Early Help Recommissioning outcome


Surrey County Council commenced the recommissioning process for the provision of Family Centre and Family Resilience Services across the county in January 2022 in preparation for the existing contracts ending on 31 March 2024.

Through workshops, interviews and the involvement of Community Champions, views were gathered from children, young people, families and professionals about what they needed from Early Help services in Surrey. The key findings identified from this engagement work and the learning from the Early Help and Family Resilience Needs Assessment shaped how Early Help services will be delivered in Surrey.

The Family Centres contracts in Surrey support families to find solutions to the parenting and relationship challenges they face and to grow in confidence to manage future difficulties. The aim of the Family Centres is to help families build their own resilience and self-reliance. The Family Centres provide one-to-one family support where the family situation is having a significant impact on the health, development, or wellbeing of the child/ children. The centres work closely with health, community groups, and other commissioned services to ensure that families receive joined up support from key agencies.

Family Centres also offer parenting programmes and group activities about common issues, for example, strategies to help with family routines or keeping children safe. Individual family centre websites have a list of the services they offer and how to access them.


Existing contracts will continue until 31 March 2024, with most new providers taking over from 1 April 2024. The new provider in Spelthorne will take over from 1 June 2024.

We would like to provide reassurance that we are working with providers to ensure a smooth transition and are confident that families currently receiving the service will experience uninterrupted support and will not be negatively impacted by any change in provider.

Who will deliver the Family Centre and Family Resilience Services in Surrey from 1 April?

District and borough New provider
Epsom and Ewell Barnardo's
Elmbridge Spurgeons
Guildford Guildford Nursery School
Mole Valley YMCA East Surrey
Reigate and Banstead YMCA East Surrey
Runnymede Barnardo's
Spelthorne (from 1 June) Surrey Care Trust
Surrey Heath Barnardo's
Tandridge Barnardo's
Waverly Barnardo's
Woking Barnardo's

To find out more about the Family Centre and Family Resilience services, please email EH.commissioning@surreycc.gov.uk

Findings from our engagement

Early Help Partnership Forum: February 2023

In February 2023 Surrey County Council partnered with New Possibilities to facilitate an online Partnership Forum. The session focused on how as a partnership we can place children and families at the centre of Surrey's Early Help System and enhance partnership working.

The group was split into six breakout rooms to ensure everyone's voice was heard. Five questions were shared with participants before the session to allow time for consideration.


  1. If things could be exactly right for families how would things have to change?
  2. If you didn't hold back on putting families at the centre, what would you be doing?
  3. If you knew that a collaborative approach was the best way to respond to an invitation to tender, how would you support it?
  4. If you found out that another organisation was successful in a tender that you had gone for, how would you respond to ensure the family remain at the centre?
  5. What are you assuming is unrealistic about putting the family at the centre of the commissioning process?

Key themes established during the session

  • Inclusion and Accessibility
  • Multiagency Partnership Working
  • Whole Family Approach Resources and Funding
  • Contractual Obligations
  • Trust and Reliability Simplicity
  • Data and Knowledge Sharing

Market Engagement Sharing, learning and next steps: March 2023

In March 2023 Surrey County Council hosted two virtual market engagement workshops.

The purpose of these sessions were:

  • To share the knowledge Surrey County Council has collated through research, engagement and co-design sessions
  • To outline a potential commissioning model
  • Gather participants views and feedback via breakout room
  • Provide a high-level timeframe for the recommission and next steps

The following agenda items were discussed:

  • The Early Help Continuous Improvement Programme Journey to date
  • What we have learned so far
  • An outline on our thoughts around a potential commissioning model
  • Provide you with the opportunity to share your feedback
  • Provide high-level timeframe and next steps
  • Market Engagement Feedback

The following questions were asked (in virtual breakout rooms)

  1. What do you like about the proposals?
  2. What do you think requires further consideration?
  3. Do you think having a longer contract term would be helpful?
  4. Do you have any concerns?
  5. What are your hopes and fears for the commissioning process going forward?

The following feedback themes/ responses were gathered:

