Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) have adapted the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) and created the Early Help Assessment (EHA). The change responds to feedback from partner agencies and families that a more user friendly assessment was required. The EHA has been created using feedback from young people, parents and professionals across Oxfordshire.
OCC and partner agencies want all children and young people to have the best start in life and receive the on-going support that they and their families need to fulfil their potential.
Services for all children and young people (such as schools, colleges, early years settings, health visiting) have a key role in promoting wellbeing and preventing problems. For the majority of children and young people high quality universal services will enable them to achieve good outcomes and reach their full potential.
How does an Early Help Assessment help me?
We all need help sometimes and that’s ok. An Early Help Assessment (EHA) starts with a chat with you and a Professional who may already be involved with your child such as a Nursery, a School or Health. It can be an opportunity to talk about things that are worrying you such as things at home with your family, health, or finances. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. An EHA is a good way of us working together with you to ensure you receive the right support at the right time.
A Whole Family Approach
Improved outcomes are achieved for children and families by having a whole family approach, where children and young people are not viewed in isolation and, wherever appropriate, action is taken to address issues that affect the whole family. Therefore, the professional you speak to may ask your consent to speak with other professionals/services that support your family. This means that support can be co-ordinated more easily and again helps to ensure you receive the right support at the right time.
What is an Early Help Assessment?
After your first discussion with the Professional involved, It may be that an Early Help Assessment is needed, so with your consent, an EHA will be started and completed with you by a Professional. It will highlight the strengths of your family as a whole, the areas you feel could be better and any worries you may have about you or your family. By deciding together what support you feel you all need, an action plan is decided and put together between you and the Professional about what happens next. The EHA helps to identify what support you want and helps plan how best we can work together to make changes. It may be that other supporting agencies are referred to and become involved to help you.
All families have a ‘Lead Professional’. The Lead Professional is the main person that works with the family and keeps them updated, they are responsible for holding meetings bringing everyone together, which we call a Team Around the Family meeting, ensuring discussions are recorded and making sure the plan for you and your family is working.
If a young person wants to complete an EHA without consent of their parents, then professionals involved need to use the Fraser Guidelines to help assess whether a child has the maturity to make their own decisions and to understand the implications of those decisions.
If you wish to see a copy of what EHA and Team Around the Family paperwork looks like please go to: Multi-Agency Toolkit - Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (oscb.org.uk)
Voice of the Child
It is important that your family as a whole are involved in the Early Help Assessment and as well as your perspective, it is vital that your children are included as well, to capture ‘The Voice of the Child’ which means to understand their views, their wishes and feelings and make sure that (where possible) their views are acted on as part of the action plan.
The EHA and TAF meeting documents will not take place or be shared without your consent. All EHA and TAF documents are sent into The intention would be to share the EHA with the people involved as information sharing between agencies is important as it will assist the process and it means that you will receive a complete service from agencies that might be identified as being required to offer your family support e.g. a health visitor, the school pastoral worker, finance support
Do you need my consent to discuss my family?
Yes we do. To ensure you have the right support, we will need your consent as the Parent/ Carer of the children to share your information. If a young person wants support without consent of their parents/carers, then professionals involved need to use the Fraser Guidelines to help assess whether a child has the maturity to make their own decisions and to understand the implications of those decisions.
The Early Help Access Point will hold information about you and your family which will include Names, Dates of Birth, Address and contact details and a record of what has been discussed. We will always ensure we follow General Data Protection Regulations, which means we will store your information safely and securely. There maybe times when the Law requires us to share information without asking your consent, for example, if there was any safeguarding concerns or to prevent a crime.
Team Around the Family (TAF) Meetings
After the Early Help Assessment is started, TAF meetings will take place around every 6-12 weeks with you, your family members and the professionals involved to ensure that the action plan is working well and to look at what else needs to happen. It is important that you feel that agencies are working with you as they are there to make things better.
A Team Around the Family (TAF) takes a think family approach and considers the whole family to ensure best outcomes for children, by co-ordinating the support they receive from children’s, young people’s, adults’ and family services. A child never exists individually and exists in a whole family unit which is important to consider when approaching a TAF meeting it is important that we work in a 'Think Family' way. This means ensuring there is:
- One lead professional – who acts as the main contact point for families and co-ordinates appropriate support
- One whole family assessment - which considers the needs of all family members, and how these interrelate, but which also retains a central focus on the wellbeing and safety of children
- One family plan – which all involved agencies and the family are working towards. This plan should be developed in partnership with both services and family members, should consider the family's expressed wishes, and should clearly articulate the desired outcomes to address identified concerns.
The team works together to plan co-ordinated support from agencies to address problems in a holistic way. The family and child/children will be an integral part of the process to develop the action plan.
- The TAF is part of the EHA process and comes after the EHA has been completed
- The TAF may support several children in a family
- The Early Help Assessment is key to identifying who should be part of the TAF
Forming/during the TAF
- Following a EHA assessment if a multi-agency response is required a TAF should be arranged by the EHA author
- The child or young person and/or their parent/carer must be kept at the centre of the process
- Invite relevant practitioners as identified through the EHA assessment and through discussion with the family
- Discuss the lead professional role before the TAF
- When appropriate a Social Worker will coordinate and lead an exit from social care to a TAF and may invite the Locality Community Support worker along to support in the beginning stages from statutory to community based support
TAF materials, including practitioners and managers guides are available on the OSCB website.
- TAF review notes are sent to all who attended or sent apologies
- TAF Team deliver agreed actions
- Monitor and review progress: TAF team liaise with Lead Professional
Send all minutes of the TAF to your LCSS team to store
Ending of an Early Help Assessment / Closing the TAF
Over time, when things have got better for you and your family and all the actions have been met on the plan, the TAF can close and their final comments on their experience can be recorded
Send TAF notes and closure/evaluation forms completed by a TAF Team member and your family to the LCSS team:
Samuelson House, Tramway Rd, Banbury OX16 5AU
Knights Court, Between Towns Road, Cowley, Oxford, OX4 3LX
Abbey House, Abbey Close, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 3JD
Who can be the Lead Professional (LP)
- A professional who has experience and feels confident with EHA/TAF process (may have undertaken training)
- The professional who knows the family and the family are happy with this choice
- Many TAF processes require multiple reviews and during this period the Lead Professional role may need to change as the support changes
The EHA /TAF should be undertaken by a lead professional who can provide support to the child and family, act as an advocate on their behalf and coordinate the delivery of support services. The lead professional role could be undertaken by a General Practitioner (GP), family support worker, teacher, health visitor and/or special educational needs coordinator. Decisions about who should be the lead professional should be taken on a case by case basis and should be informed by the wishes of the child and their family.
All staff should be aware of the early help process, and understand their role in it. This includes identifying emerging problems, liaising with the designated safeguarding lead, sharing information with other professionals to support early identification and assessment and, in some cases, acting as the lead professional in undertaking an early help assessment.
- Decide who the lead professional should be prior to the first TAF meeting
- The decision should be made by the family and be reviewed according to which agencies need to remain around the family
- The LP is a single point of contact for the child, young person and family
- The LP is a single point of contact for all practitioners working with a child
- Convene the TAF meetings to enable integrated multi-agency support
- Coordinate delivery of solution focused actions and ensure regular reviews
- Identify where others may need to be involved and broker involvement
- Continue support, if appropriate, when specialist assessments are needed
- Support the child/young person through key transition points
- Ensure a safe and planned handover if a different LP is agreed and more appropriate
Lead professional materials, including practitioners' and managers' guides, factsheets and details about the role are available on the OSCB website.
Myth Busting for Lead Professionals
The Lead Professional
- Does not need any particular qualifications and will not be expected to work outside their usual remit
- Does not become responsible for the needs of the entire family
- Does not have to be solely responsible for taking the minutes – this can be shared as a collective group on a rotational basis
- Is not responsible or accountable for actions by other practitioners or services in the TAF
- Is not automatically the person who initiated the EHA
- Does not need any particular qualifications and will not be expected to work outside their usual remit
Management for Lead Professionals and the TAF
Lead professionals should expect managers to ensure:
- Lead Professional responsibilities are taken into account when setting caseloads
- Performance in delivering the Lead Professional functions is recognised and recorded
- Clear communication between agencies to support Lead Professional practice
- Appropriate and up to date training and supervision is provided along with coaching and mentoring where appropriate
TAF practitioners should also expect support to fulfil their responsibilities
The Locality and Community Support Service will deliver Early Help Assessment and Team Around the Family training on behalf of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (OSCB) These training dates replace previous CAF/TAF training.
For future dates and to book onto these courses please visit: http://www.oscb.org.uk/booking-training/
If you have a concern about a child/family but it is not an immediate safeguarding concern, then you should refer to the Threshold of Needs matrix, which can be found on the OSCB website. This tool is designed to support professionals to make decisions as to whether contact needs to be made with Childrens Services and if so which team.
If after consulting the Threshold of Need, you still have concerns for a child that does not require an immediate safeguarding response, then you should contact your Locality and Community Support Service to discuss.
Targeted Early Help Referral Route
LCSS will work with partners to identify those families who require additional support from the Targeted Early Help Team.