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Hertfordshire County Council

Step 1: Identify needs early and seek consent

When you identify that a child, young person and their family could benefit from a Families First Assessment (FFA), before you start or initiate a Families First Assessment, you should:

  • check who else is working with the child, young person or their family.
  • check whether a Families First Assessment already exists by contacting the Families First Helpdesk.
  • Whether to complete a Families First Assessment is a decision you must make jointly with the child or young person and/or their parent/carer. A young person aged 16 or over, or a child under 16 who has the capacity to understand and make their own decisions, may give (or refuse) consent for the assessment to take place. You should always encourage children under 16 to involve their parent/carer as appropriate – including if the young person is pregnant or already a parent. You must have explicit concern from the child, young person and/or their parent/carer before you can start the FFA.

Where the child or young person’s, or their parent/carer’s first language is not English, you should consider whether an interpreter is needed. There may also be other cultural issues to consider.

Step 2: Assessing needs

This step involves working with the child or young person as appropriate, and their family, and undertaking the assessment with them. You will need to make sure they understand what information you are recording and what is going to happen to it. You should consider the child or young person within their family relationship and community, including their cultural and religious context.

It will help to use plain, jargon-free language which is appropriate to the age and culture of each person, explaining any unavoidable technical and professional terms.

Remember, the discussion does not have to be highly formal or presented as a ‘big event.’

You will want to use a method and style that suits you, the child or young person, their parent/carer, and the situation. Apart from a pre-natal assessment, it is not possible to do a Families First Assessment without seeing or involving the child or young person. Every effort should be made to see and involve the child or young person in the assessment. This is especially important for a child or young person who may be vulnerable e.g. a young carer.

The  Local Authority has a statutory duty to identify young cares under 18 in their area and act to help reduce their need for support through provision of information and preventative services and any child or young person in the family who is providing some care (this could be emotional, physical or personal) be it to a parent, sibling or grandparent should be seen and spoken to, about what care he/she or they provide, who to, how often, how this affects or impacts on them – their education, health and wellbeing and as a family; and also consider if the level of care provided is inappropriate and/or impacting on them individually, and as a family – negatively or positively, and consider their wishes and feelings as children first. The assessment must determine whether a young carer is giving ‘excessive’ and/or ‘inappropriate’ care.

We have also introduced the registration of all children /young people under 18 who are identified as a young carer. This enables us to assess and offer support to stop or reduce their caring role and ensure ongoing monitoring to check that any care they provide is not excessive or impacting on them negatively. The registration can be completed alongside the FFA but is a separate process on EHM system under standalone forms – Young Carer Registration. A young carer registration must be completed with the young carer, and the young carer must be seen. Further information, including a word document copy of young carer registration form, a checklist and guidance on how to identify and register a young carer can be found in the documents store. A young carer registration information must be completed or transferred on EHM – Young Carer Registration after this has been completed with the young person and their family.

Step 3: Delivering integrated services – family support plan

The most likely outcome of your Families First Assessment discussion is one of the following:

  • You will have resolved your concerns and those of the child or young person and parent/carer. No additional action required.
  • You will have agreed some actions for you or your service and/or the child or young person and family. Delivery will involve you undertaking these actions, setting a date for review and monitoring progress. You do not need to move on to a Team Around the Family (TAF) multi-agency meeting or appoint a Keyworker.
  • You will have identified actions for you and actions that may be required of other agencies. Delivery will involve you sharing your assessment with the agencies involved (subject to the consent of the child or young person/family); forming a Team Around the Family to support the child or young person and family, discussing and agreeing with the child or young person, parent/carer and agencies who the Keyworker will be (if appropriate). Along with the other agencies, you agree the actions, and a family plan and responsibilities for delivering the actions, which can be recorded on the family plan on EHM.
  • Each partner delivers their action, the Keyworker co-ordinates delivery of the plan and, together, the TAF monitors overall progress (see section: role of TAF member for further details).

    Step 4: Reviewing progress

The family plan is monitored and reviewed regularly to identify further actions and support the child or young person’s smooth transition across universal, targeted or specialist services where appropriate.

