The role of the Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner

All children and young people with additional needs (including complex needs) who require integrated support from more than one practitioner should experience a seamless and effective service in which one practitioner takes the lead to ensure that services are co-ordinated, coherent and achieving intended outcomes.

(DCSF The Lead Professional: Managers Guide)

Central to the effectiveness of joined up working across health, education, social care, youth services, Youth Justice, police, and the private, voluntary and independent sectors is the role of the Lead Practitioner/Coordinator, who co-ordinates the multi-agency or multi-disciplinary sharing of information leading to a coordinated action plan and response to meet the child or young person’s needs.

Where a child or young person with a range of additional needs requires Early Help support from more than one worker or agency, the Lead Coordinator / Lead Practitioner is someone who:

  • acts as a single point of contact for the child, young person and/or family – someone that they can trust, who is able to engage and support them in making choices, in navigating their way through the support systems and in effecting change.  This will benefit young people and families by reducing the number of times they have to repeat information to different practitioners.
  • will ensure appropriate and effective interventions – someone who will coordinate the delivery of actions agreed and recorded as part of the CASA process to ensure that the child and family get appropriate and effective interventions when needed, which are well planned, regularly reviewed and effectively delivered.
  • will help reduce overlap and inconsistency – someone with oversight who will help co-ordinate and focus the multi-agency response to meet the needs of the child and young person, as agreed and recorded in CASA Action Plan. They will organise meetings or discussions with practitioners and with the family as appropriate.

Who can be an Early Help Lead Coordinator / Lead Practitioner?

Many different types of worker can take on the role of Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner, as the skills and knowledge required to carry out the role are similar regardless of professional background or job – be it Merton Enhanced Services Social Worker or Family Support Worker or Outreach Worker, Headteachers, SENCo, school pastoral head, school head of year, child protection designate, education welfare officer, school nurse, health visitor, Early Support Key Worker, Portage Coordinator, youth services worker.

Increasingly, with additional support or training where necessary, other pertinent practitioners can assume this role, such as early years practitioner, speech & language therapist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, education psychologist, specialist teachers, behaviour support officer, language and learning practitioner, sensory impairment practitioner, CAMHS worker, substance misuse worker, youth worker, school linked police officer, community police officer, midwife, teenage parent advisor, or voluntary sector worker (Young Carers Project, Jigsaw4U, Home-Start, St Mark’s Family Centre), and others.

The person who initiated the CASA does not automatically become the Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner. Where more than one service or discipline is involved with the family, a Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner may be identified from amongst those already working with the child to act as a single point of contact, to ensure that appropriate interventions are provided, and to reduce overlap and inconsistency. The decision over who acts as the Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner is made by those practitioners working with the child and young person, in consultation with the family and with agreement from the practitioner’s home agency.

What Skills and Knowledge are required by an Early Help Lead Coordinator / Lead Practitioner?

The Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner role is not intended to be a job title or a new role, but comprises a set of functions, competencies, skills, knowledge, experience and confidence which is required for the effective delivery of integrated Early Help support for a child, young person or family.

Many of the tasks and functions of this role will already form part of the work of individuals working with children, while some may be additional or new functions within different agencies. The key requirements are a practitioner’s ability to:

  • Build productive relationships with children, young people and their families
  • Communicate with them without jargon
  • Keep the child/young person central to decision making
  • Provide them with information and advice
  • Be able to recognise when needs are not being adequately met and, where early support would benefit the family, to undertake and co-ordinate the Common and Shared Assessment (CASA) process
  • Have knowledge of local, and where appropriate, regional services and what these services offer in order to identify appropriate additional services and ensure ‘buy in’ for delivery
  • Have awareness and understanding of the role of other key professionals or practitioners and know how to contact and consult with them for advice, information or service provision – including processes for cross-border joint working
  • Build productive working relationships with other practitioners or professionals
  • Working in partnership with family and with practitioners, agree solution focused package of support based on the assessment towards improving outcomes for the child or young person
  • Secure engagement with the child and family – support and empower them to reach their potential by involving them in the solution and ensuring they contribute to actions
  • Focus on delivery of response rather than completion of assessment or action plan as end result
  • Act as key contact point between family and other practitioners or professionals, and between workers in targeted and universal services
  • Convene meetings and discussions with the family and with other practitioners and ensure that support is fully coordinated; identify appropriate settings for meetings to take place
  • Collaboratively monitor and review the action plan in line with agreed and recorded timescale, updating assessment circumstances and response as and when required
  • Review agreed outcomes with child, young person, family as appropriate
  • Ensure effective handover, including transfer of Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner role, at points of transition between children and adult services, between targeted and universal services, including cross-border where relevant
  • Close the supportive episode when the child, young person, family and involved practitioners agree this to be appropriate, and record this closure formally.
As the needs of the child, young person or family change, so may the skills, knowledge and competence to carry out the Lead Coordinator / Lead Practitioner role, not only over time, but also as the complexity or intensity of their support needs change.


