Early help (previously called early intervention) is an essential element within Merton’s comprehensive framework of children’s services, whereby additional needs of children are identified and met at the earliest point possible, promoting children’s welfare and reducing the need for more intrusive and expensive interventions at a later stage.

In Merton we use the following definition of early help, which was written by the practice development organisation C4EO:

"intervening early and as soon as possible to tackle emerging problems for children, young people and families… early help can take place early in a child’s life or early in the development of a problem… effective early help prevents escalation of need and reduces severity of problems… early help can be provided to individual families, particular vulnerable groups or whole populations."

Within the context of Merton’s Child and Young Person Well-Being Model (MWBM) early help can be provided at all levels (Universal, Enhanced, and Specialist) to help prevent escalation of need to a higher level and to reduce the need for care or custody.

Many of our universal services (for example health visiting, children’s centres, schools and universal youth services) provide additional and targeted support to those children, young people and families identified as requiring this. Some universal settings are also commissioning additional, targeted services for their populations. Examples of these early help services include health visiting sessions and targeted family support provided in children’s centres; early support group work with carers of younger children with disabilities; accredited parenting programmes delivered in a variety of settings; Targeted Mental Health in Schools; some of the positive activities for young people.

Guide for practitioners

Whilst acknowledging very important early help work listed above, this guide focuses on the early help available when need is assessed as being at the Enhanced or Specialist levels of the MWBM and services are delivered or commissioned following a CASA (Common and Shared Assessment) or single assessment.

The Early Help Guide for Practitioners 2017