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Early Help - Who's Responsibility

Key findings

  • In all the local authority areas visited, arrangements were in place to provide early help to children and their families.
  • Partner agencies in those places inspected were committed to an early help approach and improving the coordination of the local early help offer.
  • Opportunities to provide early help for children and their families were missed by all statutory partners with a responsibility for this.
  • Many assessments were ineffective because they failed to sufficiently analyse or focus on what the child and family needed.
  • Professionals did not always identify or meet the individual needs of children within a family. Early help plans did not focus sufficiently on the child, often lacked clear objectives, failed to specify what needed to change and were not regularly or robustly reviewed.
  • Management oversight of early help was often underdeveloped and failed to identify or rectify weaknesses in the work being undertaken.
  • When children were referred to social care services because there were concerns about their welfare, the service or referrer often did not consider or follow through the need for early help. As a result, nothing was put in place to prevent the child’s circumstances from deteriorating. This led to further referrals for statutory social care support.
  • Too often, feedback on referrals was neither sought nor offered.
  • Partner agencies did not fully evaluate the impact and effectiveness of their early help services.
  • The planning of local services did not sufficiently recognise or address the needs of children living with parental substance misuse, mental ill health or domestic abuse.
  • LSCBs were not effectively overseeing or challenging partner agencies with regard to effective early help.
  • The current statutory framework does not give sufficient clarity and priority to the roles and responsibilities of individual agencies for early help provision.
  • The inability to sufficiently prioritise and resource early help across agencies meant that lessons learned from serious case reviews were not being fully addressed.