covered in paragraph 3.7.
3.6 The Multi-Agency Threshold Descriptors should be used to help identify indicators of risk in the context of the Rotherham Continuum of Need.

When consent is not required


There will be occasional circumstances where consent is not required, for example, where to do so would:

  • Place a child or young person at increased risk of Significant Harm;
  • Place an adult at risk of serious harm, e.g. domestic abuse;
  • Prejudice the prevention or detection of serious crime;
  • Lead to unjustified delay in making enquiries about allegations of harm;
  • There is a statutory duty or court order to share information;
  • The public interest justifies disclosing confidential information without consent.
3.8 Advice should be sought from your Line Manager, or your organisation's safeguarding lead officer, when a decision to share information without consent is being considered.

Whose consent should be sought?


Early Help is a consent based service and this should be sought from the family prior to submitting a Request for Support or submitting the case for Step Down.

Consent should be sought where appropriate from a young person who has the capacity to understand and make their own decisions and who may give (or refuse) consent to information about them being shared.

Young people can request support directly and would be encouraged to involve their parent(s) or carer(s) unless to do so would place them at risk of harm.
3.10 Additional guidance and protocols on confidentiality, consent and information sharing - as well as the legal and statutory duties - are available to support and facilitate appropriate information sharing for all agencies that provide services to children, young people and their families in Rotherham. For further information, see Information Sharing Procedure.

4. Undertaking Early Help Assessments

CAPTION: Undertaking Assessments
4.1 When professionals from across the children’s workforce in Rotherham identify a family who has additional needs, they should consider meeting those needs within their service and/or consult and liaise with other appropriate agencies. The Early Help Assessment process supports children aged 0-19 and their families, however, when workers identify a child who is in need of statutory involvement because they are suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, including 16/17 year olds them, they should contact the MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub) see Key and Local Contacts (and the police if it is an emergency or a crime is being committed). For more information, see Referring Safeguarding Concerns about Children Procedure.

Early Help Assessment Principles


Early Help & Family Engagement - 10 Assessment Practice Standards


A good whole family assessment will be outcome focussed and based on robust analysis. It will evidence:

  1. Child and Family Views

The views of all family members and significant others, whether living in the family home or not, should be evident in the assessment, for example, it may include references to conversations or direct quotes from parents/carers/children/young people. The assessment should always prioritise the needs of the children.

  1. Timeliness

Initial contact should be sought with children and families within a 72 hour timeframe. Assessments should be started within 10 days of receipt of the referral/request for support and completed and recorded. Any decision to extend timescales must be approved by a manager and should be clearly recorded.

  1. Multi-disciplinary / agency contributions

The assessment should be completed in collaboration with other professionals previously or currently involved with the family; this should include both adult and children’s services and records/chronologies should inform all assessments.

  1. Strength based

The assessment should outline clearly both the strengths and needs for individuals within the family as a whole.

  1. Baseline data

The assessment should include clear baseline information to evidence the required change and provide a baseline from which to report outcomes. The data will also provide a holistic picture to inform the TAF (team around the family) (e.g. school attendance, level of anti-social behaviour, developmental milestones).

  1. Analyse and identify priorities

The assessment should outline and prioritise the overall strengths and needs for the family through analysis of information gained. The assessment should identify priority areas to be addressed. Outcomes for families will be mutually agreed, with the family and professionals who make up the team around the family.

  1. Next steps

The assessment should include a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time bound) plan for the first TAF meeting (e.g. date, proposed TAF members, childcare, venue, interpreter, etc.) This will include clear actions/outputs for the child/family alongside professionals.

  1. Impact and Outcome Focussed

Targets will be clear and jargon free and assessments will define what success measures (outcomes) will look like. The focus should always be on outcomes rather than outputs or actions completed.

  1. Protected Characteristics

The assessment should include (where relevant) information relating to the GGRRAACCEESS (Gender, Generational, Race, Religion, Abilities, Age, Culture, Class, Education, Ethnicity, Sexuality, Spirituality).

  1. Quality Assurance
The assessment should be shared and discussed with line manager for comment, direction and approval. Assessments will be subject to quality assurance checks along with other case information.

