Children's Social Care
Changes have been made to the ‘front door’ of Children’s Social Care with the development of a new role, the Early Help Advisors.
Practitioners will now be offered the opportunity to have a consultation with an Early Help Advisor as well as making a safeguarding referral.
These consultations are available regarding children and young people who are not currently open to Children’s Services or have a Team Around the Child (TAC) plan in place.
Should the practitioner require support regarding a child or young people who has a TAC plan in place, then the practitioner will be directed to discuss their concerns directly with the Lead Professional within the TAC. This is more fully explained on Pathway 1 within the LSCB’s ‘Meeting the Needs of the children in Lincolnshire’ threshold document.
Again should the child or young person be an open case to Children’s Social Care and have an allocated worker, then the practitioner will be directed to discuss their concerns to with the allocated worker.
The Early Help Advisors will also be responsible for screening all safeguarding referrals.
Early Help Advisors
An Early Help Advisor is a Social Worker who is available to all practitioners to provide case consultation in relation to the early help that they are providing to vulnerable children in Lincolnshire.
Any professional at an early help level who has contact with children, young people and their families can have a consultation with an Early Help Advisor. The child/young person must live in Lincolnshire for the consultation to take place.
Practitioners will ring the same central Customer Service Centre number 01522 782111. Practitioners will speak to the call advisors who will briefly establish the nature of any concerns and will be asked whether the call is requesting a consultation with an Early Help Advisor or whether they want to make a safeguarding referral to the Children’s Social Care.
If the caller would like a consultation with an Early Help Advisor they will receive a call back within one working day.
If the caller opts to make a safeguarding referral the call advisor will continue to take the referral through the normal process.
It is important that the practitioner decides first whether there is a safeguarding concern. Their designated lead for safeguarding and the LSCB’s ‘Meeting the Needs of the children in Lincolnshire’ threshold document can help with this decision.
If the practitioner believes there is a risk of significant harm then they should make a safeguarding referral rather than requesting consultation with an Early Help Advisor.
When a safeguarding referral is received by Children’s Social Care the Local Authority has one working day to make a decision about the type of response required. The Early Help Advisor will screen the referral, using the ‘Meeting the Needs of the children in Lincolnshire’ document, alongside other supporting documents and information. The practitioner will be required to complete the Safeguarding Referral Form as written confirmation of their referral. And send this via secure email (or post) to the locality area team as directed by the call advisor at the time of their referral.
If the concerns do not meet the threshold for a social work assessment under the Children Act (1989) the referrer will be informed by letter. The practitioner may be advised by the Early Help Advisor to consider early help support which will be detailed within the outcome letter.
The practitioner may then decide they would then like a consultation with an Early Help Advisor regarding their next steps. If they would like a consultation the practitioner will call Customer Services Centre as detailed above and they will be called back within one working day.
The practitioner can also discuss any screening decisions given regarding their safeguarding referral with an Early Help Advisor, however no Early Help consultations can occur at this time, only a discussion regarding the outcome given.
Early Help Consultation
The consultation with the Early Help Advisor will focus on guiding and supporting the practitioner in their professional role to safeguard vulnerable children. The consultation will engage the practitioner about the needs of the child or young person and the early help being provided in order to establish what further support may be required.
The Early Help Advisor will support practitioners in their decision making. They will not take on cases themselves or facilitate safeguarding referrals into Children’s Social Care. The practitioner will be directed back to Customer Service Centre to make a safeguarding referral.
The Early Help Advisor can help practitioners consider a range of assessment tools to help inform or identify needs or generally offer safeguarding support to practitioners.
Professionals will be asked to provide their name, job role and contact details and the name of the child if consent has been obtained. If consent as not been obtained from parents or carers with parental responsibility to share personal details the Early Help Advisors will only be able to provide practitioners with a hypothetical consultation and this could impact on the quality of the advice been given.
The publication Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners and managers (2008) can support front line practitioners with making decisions about sharing personal information on a case by case basis.
Whilst it is not essential and it will depend on the individual circumstances of the consultation it may be helpful that practitioners complete an Early Help Assessment before requesting consultation. At the very least the practitioner should complete the Early Help Discussion Form (found in attachments) to assist with the consultation.
The Early Help Assessment (EHA) is the early help assessment form that has developed through consultation in Lincolnshire and is endorsed by the LSCB to support the provision of early help. Other types of professional assessment may be helpful where there is sufficient information and analysis to inform professional decision making.
The Early Help Advisors cannot log concerns on behalf of practitioners for the purpose of building a picture of a child or young person’s circumstances.
They will however record details of the child/ young person, the professional they have spoken to and a summary of the consultation and a copy of this will be sent securely to the practitioner for their records.
The consultation is recorded and copied to the practitioner to ensure transparency and to check and ensure that there is a shared understanding between the Early Help Advisor and practitioner.
This recorded information will be referred to where there are subsequent early help consultations for the child or young person and may be accessed by the Children’s Social Care Team if there is a subsequent safeguarding referral.
The information may also be used for auditing the effectiveness of the Early Help Offer in Lincolnshire.