Access to services for children and families

All Assessment Frameworks stress the importance of not waiting for completion of the assessment process before provision of services: services should be provided in parallel with assessment where necessary according to the needs of the child and family – empowering the family throughout by involving them in a solution focussed approach where possible.

For Merton to have a co-ordinated and effective approach to linking need to services it is essential that all services have clear purpose and guidance on:

  • the type of issues presenting for the children/young people and families for whom the service is provided – ‘level of additional needs’
  • the criteria and priorities for accepting children/young people and families
  • an accessible consultation facility
  • clarity with respect to referral process
  • who can undertake the assessment to access the service
  • how quickly service can be offered, with monitored waiting list
  • introductory procedure for children/young people/families to the service
  • evaluation and review of the service – and who is involved in this
  • the arrangements in place to re-assess need when the service is not taken up or comes to an end
  • arrangements for eliciting feedback from users of the service.

All agencies providing services for the support of children, young people and families should maintain a record of unmet need, and of those who – on meeting the service criteria – are referred to their service but who cannot be allocated the support needed.

In most cases a lower level of service will support a child/young person with a lower level of need. However, it is important to recognise that a child/young person who has unmet needs in several areas may require more support than a child/young person with higher level of unmet need in only one area.

In all cases the support provided will be dependent upon the professional judgement of staff, based on their assessment and evaluation of strengths and needs relating to

  • the child or young person’s developmental needs
  • the parents ability to respond to the child or young person’s needs
  • the family circumstances and other environmental factors.

The boundaries between different levels will change in response to the needs of the child or young person, demands on service, and the availability of resources.

Children may move from one level of need to another and agencies, including universal services, may offer support for additional needs at more than one level. However, there may be some restrictions on particular agencies providing support in certain situations, such as:

  • specific service criteria related to the agency’s specialist area of work
  • previous interventions
  • geographical location
  • age limits
  • time limited provision (such as only being available during school term)

though support from appropriate alternative sources will always be sought in such cases.

Details of services for children, young people and families in Merton are provided through the Merton on-line Family Information Services Directory.