5. Early Help Assessment and The Team around the Family (TAF)

CAPTION: The Common Assessment Framework (CAF), Family Caf and The Team around the Family (TAF)
5.1 Often the presenting needs of individual children and young people are a symptom of wider family and environmental issues. The solutions to these may be found within the family itself with support and the provision of co-ordinated services that extend beyond the Children's workforce. As a result, Rotherham has developed the Early Help Assessment which is based on “Signs of Safety and restorative practice approaches to identify wider needs and co-ordinate multi-agency support to families. This is now the primary assessment, planning and review tool for the co-ordination of Early Help services in Rotherham and was co-produced by a range of agencies in Rotherham.
5.2 Early Help Assessments can help professionals and families identify their strengths, needs and goals; prioritising activity to achieve good outcomes for the whole family and individual family members. With the family's consent, the Early Help Assessment can be shared between services and form the basis of a single, co-ordinated, multi-agency plan.
5.3 Where the Early Help Assessment identifies the need for specialist interventions, e.g. Education Psychology, Portage, Youth Offending etc. the Lead professional should ensure that dialogue takes place with appropriate services.
5.4 In some instances, workers may need advice as to how to support a child, young person or family. This should be discussed with their Line Manager in the first instance. It may be helpful to establish meetings to jointly develop the Early Help Assessment. The TAF should jointly agree who would be best placed to take on the Lead Professional role.
5.5 The Lead Worker will coordinate services at the point of delivery and will ensure that information is shared across agencies and with the family. They will ensure that the family and individual family members remain at the centre of the process and their views, feelings and priorities are captured and form an integral part of the process. All discussions and decisions will be recorded and all Early Help Assessment documentation should be submitted to the Early Help Assess email ( by those who do not have access to the local authority social care database.

6. Resolving Differences of Opinion or Judgement

CAPTION: Resolving Differences of Opinion or Judgement

Disagreements could arise in a number of areas of multi-agency working, however, they are most likely to arise around:

  • Thresholds;
  • Roles and responsibilities;
  • The need for action;
  • Communication.
6.2 Problem resolution is an integral part of multi-agency co-operation and joint working to safeguard children and young people. While often a positive sign of developing thinking within a dynamic process, it can be reflected in a lack of clarity in procedures.
6.3 In circumstances of disagreement, see Practice Resolution Protocol: Resolving Professional Differences of Opinion in Multi-Agency Working with Children and their Families.

7. Equality and Diversity

CAPTION: Equality and Diversity
7.1 Since discrimination of all kinds is an everyday reality in many children's lives, every effort must be made to ensure that agencies responses do not reflect or reinforce that experience and, indeed, should counteract it.
7.2 Different research findings have consistently found that disabled children / young people and families from minority ethnic groups receive a poorer service than those who do not come from these groups. Other diversity issues should also be considered for the child / young person and the parents / carers, including age, gender, lesbian, gay or transgender and any other factors including single parenthood, low income and homelessness etc.
7.3 Minority ethnic families and families with disabled children may face personal and institutional discrimination. Such issues compound other problems of parenting.

Principles of equality and diversity


The following principles of equality and diversity should apply:

  1. All children / young people have a right to grow up safe from harm;
  2. All children / young people can potentially be subject to abuse and neglect, regardless of their age, gender, race, culture, physical or learning disabilities, sexual identity or sexual orientation;
  3. The assessment process should maintain a focus on the needs of the individual child / young person;
  4. The presence of equalities issues, as outlined above, neither explains nor condones acts of omission or commission which results in a child suffering, or being likely to suffer, significant harm;
  5. Professionals should guard against myths and stereotypes - both positive and negative - of children / young people and / or their families with equalities issues;
  6. Anxiety about being accused of racist, or other discriminatory practice, should not prevent the necessary action being taken to safeguard a child / young person;
  7. Abuse to a child / young person may be disguised by a disability. Therefore workers need to be aware of issues related to disabilities when undertaking assessments (see Safeguarding Disabled Children);
  8. Workers should be sensitive to differing family patterns and lifestyles, and to child rearing patterns that vary across different groups;
  9. Workers should be aware of social factors that serve to discriminate against different groups of families;
  10. Working in a diverse society requires workers and organisations to be committed to equality in meeting the needs of all children / young people and families;
  11. Workers need to understand the effects of harassment, discrimination and institutional discrimination, as well as cultural misunderstanding or misinterpretations.

Appendix 1: Early Help Pathway

Click here to view Appendix 1: Early Help Pathway.