Early help assessments and plans FAQs

Frequently asked questions by professionals about early help assessments and plans.

The assessment is a simple way to help identify the needs of children and families, and make a plan to meet those needs. It has five main elements:

  • Consent
  • Assessment
  • Plan
  • Review
  • Closure

Together they provide a framework for multi-agency working with families that can be supported at Tier 2. The assessment helps useful conversations that identity risk and resilience to take place with the family network. It also helps identify which services may be appropriate for children, young people and families requiring support to further reduce the worries highlighted for the longer term.

You should start an assessment if you have tried to meet the child or young person’s needs from within the full range of universal provision, without progress or success.

You now need to get additional support from other services. You need to decide whether the needs identified can be met by involving one other service, or if multiple services may be required. Discuss your concerns with the family (and young person as appropriate). You need their consent to share information with another agency to get additional support.

If you decide the child or young person’s need can be met from one other service and you have consent, you can refer to the service directly.

If you decide their needs require support from more than one service and you have consent, you will need to start an early help assessment with the family. You should check if there is a plan already in progress.

See also the working together to safeguard children guidance on assessing need and providing help, on the GOV.UK website.

  • Ask the family which agencies are involved, and if they have had a meeting before
  • Contact the agencies identified
  • The communities and partnership district teams can review all current recorded activity. They will be able to inform you if a plan already exists and liaise with lead worker so you can work together.
As soon as the family consent with the early help registration and have agreed to information sharing you can upload information. By registering and updating regular assessments and plans, our early help system can be used to monitor active support. Without this information, the opportunity for practitioners to liaise and avoid duplication is missed.  

An early help assessment is entirely voluntary. Informed consent is mandatory. Families do not have to engage and if they do, they can choose what information they want to share. If a family decline, it could be that they are not ready to acknowledge issues or address change.

  • Encourage them to think about what their family goals are and what they want for their child or children
  • Offer signposting to online services and helpline information
  • Give them your contact details and advise them that they can ask for a meeting to be initiated at a later date, if they change their mind

Children and families should not feel stigmatised by the process. This is an assessment in relation to the child or young person and family’s needs.

Please make sure any changes to consent are recorded so that the children records reflect the families wishes.

A good quality early help assessment will require information from the family, children and young people, their natural network and a number of agencies who may be offering support.

As lead worker, you do not need to know all the information required for the assessment yourself. However, you are expected to ask the family about other agencies they are working with. You should also identify who may have this information and co-ordinate all the different contributions into the assessment form.

A multi-agency meeting with a Signs of Safety mapping is the best way to start the conversation.

Here's a tip: Cut and paste the section a professional is required to complete. Send it to them securely. The information can be inserted into the original document when they return it.

We store all uploaded assessments and plans on the secure early help database if we have evidence of consent from the family members. If consent is withdrawn at any time, the files are closed.

The social care privacy notice should be shared with the family so they can be clear on where their information is stored and who has access.

If families request information held about them after support has ended, they need to make an information request.

Across the Norfolk county, early help assessment and plans can be randomly selected for audit, this includes those led by partner agencies where the is multi agency working. This audit is chaired by the district Local Safeguarding Children Group. Audits help identify examples of good practice and areas for development. The learning from these audits is shared with the partners involved and also informs the calendar of practice development sessions open to partners.

Provided the family have completed the early help registration and consent form, you can call meeting to gather information for the assessment and workers can give their contribution at this meeting. This can be useful if it has proved problematic and time intensive in obtaining all contributions.

For the family it helps promote open and honest conversations and ensures there are no surprises. These meetings are best facilitated using the Signs of Safety mapping tool to gather what’s working well, what worries family and professionals have and what needs to happen.

If you need further help contact the communities and partnership team in your district for advice.

Yes, if there have already been comprehensive assessments attach them as an appendix. It is important to ensure information in the appendix that is particularly relevant is highlighted or referenced within the current assessment.

An early help assessment is complete when all the information for the assessment has been gathered, the worry statement and safety goals have been agreed and the family understand their plan. At this stage you should upload the assessment to the website.

Upload early help assessments and plans here.

Being the lead worker of the assessment is about working with the family to help them identify their best support link. It may be that they choose the person they have the best relationship with and should be supported to enable them to have this choice. The people involved can contribute to the plan, but someone will need to take the lead on organising the assessment, plans, meetings and updating this information.

No. They have the responsibility to ensure the meeting is facilitated and recorded but can negotiate with others for someone else to take on this role. It may be the family wish to lead. If you need further advice on this, contact the communities and partnership team in your district.

The lead worker is responsible for calling the family network together, however responsibility at meetings with chairing and writing up plans and progress should be shared. It is not one person’s role.

A timescale for subsequent review meetings should be agreed at the end of each meeting. Every 6 weeks is suggested as good practice, but this is at the discretion of the family and agencies.

If you feel things are stuck and you need further advice, contact the communities and partnership team in your district.

No. You should use the family plan to capture the progress made against the family goals you have agreed. The goals should remain the same and provide a clear focus for the duration of the support - unless family circumstances change dramatically. Where goals are constantly changed we can see ‘case drift’ and a lack of progress or positive change.

Therefore at each review meeting the family goal should be used to create focused conversations - tracking progress towards these by using the scaling question to reveal any barriers and to help the family identify ways around them. The plan allows you to add actions - specifically who is doing what by when.

Yes, all completed plans should be uploaded to the website after each meeting. The early help database allows Children’s Service to track progress and keep a record of how children are being supported.

Upload early help assessments and plans here.

You can register for the training on the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership website.

If you would like to discuss a request for bespoke training or practice development, contact the communities and partnership team in your district.

The early help assessment training will help to give guidance on consent and the balance of family wishes. You may find information on the Information Commissioner's Office website in relation to consent within you setting helpful.