Northumberland LSCB Logo


Top of page

Size: View this website with small text View this website with medium text View this website with large text View this website with high visibility

1.1.4 Northumberland Council Early Help Assessment and Quality Assurance Framework Policy and Procedure

RELATED LINK

Please see Northumberland County Council for Early Help forms and other information

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in February 2016. References to ‘Team around the Child’ were updated to ‘Team around the Family’. Annex 3: Early Help Assessment Audit Tool and Annex 4: Northumberland Quality Assurance Process for Early Help Assessment, were added. Section 2.2, Register, Consent and Completion of Early Help Assessments and Section 2.3, Early Help Review were significantly revised in line with revised local practice, and those sections should be re-read.


Contents

  1. Introduction and National Context
  2. Early Help Assessment Quality Assurance Framework Policy and Procedure

    Annex 1: Early Help Assessment Quality Checklist

    Annex 2: Early Help Assessment Review and Support Plan Quality Checklist

    Annex 3: Early Help Assessment Audit Tool

    Annex 4: Northumberland Quality Assurance Process for Early Help Assessment


1. Introduction and National Context

The Northumberland CAF Quality Assurance Framework Policy and Procedure was initially written in July 2011 in response to the report undertaken by Professor Eileen Munro: The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report, A child-centred system, published in May 2011.

The Munro report recognised the importance of sharing the responsibility for early intervention, i.e. the provision of early help.

The Munro review made 15 recommendations which aim to ensure that children are being effectively helped and protected. Although the Munro review made no specific reference to CAF, recommendation 10 is relevant to CAF and this guidance highlights the importance of sharing responsibility for the provision of early help.

Recommendation 10 outlines the following:

The Government should place a duty on all Local Authorities and statutory partners to secure the sufficient provision of local early help services for children, young people and their families. The arrangements which set out how they will do this should include:

  • Specify the range of professional help available to local children, young people and families, through statutory, voluntary and community services, against the local profile of need set out in the local Joint Strategic Needs Analysis (JSNA);
  • Specify how they will identify children who are suffering or who are likely to be suffering Significant Harm, including the availability of social work expertise to all professionals working with children, young people and families who are not being supported by Children's Social Care and specify the training available locally to support professionals working at the front line of universal services;
  • Set out local resourcing of the early help services for children, young people and families; and most importantly;
  • Lead to the identification of the early help that is needed by a particular child and their family, and to the provision of an "early help offer" where their needs do not meet the criteria for receiving children's social care services.

The Munro Review also sets out the principles of an effective child protection system, one of them being that "Early help is better for children by minimising the period of adverse experiences and improving the outcomes for children".

This is shared by the growing body of evidence of the effectiveness of early intervention with children and families and shares the view put forward by three other reviews led by Graham Allen MP (What works in Early Intervention), the Rt Hon Frank Field MP (Child Poverty and Disadvantaged Circumstances) and Dame Clare Tickell (Early Years Foundation Stage).

They have all independently reached similar conclusions around the importance of providing help at the earliest possible opportunity in order to improve outcomes for children, young people and families.

A key recommendation from the Munro Review is that local attention is given to the quality of assessments (reference is made to removing the distinction between Initial Assessments and Core Assessments) that inform next steps to safeguard and promote children's welfare and to the quality of the effectiveness of the support provided.

1.1 Why early help is better for children, young people and their families?

The Munro Review states that Child Protection systems could be viewed as being a reactive system, of responding to identified incidents of maltreatment and preventing their recurrence. Munro points out that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) clearly states that: "the child's right to protection from maltreatment places a duty on the State not just to react to incidents of maltreatment but to provide support to child and families to reduce the incidence".

Munro further asserts that preventative services will do more to reduce abuse and neglect than reactive services.

Munro also draws on research on child development which emphasises the importance of the early years (and as required throughout childhood to assist in the transition to adulthood) therefore preventative services to support families should be a central strategy for local authorities.

Munro refers to "Now or never" and highlights the position as to how difficult it is to reverse damage to children and young people's development. Munro also refers to finance and states that early help is more cost effective when compared with expenditure if more serious problems develop at a later stage(s) in the child's life.


2. Early Help Assessment Quality Assurance Framework Policy and Procedure

2.1 The Aim of the Early Help Assessment Quality Assurance Framework Policy

This aims to ensure that there are robust and effective multi-agency systems in place by:

  1. The strengthening of the centralised system for recording Early Help Assessment planning, Team Around the Family (TAF) meetings, Early Help Assessment reviews and closures and a system is in place to capture and evidence the outcomes for children, young people and their families;
  2. Testing out the threshold criteria for the use of Early Help Assessment;
  3. Measuring the quality of completed Early Help Assessments. This must include capturing and recording the disability of the child or young person when the Assessment is registered or completed;
  4. Monitoring the planning and the use of Lead Professional and the TAF meetings;
  5. Measuring and monitoring the use and quality of Early Help Assessment reviews;
  6. Ensuring systems are in place for the closure of Early Help Assessment;
  7. Reviewing the outcomes for children, young people and their families as a result of these processes;
  8. Identifying training and support needs in relation to effective use of Early Help Assessment;
  9. Finally, the setting up of a multi-agency evaluation team in Northumberland which will be established within the multi-agency Early Help Assessment Operational Managers Group.

