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2.3 Early help
Providing ‘early help’ is more effective in promoting the welfare of children than reacting when problems become more serious. This help may be needed at any point in a child’s life, from early to teenage years.
All professionals, particularly those in universal services, should be alert to signs that a child may require early help. This may include a child who:
- is disabled and has specific additional needs
- has special educational needs
- is a young carer
- is showing signs of engaging in anti-social or criminal behaviour, including gang involvement and association with organised crime groups
- is frequently missing/goes missing from care or from home
- is at risk of modern slavery, trafficking or exploitation
- is at risk of being radicalised or exploited
- is in a family circumstance presenting challenges for the child, such as drug and alcohol abuse, adult mental health problems and domestic violence
- is misusing drugs or alcohol themselves
- has returned home to their family from care
- is a privately fostered child.
If a professional identifies a need for early help, they have a responsibility to share that information and work together with other agencies to provide children with the support they need. Indeed, effective early help relies upon local agencies working together to:
- identify children and families who would benefit from early help
- assess the need for early help, and
- provide targeted early help services to address the assessed needs of a child and their family in order to improve outcomes for the child.
Further guidance is available in the thresholds/level of need criteria guidance in Section 3 of these procedures. These explain the inter-agency processes for early help assessments and the type of early help services provided.