In the case of multi-agency responses, this will involve meetings and liaison between the members of the Team Around the Family (TAF).

  • At the TAF review meeting, record who is present and check progress against each of the actions in the family plan. Where appropriate, close, update or agree new actions (Actions must be linked to identified needs in the completed assessment).
  • Discuss any challenges – including lack of progress or engagement etc., emerging concerns, risks (including any safeguarding concern – and take appropriate actions), whether you need to make a safeguarding referral or take case to Action and Impact Meeting for discussion or seek advice from your Local Senior Families First Co-ordinator or Families First Co-ordinator; or if the EHM episode (FFA) should be closed or another review date agreed.
  • Record the meeting notes in the meeting outcomes form and add next steps to the action plan (refer to EHM – How to Guides).
  • The child or young person and family’s comments must be recorded. If the outcome is to close the FFA, please ensure you seek feedback from the child or young person and their family on the whole FFA process, and include this in the child and family feedback section, or you can ask the child and family to complete the feedback forms (copies of word document child and family feedback forms are available), which you can then upload as a document to the EHM episode (see how to upload documents in EHM – How to Guides).

The outcome of the progress review could be:

  • the child or young person and family’s needs have been met and the episode can be closed (consider need for managing any transitions at this stage).
  • the child or young person and family’s needs have not yet been met and actions need to continue or be refined.
  • the child or young person and family’s needs and/or circumstances have changed and a new assessment is appropriate (identify who and when will new assessment be completed and action).

Families First Assessment and Family Plan – Hints and Tip

The Families First Assessment is a snap shot of the family’s present circumstances and presenting needs and therefore should be completed in a timely manner to prevent delay and the family’s needs escalating.

When completing the assessment you should include:

  • The reason for the assessment, outline clearly and succinctly the reason for undertaking the assessment.
  • How and from whom you have gathered the information to inform the assessment
  • The family’s voice and feelings (including the voice of the child(ren) record their views and feelings around family life. With younger children and unborn babies the child’s story should be based on observation and the presenting family needs.
  • All family members should be involved in contributing to the assessment, including those not living in the household if appropriate, especially if they play a significant role in the child’s life. It is important that fathers and male carers are involved in the assessment. If they have not been involved in the process record the reason why they have not.
  • Identify current needs – This is a needs led assessment. The main 11 sections in the “what would the family would like to change” are used to identify any needs of the family identifying key areas for subsequent Family Plans. It is important that you toggle these answers to clearly identify who has the need.
  • Caring roles for adults and children. Consider the possibility of a young carer in the family when working with families where illness or physical disability (adult or sibling or relative) is present. How this care need may impact on individual members or the whole family, is child or young person undertaking inappropriate or excessive caring role (see young carers factsheet), if it’s a parent with care needs, how might this be affecting their ability to parent their children or if a sibling with a caring need, how is this affecting the other children in the family?  Speak to the parents and children individually to find out how the care need of their parent or sibling is or not affecting them. If one or more child or young person in the family is providing care, ensure you identify them as a young carer in the family in the assessment.
  • Parenting – record the parents' views of their basic care and family dynamics. Capture their views on what needs to change and why (do not add your views here- add to the key worker analysis). Consider parenting capacity to provide for the children’s basic needs – safety, warm, food, environment etc and to protect them
  • A discussion around confidentiality, consent and information takes place with the child/young person and parent/carer, stating how, what and with whom the information will be shared and explain situations where confidentiality and consent will be broken.

How the Keyworker analysis leads to the decision as actions

  • Explore areas around your immediate concerns so as to look behind the presenting issues and record a more holistic view of family life. As much as possible base the discussions you have with the family on evidence not just opinion, and clearly record the evidence through examples.
  • Identify the family’s strengths, risk factors and protective factors here – think about how these strengths/protective factors could be developed to enable them to manage their needs.
  • When creating the family plan, use the drop down pick list in the Families First theme box to link the action to the identified need.
  • Choose TAF/Review meeting as the outcome.