Suggested criteria for deciding who should act as Lead Coordinator / Lead Practitioner

The preparation and discussion with the practitioners forming part of the multi-agency team working with the child, young person or family is very important.

The following are some suggested criteria to assist in the decision as to who should act as Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner. They will form part of the agenda of ANY discussion about the role whether this is being considered at a local Team Around the Child (TAC) or Team Around the Family (TAF) multi-agency meeting called by a practitioner who initiated a CASA, or at a subsequent CASA Review meeting, or whether it’s being considered by Enhanced Services, or by any multi-agency panel to which the child or young person’s situation has been referred

  • Is there a risk that the family might get confusing or conflicting advice without coordination?
  • Does anyone have a previous or potentially ongoing relationship with the child or family?
  • What are the parents’ and child/young/person’s wishes and views, taking on board their skills and areas requiring support?
  • Who has the skills and knowledge to provide a leadership and coordination role in relation to other workers or practitioners working with the family? Including, potentially, cross-border joint working
  • Who can draw in and link to universal, targeted and specialist services?
  • Who understands the support systems available to the family?
  • Who has the capacity to act as Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner?
  • What are the main needs of the child and family? What is the level of need – how complex or serious is the child, young person, family situation?
  • What outcomes are required? What input is needed to help the family achieve the outcomes?
  • Where several siblings are being supported, an agreement will be reached with the family and all involved practitioners on an overarching Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner so that the children, young people and the family experience seamless support.
  • Which agency has the main responsibility for meeting the child’s needs, including statutory responsibility? Where statutory agencies are involved (Social Care, Youth Justice, SENCo, other), one of these allocated statutory practitioners will be the Lead Practitioner.

The process leading to need for identifying a Lead Coordinator / Lead Practitioner as part of the Common and Shared Assessment (CASA) :

The aim of the CASA is for earlier intervention and the co-ordination of consistent response at the Green level of the Merton Child and Young Person Well-Being Model

  • A worry or need is identified regarding a child or young person which cannot obviously be addressed within the single service picking up the concern
  • The practitioner picking up the concern speaks with the child, young person, family; and speaks with appropriate colleagues
  • Any other practitioners or services already involved are identified
  • Practitioners or agencies potentially needing to be involved are identified
  • A Common Assessment is undertaken, with consent, or (if already exists) updated
  • If multiple services are required or involved, a multi-agency TAC or TAF meeting is called to update pooled information, analyse, evaluate, draw conclusions, and develop action plan
  • Information gathered and shared will inform agreement as to who is best placed to take on Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner role, as per criteria described above
  • A Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner is named to co-ordinate appropriate and timely intervention and support delivery of the agreed action plan, and to arrange for next Review
  • A Review is undertaken within agreed timescales; assessment information and action plan is updated; who continues or takes over the Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner role is agreed; leading to further implementation as above, or closure as appropriate.
A Lead Coordinator/ Lead Practitioner is accountable through normal line management arrangements, and support and supervision arrangements, for their delivery of the Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner functions.   They are NOT responsible or accountable for the professional responses of other agencies or practitioners, though they can challenge these. The Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner can only be successful if the wider multi-agency group support this role.

Supervision / Management

Acting as Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner does not change single agency supervision, management  and conflict resolution arrangements. Each practitioner’s own line manager remains responsible for planning and reviewing their work with them, and for ensuring that staff have the support and training they need to carry out their duties effectively. A Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner role requires the acknowledgement, commitment and support of their line manager.  

Additional support

Each agency should have an identified CASA Champion who acts as a point of support within that agency for practitioners new to the Common and Shared Assessment (CASA) and integrated working processes, as well as providing ongoing support for those undertaking the Lead Coordinator/Lead Practitioner role.

Merton’s CASA Champions Operational Network aims to provide a forum for information exchange, peer support, and problem-solving for practitioners involved in integrated working.

The CASA Champions themselves meet quarterly with their other agency counterparts, representing their agency colleagues as part of a mutual support network.  Issues which arise in practice are discussed, shared and solutions explored.

Each agency CASA Champion then undertakes to cascade information, findings and issues back within their own agency or network - acting as the focal point of CASA support within their agency.

Additional Training

Early Help training for practitioners and managers is available through Merton Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) Training – subject to normal line management agreement and support. [Further on CASA-related training from Merton CASA Training web pages].

Related specialist multi-agency training may also be available through single agency own training programmes or through arrangements with other specialist providers. Line managers and/or training co-ordinators will be able to advise further on specific training topics which may be helpful.