Agenda item

Early Help Strategy 2024-2029

To receive a report of the Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Service outlining the proposed Early Help Strategy: Family Help in Rotherham 2024-2029. The strategy has been developed in response to revised government guidance, including the Department for Education (DfE) new edition ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children December 2023’. It describes three phases of support for children and families and concludes with how children, families and other key stakeholders will work together to deliver the vision over the next five years.  




That Cabinet:-


1.    Endorse the Early Help Strategy: Family Help in Rotherham 2024-2029.


2.    Approves the Local Authority involvement in the development and implementation of the Strategy Delivery Plan with the oversight and delivery of progress by the Early Help Partnership Group (EHPG) and the Improving Lives Select Commission (ILSC). 



The Chair welcomed Councillor Victoria Cusworth, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People and invited her to introduce the report. Nicola Curley, Strategic Director for Children and Young People’s Services was also in attendance.


The Cabinet Member was pleased to bring the strategy prior to its consideration by Cabinet on 18 March 2024, noting that scrutiny members had a long interest in the service. She outlined that the Council had continued to invest in early help services and the offer from the wider partnership, whilst many other councils had struggled financially to maintain services. The Cabinet Member highlighted that early help remained a key priority for elected members and officers. Its refresh also included reference to changes in legislation and guidance, namely the McAllister Review, the “Stable Homes, Built on Love” recommendations and the new guide “Working Together to Safeguard Children” (2023).


She reiterated that early help was a partnership offer, rather than a sole council function. It looked at providing universal and community family help at the earliest opportunity for all children and young people; family support workers to work with families under pressure; and then specialist help to prevent children coming into care. She hoped that the Improving Lives Select Commission would monitor the outcomes of the new Early Help Strategy and hold the Cabinet Member and service to account for its delivery.


The Strategic Director noted that the strategy ran from 2024-2029. Phase 1 would involve detailed consultation with elected members, staff, partners and children and families to ensure co-design and co-production from the start. New guidance would be considered along with a number of reviews.


The Chair welcomed the development of the strategy and invited questions from Board Members. A discussion on the following issues ensued:


·       Clarification was sought on how multi-agency work would be strengthened and how this activity would be monitored. In response, the Strategic Director stated that there were existing, strong partnership arrangements. The next step was how to support communities to work more effectively and help themselves. She referred to improvements in the Youth Justice Service; work in schools; mental health support and improving school attendance.


·       In the section “What we know about families in Rotherham”, clarification was sought on the number of households with dependent children and if this was known and how many families had been reached. In the equality impact assessment, it referred to the number of early help episodes but did not directly cite the number of children or families receiving services. The Strategic Director clarified the difference between an early help episode and supporting the widest possible community. She gave an example that 73% of children aged 0-5 years, accessed children centre activities. The universal offer was available to all families and often provided by the voluntary sector. This activity would not be recorded as an early help episode. However, for those requiring additional support or a focused intervention this would be provided depending on need. The fewer early help episodes recorded was seen as evidence that the support provided at a community level was effective. Further work would be undertaken during the first year with partners to establish ‘who does what’ to ensure that interventions were not duplicated across different agencies and clarify definitions and language.


·       The development of a SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) hub in the town centre was welcomed. What were the timescales for this project? It was outlined that plans were at an early stage. The building would require remedial work to make it accessible. Existing staff would also need to be relocated. The Strategic Director would provide a written update once plans were clarified.


·       It was noted that Rotherham was a signatory to the “Breastfeeding-Friendly Borough” declaration. What action was being taken to make this meaningful? It was outlined that there was more to be done in this area. However, as part of the Family Hubs programme, more staff were being trained to support breastfeeding and each of the children centres were breastfeeding-friendly. Written information would be provided on breastfeeding-friendly public spaces. The Cabinet Member added that she had been working with the Cabinet Member for Adult Care and Health in respect of the public health focus. She referred to the question at the Council meeting about parents struggling to afford formula milk so it was important to ensure that children were properly nourished.


·       Further detail was sought on how information about services were disseminated and families were engaged. Examples were given of innovative outreach initiatives to engage families.




1.          That Cabinet be informed that the following recommendations be supported:


1)     Endorse the Early Help Strategy: Family Help in Rotherham 2024-2029.


2)     Approves the Local Authority involvement in the development and implementation of the Strategy Delivery Plan with the oversight and delivery of progress by the Early Help Partnership Group (EHPG) and the Improving Lives Select Commission (ILSC). 


2.          That consideration be given to the inclusion of data relating to the number households with children in a revised version of the strategy.

Supporting documents: