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Young Merton Together

Merton offers 'Early Help' to children and families

In Merton our ‘Early help’ offer is provided at different levels of our longstanding Merton Child and Young Person Well-Being Model developed with our Safeguarding Children Board and Children’s Trust partners. In line with the C4EO definition of Early Help, we aim to provide services which intervene ‘early and as soon as possible to tackle emerging problems for children, young people and families’. This may take place early in a child’s life, or ‘early in the development of a problem’.

This approach aims to enable and empower families, reducing an escalation of need. Our Children’s Trust Partnership delivers, commissions and brokers early help services through the voluntary sector, schools, Public Health, Merton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Safer Merton, the council and other key partners. It is embedded in our Children and Young People’s Plan Priority 1: ‘Deliver early help and improve outcomes for those subject to the effects of disadvantage’ and our Health and Wellbeing Strategy Theme one: A best start in life which focuses on improving health outcomes for children.

Merton Well Being Model - Our Well-Being Model under went a significant update in 2013, to ensure that it was fit for purpose, during which we implemented the Common and Shared Assessment (CASA) model, building a team around the child working below the safeguarding threshold. During 2017 a task and finish group has reviewed the model again in the context of population growth and significant changes across agencies. We are taking this opportunity to make the best of our collective resources, enable our workforce to work more collaboratively and empower our families to access suitable services.

Family Services Directory - Our Family Services Directory and information service provide parents and professionals with a range of commissioned and non-commissioned services available directly without the need for referral. We maintain an Early Help guide for practitioners on the early help offer which requires referral.

Early years, children’s centres and community health - Merton’s Early Years’ early help offer includes strong local partnerships between community health and early year’s services. The sector includes 100% good and outstanding Children’s Centres and 97% good and outstanding PVIs. Our community health services were recommissioned in 2016 strengthening the universal service offer and services for more vulnerable children and young people. And, transformative approach included reconfiguring the Children’s Centres offer and the co-location of Community Health services staff into children’s centres to enable better collaborative working.

-We have targeted the take-up of Children’s Centre services to families from deprived areas in the borough and have reviewed our under 5s work between health and children’s centres to secure better safeguarding, health and wider outcomes for under-fives, including redesigning pathways and specialist health provision and to fund perinatal adult mental health direct work. One hundred per cent of all children who are in receipt of free 2 year old funding are placed in good or outstanding provision.

Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities are supported across our integrated department. However, we also have a discrete early help offer for children and young people with complex needs, enhanced and developed following implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014. Our SEN interventions service provides effective early help and support for children with an identified SEN support need. Our Local Offer for children with SEND was developed with parents and considered effective in follow up evaluations and peer review. Commissioned support and advocacy provides early help through the voluntary sector. We also continue to fund short breaks provision as early help for children with disabilities and for those under Section 17 and 20 arrangements.

Common and Shared Assessment Framework (CASA) - CASA work undertaken in our Early Years Supporting Families Service and Children’s Centres is overseen by a qualified Social Work Team Manager, bringing additional value and risk management to pre-sfeguarding threshold casework. Both early year’s settings and schools have been supported with a Safeguarding Guidance and audit tool which is in good use across all primary and secondary schools.

Parenting programmes - Professionals are able to refer more complex cases to parenting courses contributing to our Think Family approach to all intervention. Parenting programmes are generally evidenced based and offered through Children’s Centres, schools and council services for a variety of presenting issues. An impact evaluation conducted on the 2014 cohort of parents who completed a Merton parenting programme found that 80% had no further contact with Children’s Social Care in the six months after attending a programme.

Schools and post-16 - Our schools demonstrate strong performance for attainment and progress, good behaviour, high levels of attendance, low persistent absence and low levels of exclusions.

  • Overall 91% of our schools are graded good or outstanding by Ofsted an improvement from 2012/13 (85%) our performance is better than the national (86%) and the London (90%) averages, supported by our leadership of school improvement.
  • Our Key Stage 4 attainment and progress outcomes remain good against all benchmarks.
  • Our NEET and Not Known performance remain in the top quintile in London supported by our My Futures service.

