What is Early Help?
Whilst most children and their families in Oxfordshire are able to have a good quality of life with minimal additional support from public services, there are some who find life more difficult for a variety of reasons. At different times in their lives, children, young people and their families in these circumstances may need additional support and help from universal, targeted and specialist services.
There is strong evidence that helping families early and providing support at the right time at the right place can reduce the likelihood of problems escalating and improve long term outcomes for children, young people and their families. This enables families to move on from difficulty and lead happier and healthier lives.
Early help can make the biggest difference when support for families is provided before problems escalate. The concept of early help, or early intervention as it is sometimes known, reflects the widespread recognition that it is better to identify and resolve problems early, rather than to respond when difficulties have become acute, and demand action by more expensive and specialist services.
Working with a child and their family to address their needs early can reduce risk factors (the worries) and increase protective factors (what is working well). Protective factors can reduce risk to a child's wellbeing and includes:
- Developing strong social and emotional skills
- Having a strong social support network for the family
- Support for good parental mental health
- Having good income support, access to benefits and advice
- Having access to good community services and facilities
Providing early help to children and families is a priority for Oxfordshire County Council and its partners. Together we are committed to ensuring children and families get the right help and support at the earliest opportunity.
We want every child, young person and family to get the help and support they need to succeed as early as possible. This is what we call Early Help. Early Help needs for Children and Families can be identified using the Early Help Assessment and Team Around the Family tools - please visit the EHA/TAF page for more information.
To support families and partner agencies with Early Help, Oxfordshire has a Locality Community Support Service that gives advice and support in relation to the Early Help Assessments and Team Around the Family meetings that are a vital tool in supporting Early Help in the community.
The Locality and Community Support Service (LCSS) is part of Children's Services. LCSS are the first point of contact where non-immediate safeguarding concerns are identified.
The LCSS provides advice and guidance to universal professional partner agencies including schools, health and voluntary and community groups, across Oxfordshire when emerging concerns are raised for children that do not require an immediate safeguarding response.
LCSS also provide advice, support and signposting to parents who can contact LCSS directly to talk through any concern or support need. LCSS may complete Early Help Assessments (EHA) directly with families or identify professionals, that have existing relationships with the family to complete the EHA e.g. a member of school staff, a health visitor. Please go to the EHA page to find out more about how an EHA can support families.
LCSS aim to support families at the earliest opportunity when needs arise and encourage professionals and parents to contact LCSS to discuss needs so that advice can be offered and appropriate support identified to prevent escalation of need, whenever possible.
Professionals - when to contact LCSS
You should contact the Locality Community Support Service if you:
- Have emerging concerns for a child that does not require an immediate safeguarding response
- Need support or guidance with an Early Help Assessment or Team Around the Family
- Wish to complete a No Names Consultation
- Discuss your concerns with the family
- Gain advice from LCSS with family's knowledge
- If you wish to discuss a concern without a family’s consent you can gain advice via a No Names Consultation only
If LCSS are supporting you with a family and immediate safeguarding concerns arise, you must call the MASH immediately.
The role of the LCSS
LCSS will work with parents and professionals (including community and voluntary partners) and provide the following services:
- Advice, guidance and signposting to parents
- Advice and guidance to all community professionals who have concerns about a child or family, which is not an immediate safeguarding concern (these should be referred straight to the MASH)
- A named link worker to specific organisations for example schools and GP
- A No Names Consultation service which enables professionals to talk through concerns for children where there is no consent from the family
- Support professionals when a MASH enquiry does not lead to a Statutory Children’s Services referral , to ensure that Early Help Assessment (EHA) (previously CAF)/Team Around the Family (TAF) processes are in place within the community
- Support professionals/families to access targeted Early Help support within Children's Services to ensure children get the right support at the right time
- Review all Early Help Assessments and support professionals to complete them where appropriate, and offer feedback to support on-going professional development
- Provide support to Lead Professionals and families, including the provision of advice and attendance at Team Around the Family meetings where appropriate
- Deliver Early Help Assessment & Team around the Family training to ensure plans are child centred and family focussed. In addition the team will facilitate local network and training events in response to your area's need
- Share information of the services/resources available to partners which can be used to support children and families within their locality
- If the family has an EHA/TAF and non-immediate safeguarding concerns arise that require a referral to Children's Social Care (CSC) the LCSS worker, if in support, will initiate this referral into CSC with the knowledge of the family
No Names Consultations
A No Names Consultation enables professionals to talk through concerns they have for children when there is not an immediate safeguarding concern and where there is no consent from the family..
Please contact 0345 050 7666 during the following times: Monday - Thursday; 8.30am – 5pm, Friday; 8.30am – 4pm.
Advice and support
The LCSS Teams will provide advice and support to professionals and families on Early Help Assessments (EHA) and Team around the Family (TAFs). They will also be responsible for the storage, reviewing and feedback to professionals on EHAs and TAFs completed.
All EHAs and TAF minutes will need to be sent to your local LCSS team. To find out more about EHA/TAF processes including documents please go to: Multi-Agency Toolkit - Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (oscb.org.uk)