What do you like the Recommissioning Proposals?
  • The principles of the model
  • A Lead Provider in each geographical District and Borough area
  • Longer Contracts
  • Partnership working
  • Children and Family Centred approach
What do you think requires further consideration?
  • Funding
  • Communication
  • Lead Provider
  • Staffing
  • Whole family approach
Do you think having a longer contract term would be helpful?
Partners stated that longer contracts enable long term investment in training staff. Providers highlighted that longer contracts involve obtaining longer building leases
Partners noted that having a 5-to-7-year contract with extension options provides staff with stability and assurance of service Partners raised concerns about managing inflation over a longer term.
Partners believe longer contract terms will help provide families with a sense of familiarity as providers have more time to embed into the community. Partners want more information including legal implication that need to be considered and complexities involved in having longer contracts.
Providers said that longer contracts will improve staff morale and retention. It would also help with recruitment as possible recruits could have longer contracts. NA
Do you have any concerns?
  • Staffing
  • Funding
  • Communication
  • Lead Provider Model
  • Whole family approach
What are your hopes for the commissioning process going forward?
  • Partners hope families do not experience any negative changes through periods of transition.
  • Partners want the recommissioning to make it easier for children, young people and families to get help.
  • Partners hope that processes and paperwork does not hinder the time that could be spent supporting children, young people and families.
  • Partners are looking forward to positive change and using the expertise of staff to support children, young people and families.
  • Partners want staff to continue to feel motivated
  • Partners noted the importance of implementing a smooth transition period.
  • Partners would like to see clear communication.
  • Partners want service specifications and outcomes to clearly define requirements and expectations.
  • Partners hope to see the details around the specification and tendering process shared as soon as possible.
Joint partnership working:
  • Partners want to continue working closely with Surrey County Council and the wider Early Help System.
  • Partners hope for a successful implementation of lead-provider and sub-contractor model.
  • Partners would welcome greater partnership working with health colleagues.
  • Partners noted the importance of adopting a trauma informed approach to delivering services.
  • It is hoped that the lead provider model will help simplify the Early Help System at a D&B level and enhance greater collaboration between organisations.
  • Partners hope there is enough funding to ensure children, young people and families receive the support they need.
  • Partners hope that there are enough resources to help manage the increasing demand.

What are your fears for the recommissioning process going forward?

  • Partners are worried political changes could negatively impact how Early Help is delivered in Surrey.
  • Partners are worried about losing their contracts and being unable to deliver current services.
  • Partners fear losing relationships already built through partnership working.
  • Partners have raised concerns around the cost of changing delivery of services being too high.
  • Partners fear negative impact on staff morale due to a fear of change.
  • Partners fear that a lack of regular meetings between multiagency partners might hinder partnership working.

Market Engagement Events June 2023

In June 2023 Surrey County Council held a further market engagement event, the following agenda items were covered during the session

  • Progress to date
  • Themes from previous Market Engagement events
  • Commissioning approach
  • Contract and performance management
  • Timetable for recommissioning
  • Funding position
  • Social Value and Sustainability
  • How to bid
  • Questions
  • Next Steps

A detailed question and answer document was submitted following the session.

Early Help Workshops June 2023

In June 2023 a series of workshops were carried out with Practitioners in Woking regarding how they create a joined-up way of working.

Workshop 1: What is working well in Woking

  • Individuals are bought into a shared vision; they understand how their work ties into the wider system and council's ambition in Woking. Partners are treated as equals.
  • There is a shared cultural belief that organisations can achieve more when they work together, and a "can do" attitude which seeks to problem solve creatively and collectively. Staff have permission to take risks and make mistakes.
  • Relationships are built between people (not necessarily organisations) through face-to-face networking events, informal chats, and shared working spaces. There are key individuals who are considered more inter-connected, and they play a key role in putting new people in contact with the wider system.
  • Local resources/ assets are utilised effectively, which enables/ promotes collaboration, avoids duplication, and lowers costs.
  • Challenges in Woking include families/ parents not being active in asking for help, GDPR/ confidentiality considerations, emphasis on word-of-mouth signposting to support/ services
Voluntary community and faith sector (VCFS) small groups: key themes identified

Small groups were held with organisations/ practitioners who were not at the first workshop, to capture their experiences of early help in Woking and what works well.

  • Core group of partners who are in it for the long term, coming together. Difficult with seed funding/ roles that go in a couple of years.
  • All partners come together without feeling the need to protect their own resources.
  • Partners bring their 'whole self and gifts' to the community without having to guard their own ethos for example to leave their religion on the doorstep.
  • Everyone has the same goals in mind. Relationships are key. This is done by building trust. Everyone makes the effort to keep people informed about what is going on locally and signposts to these activities.
  • Trust is built by doing things together. Volunteers who signpost and help people find any help they need. Place for parents to meet and support each other. Not just talking or knowing who people are.
  • Workers/ volunteers in Sheerwater care about their work and people in the community. Great place to work.
  • 'Need' brings people together. When residents cannot meet their own needs within their own resources, they look outward for support. Organisations understand the local need even if this is not articulated fully by residents and come together to meet that need.
  • There is a 'networked/ webbed community'. This is working well horizontally but not vertically across the system.
  • Multi-purpose buildings/ hub-type spaces interwoven with the community that enable people to get the help they need without being stigmatised.

Workshop 2: mapping networks and connections

We had a networking session, and discussed the different networks, roles, and relationships that exist, plus any gaps and what connections you would like to build further.

