Helping families early

Early Help means that children, young people and families receive the right help as soon as a problem emerges. This could be at any age through childhood and adolescence. In Surrey this is known as Helping Families Early. This is not a separate service, it is an activity undertaken by anyone who is working with families. It relies upon local services (such as Schools, Health, Police and Voluntary Organisations) working together to identify and support children and families who would benefit from extra help.

Early help

The majority of families will be able to access universal services and are encouraged to make use of the Family Information Service, this provides helpful information and advice. Any practitioner, child, young person or family member can also access the Family Information Directory. This provides a detailed list of a variety of services that are available in the community, including details of advice lines for local services such as health visiting.

However, sometimes extra support is needed by families so they can provide consistent and appropriate care for their children. Families can ask for support in finding and getting that help from any practitioner they are involved with. This could be a health visitor, GP, school or voluntary organisation. The support could include, for example, parenting courses or groups.

Targeted support

There are times when the challenges of family life become complex, and families may need some bespoke support for a period of time. Targeted support focuses on the specific needs the family to help them make positive changes.

Families can ask for help through the Surrey Children's Single Point of Access (C-SPA). Or ask a practitioner working with them to complete a request for support form.

The C-SPA will decide which service can best support the family and pass the information on. For a professional to request support from another service, families must have agreed that they would welcome the extra help and given consent to share their information.

Practitioners will refer to the Continuum of Support when making a request to help identify what level of support would best meet the needs of the family. The Continuum of Support updates and replaces the Effective Family Resilience levels of need.

What do targeted support services offer?

Depending on the age range of your children and the support you need, one of the following services may be offered:

Early help assessments and plans

Typically, the first step when receiving Targeted Support is for an Early Help Assessment to be completed. This will help you and those working with you to identify your family's strengths and what you would like to be different. It also acts as a summary of your family situation, so you don't have to keep repeating yourself to practitioners. Our Early Help Assessment one minute guide (PDF) has more information.

Practitioners carrying out an Early Help Assessment can also refer to the Early Help Assessment practitioner guidance (PDF).

A plan is then put together using this information to help you achieve the changes you want to make; this is called an Early Help Plan. Other information may also be added, for example if your child has a SEND Support Plan. You will be involved in writing this plan and where appropriate your child or young person will be involved as well. It will be regularly reviewed to ensure services are offering the right support and that you are making progress towards your goals.

What do families say about the early help assessment?

  • "Don't be afraid to ask for help"
  • "It can help children of all ages"
  • "I felt listened to and understood"
  • "It makes people aware that you need some extra help"

What is a Team Around the Family (TAF) meeting?

A TAF meeting brings together you and all the practitioners working with you so that your Early Help Plan can be reviewed. Things that have gone well can be celebrated and changes can be made where things aren't working as well. These meetings are to make sure you are getting the support that you need to achieve the goals you have set for you and your family. If it is helpful for you, your wider family and friends and any others that are part of your own network of support can be invited.

Our TAF meeting one minute guide (PDF) has more information about what to expect from these meetings.

Who helps to organise the support?

If a number of people are providing support to your family, one will act as the lead practitioner or child champion (PDF). This is the person who will keep you informed, listen to your views and support you. They will also coordinate the TAF review meetings.

Files available to download

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