2.2 Register, Consent and Completion of Early Help Assessments.

  1. Practitioners will seek signed consent from the parent or carer/child or young person (where appropriate) to share the Early Help Assessment by being registered and quality assured. If consent for quality assurance is not given, this will be recorded when the practitioner registers the Early Help Assessment on the database to reflect and respect this decision;
  2. The quality assurance role is led by the Manager of the Family Recovery Project/Early Help Assessment Lead and the multi-agency Early Help Assessment Evaluation Team;
  3. When the practitioner is registering the start of the Early Help Assessment they should be asked to email a copy of the document securely and with a password along with the Early Help Assessment Registration form. All Early Help Assessments. therefore will need to be typed;
  4. All practitioners should be made aware of the Early Help Assessment quality checklist (Annex 1: Early Help Assessment Quality Checklist) from their manager as a guide to ensure: first, that the threshold for completing an Early Help Assessment is appropriate and secondly, that they are meeting the requirements of a quality assessment. Practitioners will be advised to consult the Northumberland Multi-agency Threshold Document to assist them with this process;
  5. The Early Help data base team will set up an alert to follow up with the Early Help Assessment author at 6 weeks if the Early Help Assessment has not been sent in;
  6. The Early Help Assessment should be stored in a secure shared folder, accessible to only those who carry out the quality assurance and admin/systems support;
  7. Where the Early Help Assessment is of good quality once quality assured, it will be logged on the database;
  8. Where an Early Help Assessment does not meet the quality thresholds following a quality assurance audit it will be discussed with partners at the Early Help Subgroup via a quarterly report provided by the Early Help Co-ordinator. Specific feedback to particular agencies will be dealt with by the Early Help Assessment Manager;
  9. The Early Help Assessment Manager and the Early Help Assessment Evaluation Team will quality assure 5 Early Help Assessments at the end of the month by completing the quality assurance checklist;
  10. The Early Help Assessment audit spreadsheet will be used to record the outcome of the quality assurance.

2.3 Early Help Review

  1. If the assessment does not identify a review date, the Early Help Assessment data base team will set an automatic date 6 weeks from the date of assessment, inform the Early Help Assessment author/Lead Professional and set an alert against that date;
  2. Self Assessment - The Early Help Assessment author should use the review and support plan quality checklist (Annex 2: Early Help Assessment Review and Support Plan Quality Checklist ) as a guide to ensure they are meeting the requirements of quality delivery and review arrangements;
  3. The Early Help Assessment team require the Lead professional to email them the date of the next TAF meeting only. Copies of plans are not required to be sent into the database;
  4. Data will be collated by the Early Help Assessment database team and reported on a monthly basis by the Performance Management Team in relation to Early Help Assessment activity and quality.

2.4 Monitoring: Feedback from the Child, Young Person and Family

  1. A Northumberland service user feedback form will be used by practitioners to capture the views and experiences of the child, young person and family when closing an Early Help Assessment. These comments will be recorded on the Early Help Assessment data base.

2.5 Full Evaluation of the Early Help Assessment Process

  1. Monitoring - The multi-agency Evaluation Team will carry out an evaluation to measure the quality and effectiveness of the full Early Help Assessment process on a random selection of closed Early Help Assessment cases or cases that have been ongoing for a period of more than 12 months. The evaluation will be carried out on at least one case per month using a standard Early Help Assessment quality and effectiveness review form (see Annex 3: Early Help Assessment Audit Tool);
  2. Findings from the evaluation process will be fed back to the FACT Board to provide evidence around the impact of the Early Help Assessment process on outcomes for children, young people and families to inform the overall early intervention and prevention integrated working agenda;
  3. Findings from the evaluation process will be fed back to managers and service leads to inform the following:
    1. Identification of training needs;
    2. In-service management of the Early Help Assessment process;
    3. Tracking of outcomes for children, young people and families;
    4. Identification of issues for supervision;
  4. Findings from the evaluation process will be fed back to managers and partner agencies to inform improvements to existing training and identify gaps and new areas for development;
  5. Findings from the evaluation process will be fed back to relevant leads with reference to identified gaps in service provision and issues around service engagement;
  6. This would complete the Northumberland Early Help Assessment Performance Management and Quality Assurance Framework cycle.


Annexes

Click here to view Annex 1: Early Help Assessment Quality Checklist

Click here to view Annex 2: Early Help Assessment Review and Support Plan Quality Checklist

Click here to view Annex 3: Early Help Assessment Audit Tool

Click here to view Annex 4: Northumberland Quality Assurance Process for Early Help Assessment

End