  • Redeeming Our Communities (ROC) community group
  • Family Centre (for under 11 years)
  • Schools
  • Sheerwater Together
  • Early Help Hub
  • Parent SEND support group
  • Cluster meetings
  • Morecroft community group
  • Early Help prototype meetings
  • Informal networks/ pop-up cafĂ©
  • Mindworks
  • Woking together for Woking
  • Lakeview Community Action group
  • Church and interfaith groups
Key roles
  • Community Connectors
  • Health, for example, GPs, Wellbeing Advisor
  • Health Link Worker
  • Head of Family and Community services, Woking Borough Council
  • ROC Woking
  • Locality Early Help Advisors
  • Community Link Officers
Success factors
  • Permission for curiosity, autonomy and flexibility (ethos of organisations)
  • Culture of 'can do' from the top
  • Passionate practitioners/ volunteers
  • Holistic approach to providing support, and signposting to other organisations
  • Strong community/ Thrive
  • Volunteer training
  • Intentional networking
  • Face-to-face meetings/ co-location
  • Respect and trusting relationships
  • Clear communication

Workshop 3: reviewing the principles

We reviewed the Time for Kids principles and shared the first draft of the principles of working in Woking with you (drafted based on our previous workshop conversations) and explored whether you felt these accurately reflected your experiences. The principles below are the final version.

  • Shared vision for supporting families: partners are committed to helping families early and are positive about the change this will bring. Their individual and collective contribution is recognised and valued by the Early Help support network.
  • Effectiveness through relationships: partners feel connected to other services, organisation, and community groups in the Early Help support network. Being part of the network brings people together around families and communities, which helps them to feel that they belong.
  • Being curious: partners are curious in their work with families and proactive in finding out more about the wider network of support and what is available for families.
  • Strong partner relationships are intentional: formal and organic networking opportunities between partners and communities are inclusive, proactively sought out, and followed up on.
  • Effective collaboration between partners: local spaces and resources are shared where possible, and partners signpost to other services ,organisations and community groups. This creates consistency of support for families.
  • Continuous development: individuals, organisations and community groups come together to learn from each other's experience and celebrate achievements. From this they take positive action to improve the support provided to families, working towards a more positive future for families.
  • Trusted partners: partners trust each other to put families' needs first. Trust is built from open communication and working closely together to find the best solutions with families.
  • Supportive organisations: partners are empowered to creatively and flexibly problem-solve, and are trusted to work closely with each other to provide the appropriate support and advice to families.
  • Strong presence in the community: there is a purposeful approach to create trust in communities and finding key representatives in communities to support this. This enables effective signposting to information and other support, as well as making it easier for families to identify and access support.

Workshop 4: turning enablers and barriers to working into positive action

We focused on topics raised at previous workshops: information sharing, empowering practitioners, assets, and networking and connecting. We mapped the enablers and barriers for these, and started to think about turning these into actions.

Information sharing
Being intentional about it and informing families that is what you are doing Fear of doing the wrong thing
Clear and accessible information for families Language, terminology and interpretation
Early Help Partnership board and meetings Different data recording systems/ no shared
Family Information Service a good example Information not always shared consistently
Culture of information sharing NA
Networking and connecting
Network events/ interagency meetings Time –everyone so busy/staffing capacity
Incorporated into staff job descriptions

Difficulties finding information needed and lack of awareness of events

Shared spaces/buildings to support face-to-face meetings How to connect with informal networks?
Joint training and sharing of volunteers

WFH, rather than being in a physical workspace with networking opportunities

Creative and flexible approach NA
Wide range of services available to residents for example, Level 2 Early Help, libraries, family centre, the Lighthouse, Jigsaw hub, and transport Financial assets can be difficult, for example, parking
Multiple shared buildings across the borough Limited activities for early years, 8 to 11 years and 16 plus.
Multicultural offering Lack of (free) spaces available; some previously free now charge
Passionate volunteers Council offices/ churches sometimes carry stigma
NA Geography; distance between services
Empowered practitioners
Face-to-face multi-agency meetings Lack of resources, capacity, funding for training
Shared vision Poor communication
Management support for partnerships joint events Some agencies not understanding social care
Access to resources through partners Staff turnover
Caseload management/ reflection time Out of date information
NA Little time for face-to-face interaction

Wider ranging actions

The following actions need to be discussed further at partnership level:

  1. Sign-up to a specific Early Help branding, which includes promoting the importance of networking and relationship building as part of the brand
  2. Development of data sharing agreement/ policy between agencies
  3. Early Help induction and training. Early Help training available through the Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership and Surrey Youth Focus which is county-wide. Find out more, including dates and upcoming sessions, on the Safeguarding Learning and Development for Partners webpage.
  4. Early Help/ Borough online forum/ space for professionals to post queries
  5. Family Information Service to develop an app (for professionals) to map services and support available to children and families across the area /county. Hub of Hope app (national mental health database).

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