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Call for local authorities to be legally bound to provide early help

The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) has called for the introduction of a new legal duty requiring local authorities to provide early help services.

In a new report, Supporting and strengthening families through provision of early help, published jointly by the NCB and the Universities of Cambridge and Kent, the authors found a range of positive outcomes for children and families for a range of different interventions to support and strengthen families. However, they also noted that there is a growing case for funding and delivering these services and that far more needs to be done to define and clarify the outcomes that the offer is intended to deliver.

The report concludes with the following recommendations:

HM Government should introduce a legal duty on local authorities and statutory safeguarding partners to provide early help to children and families. This should encompass a broad definition of early help, including support to alleviate the impact of poverty.

The Department for Education should seek to reduce variation in thresholds for early help by providing clear guidance and training on applying eligibility criteria.

HM Government should develop a national outcomes framework for early help services, building on the work of the Supporting Families programme. This framework should be coproduced with children and families.

HM Treasury should increase its funding in order to support implementation of this new duty, factoring in a local authority’s level of deprivation and current rates of interventions.

The impact of these measures should be rigorously evaluated over a number of years. In particular, this evaluation should focus on large linked data sets that assess children and family’s journeys through children’s social care and explore the outcomes for children and families of different social care interventions and support over time.

Read the full report here.