A specialist advice team offering early intervention advice and support to children and their families, has dealt with more than 1,500 requests for help in its first five months.
Nottinghamshire County Council set up the Early Help Unit in September to act as the first point of telephone and email contact for children, parents, carers and agencies for support around issues such as parenting, school absenteeism and emotional health and wellbeing.
Once consent has been established to discuss the individual case, the team then puts the person in touch with the most appropriate team managing an early help service such as the county council’s targeted support service, a relevant children’s centre or another agency if necessary.
Mother Lisa Hutchings, who lives in Arnold, Gedling district, contacted the Early Help Unit in desperation a few weeks ago, seeking a resolution to an issue for her son at school.
Lisa said: “I found details for the council’s Early Help Unit on the internet, and it was a great help. The advisor understood that problems do not occur in isolation, but form part of a wider picture and can often need input from a variety of different organisations to resolve.
“I was put in touch with the relevant agencies to support me and the issues are now being addressed. I hope more people get to hear about this service and its holistic approach as it has been very helpful.”
The Early Help Unit is just one initiative introduced by Nottinghamshire County Council as part of its Children, Young People and Families Plan 2014-16 – a strategic plan which aims to promote children’s wellbeing in five key priority areas:
• Working together to keep children and young people safe
• Improving children and young people’s health outcomes through the integrated commissioning of services
• Closing the gap in educational attainment between disadvantaged children and young people and their peers, and so enable all to achieve their potential
• Providing children and young people with the early help support that they need
• Delivering integrated services for children with complex needs or disabilities.
Councillor John Peck, Committee Chairman for Children and Young People’s Services, said: “Supporting, nurturing and empowering children and families across the county is critical for us. The work of the new Early Help Unit gives a good example of the sort of success we can achieve with these integrated services.
“We are committed to supporting the most vulnerable and will target services to those who need them most. Working together in an integrated way will enable us to make best use of our available resources and continue to provide quality services.”
Chris Jones, from the Early Help team at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “The purpose of the Early Help Unit is to provide that first point of contact to help children, families and organisations when problems first start to surface, and to offer that help and support to prevent things from getting out of control.
“The number of requests for services has been encouraging and we have been able to get the help and advice to these people to help them when problems are first identified.”
The countywide team is based at Littleworth in Mansfield and colleagues have specialist knowledge around services for supporting families, youth justice, early years care and homelessness.
Of the 1,600 calls for help and advice received since September, more than a quarter (28 per cent) was related to school attendance concerns, , and a further quarter concerned behaviour issues,. Other key areas included support with parenting and teenagers and emotional health and wellbeing issues.