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Hertfordshire County Council

What is a Families First Assessment (FFA)?

Families First Assessment is Hertfordshire’s multi-agency Early Help assessment and planning tool.  It is used for the assessment of children/young people and their families, to facilitate the early identification of additional needs, support decision making about how these needs might best be addressed within a multi-agency context, and promotes a coordinated service response.

Families First Assessment:

  • Is used by practitioners who work with children, young people and families. It is used to identify needs, and to organise the right support and services to address those needs at an early stage.
  • Is voluntary and requires consent from parents or carers before it can be initiated.
  • Allows different agencies and services to share information and work together in a coordinated way through a Team Around the Family (TAF) approach, with a family Keyworker.
  • Process is designed to address needs which require a multi-agency response.
  • Can and should be started by any practitioner who has identified additional needs amongst any of the children, young people or families that they work with.
  • Process uses a "whole family" approach, which allows everyone's needs in the family to be taken into account, in order to make a lasting difference.
  • Families First Assessment (FFA) is used by all Families First partners (agencies and services) delivering Families First (early help) in the county.

Who can complete a Families First Assessment?

Anyone working with children and families can and should initiate a Families First Assessment (FFA) where potential additional needs are identified. This includes, but is not limited to, services such as: Health Visiting Service, School Nursing Service, Schools, Children’s Centres, Childcare and Early Years providers, Housing, Police, Local Schools Partnerships, Home Start, School Family Workers, YC Hertfordshire, Young Carers  team, Intensive Family Support Service, Adult Services, Community and the Voluntary Sector etc.

Who will complete a Families First Assessment and when?

It is not always easy to know what to do when you are concerned about a child or young person. You may not be sure what the problem is. Even if you are reasonably sure, your service may not be able to help on its own. You may not feel confident that you can get other services to help.

A Families First Assessment (FFA) can help you work with the child or young person and their family to identify their needs. It provides a structure for recording information that you gather by having a conversation with them, and for identifying what actions need to be taken to address identified needs. It will also help you get other services to assist, because they will recognise that your concern is based on evidence. Other services will also be using the FFA, so they will recognise and expect an assessment in this format.

The Families First Assessment (FFA) can be used to assess the needs of unborn babies, infants, children or young people. You do not have to be an expert in any particular area to complete a Families First Assessment. You do, however, need to have the right skills and to have been on the Families First Practice and EHM system course in Hertfordshire. For further information or to access the range of courses on offer through Families First and Partner agencies please go to Families First Learning & Development pages.

You can also contact the Families First Helpdesk regarding training or EHM support or contact your local Senior or Families First Coordinators should you require any support with FFA tools, including practice advice or support.
If you are worried about a child or young person, and it is not a safeguarding concern, and you are not able to complete a Families First Assessment (FFA) yourself, seek advice from the Early Help Advice Line for Professionals or contact your local Senior or Families First Coordinators for advice and guidance.

If you are unsure about whether a Families First Assessment (FFA) is required for a child and their family, you can either use the following tools to help you determine the best way to support a child and family with additional needs:

  • Consult the Families First Interactive Process Map – This is designed to help practitioners identify how best to support a family who may require additional support through the Families First pathway to help you decide or
  • Call the Early Help Advice Line for Professionals – This is for cases where professionals are not clear on the appropriate actions to take after consulting the Continuum of Need - Threshold document, where it is clear that the identified need is not a safeguarding concern, i.e. the child or young person is not at immediate risk of significant harm or
  • Contact your local Senior or Families First Coordinators directly, for advice and support on Families First pathway and processes.

    When to complete a Families First Assessment

You can complete a Families First Assessment (FFA) at any time if you are worried about a child or young person’s progress towards their potential without additional services. The FFA process has been designed to help practitioners assess needs at an early stage and then work with the child or young person, their family and other practitioners and agencies to meet them.

As such, it is designed for use when:

  • you are worried about how well a child or young person is progressing. You might be worried about their health, development, welfare, behaviour, progress in learning or any other aspect of their well-being.
  • a child or young person or their parent/carer raises a concern with you.
  • the child or young person’s needs are unclear, or broader than your service can address.

If you have concerns about one or more than one child or young person in the same family, you should complete a Families First Assessment (FFA), as it is a holistic whole family assessment; it allows for the individual needs of each family member to be recorded and reflects the needs and strengths of the whole family in the assessment.

The Families First Assessment is entirely voluntary

You must discuss your concerns with the child or young person and/or their parent/ carer before deciding on a Families First Assessment (FFA). The child or young person and their parent/carer, where appropriate, are key to effective solutions, so must be involved.

If you are still concerned, you should talk with the child or young person and/ or their parent/carer to check whether a Families First Assessment (FFA) already exists before proceeding and gain their consent.

You can also check if a Families First assessment already exists for the family by contacting the Families First Helpdesk. You should obtain the consent of the child, young person and/or family to talk with others involved with the child or young person. If you are unsure, you should discuss the case with your line manager or a designated person within your organisation, or contact your local Senior or Families First Coordinators  for advice or seek advice from the Early Help Advice Line for Professionals.

If you proceed with a Families First assessment (FFA), you must:

  • Obtain the informed consent of the child or young person (depending on their age as appropriate) and/or their parent/carer to undertake a Families First assessment (FFA), to share information and to record the information on Early Help Module (EHM) system – a multi-agency case recording system for Families First assessment and casework. This means that you must ensure that they fully understand the Families First assessment (FFA) process and its implications.
  • As with any other confidential information, you are only able to share the Families First Assessment (FFA) information with other practitioners with this consent, unless, in your judgement, based on the facts of the case, there is sufficient public interest to share the information without consent (see further guidance on HSCB procedures on Information sharing, consent and confidentiality)  Also see the Information Sharing guidance, HM Government, March 2015.

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