Everyone knows that a little bit of help at the right time can make all the difference. Early help is all about providing that help to families who, for whatever reason, find that they’re struggling. It’s important that families know that it’s ok to ask for help. Raising a family is a difficult job and it’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to look for help to get back on track.
Providing help as soon as a problem emerges, at any stage of a child or young person’s life, stops that problem from escalating and is much more effective than reacting to it later on.
Early help applies to the period from before a baby is born right up to age 25, and that help could be related to any aspect of life. That help might take the form of simply sign-posting information and advice. Or, it might mean organising some more practical help, whether that’s parenting support, help with benefits or housing.
Organisations involved in Early Help
There are all sorts of organisations and agencies involved in early help, including the council, health, police and schools.
It works best when all those organisations are working together with families. The first step is often when a professional identify a young person who may benefit from some support. But more and more we want to encourage families to approach professions themselves when they think there’s a need, whether that’s a teacher, a GP or a youth worker.
Early Help Assessment documentation is shared across all the agencies, meaning that people shouldn’t have to tell their stories more than once. The whole process starts with a conversation that aims to capture what’s going well, what could be going better, and what issues are most important to you and your family. The resulting early help plan should be coordinated across all those involved and help families and communities develop the capabilities to prevent and resolve problems themselves. It applies as much to a child with SEND as it does to a child with welfare concerns, and may help shape the SEN Support arrangements for a child as part of a school’s graduated response and review process.
You can find more information on Early Help Assessments and supporting documents here
Somerset Council and partners have produced the SEND Effective Support Working Guideline for practitioners who are working with children and young people with SEND and their Families. This document sets out our collective responsibilities and provides practical guidance with a step-by-step guide to the range of support that can be accessed at Early Help and SEND Support.