-We established a time limited Chronic Absence pilot project (CAP) which was successful in improving school attendance of some of our most disengaged pupils, embedding the learning into our business as usual approach with continued improvement of attendance and maintaining our strong focus on preventing permanent exclusions.

-Children missing education and those at the risk of missing education are monitored by a multi-agency panel, leading to 96% of all cases being closed within 3 months during 2015/16.

-Schools and academies remain in a strong partnership with the Merton Safeguarding Children Board and Children’s Trust to ensure a joined up approach to holding children safe supported by local authority services (core or bought back), for example, Education Welfare Service, Virtual Behaviour Support which support young people below safeguarding thresholds.

-We have increased our universal primary education offer by 23 forms of entry focussing on extending access to good and outstanding education. This pupil population increase is now moving through secondary education and we have clear plans in place for secondary school expansion.

Youth Offer - Despite financial constraints within the council we have transformed, and as such retained a good youth offer now delivered in partnership with the local voluntary sector and housing associations. We recognise the need to exploit this offer further as part of a package of intervention for vulnerable young people.

Our performance to reduce under 18’s conception is strong: Merton is the fastest improving borough in Outer London with rates below the national and London. This success has been achieved through effective partnership working, developing sustained well publicised young people friendly sexual health services.

Commissioned services - After our evaluation of early help commissioned service in 2015/16, in the context of savings required, we have retained services for: young runaways and those vulnerable to sexual exploitation; advocacy for looked after children; risk and resilience (teenage pregnancy and substance misuse) service; GUM and sexual health clinic in St Georges and St Helier; the Young Carers Service; and the continued spot purchase of a range of other interventions as required. For more information see the article: Merton Commissioned Services update.

Mental health - The local authority collaborates strongly with schools, helping them to commission and facilitate access to services for parents, such as an effective Targeted Mental Health in Schools (TaMHs service). We will undertake a piece of work to map interventions available via our schools to ensure best use of resources and economies of scale. This is particularly important in the context of our Wellbeing model review in which more early help will be led by Universal Services such as schools.

We have worked with a wide range of partners to refresh our CAMHs strategy based on the local CAMHs review and central government’s vision for CAMHs services outlined in ‘Future in Mind’. We successfully submitted Merton’s Transformation Plan for CAMHs services as required by Department of Health and have received funding to support implementation.

Youth justice - Merton’s First Time Entrant numbers have reduced, and our YOT early help/triage function works well to de-escalate need. School funded Police officers in all secondary schools contribute to positive outcomes for young people at risk of youth offending. And we continue to work proactively with girls at risk of exploitation by gangs.

Family Nurse Partnership - We see the Family Nurse Partnership initiative as a key component of our early help strategy and parenting offer and are looking to extend the age range to ensure access for older care leavers and vulnerable young people.

Multi Systemic Therapy (MST) - We also continue to provide targeted intervention through Multi Systemic Therapy (MST), and are leading on the Pan London development of a Social Impact Bond for children at the Edge of Care offering MST and FFT (Functional Family Therapy).  

Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) related services are commissioned through our VAWG Partnership including our Domestic Violence One Stop Shop, Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) and our Domestic Violence Refuge. We also utilise MOPAC funding to support gangs work including girls and gangs and the Redthread service amongst others.

Transforming (Troubled) Families service - Alongside our voluntary sector commissioned services and those not commissioned but accessed locally we have enhanced our partnership offer through, for example, the Transforming Families service:

  • ‘Turning around” 100% (370) of high need ‘troubled families’ between 2011 and 2015, and
  • achieving some of the highest levels of success in London and as an early adopter/pilot for phase two, already achieving 26% of our target which demonstrates excellent progress compared to other London boroughs.

Future Actions:

-In refreshing our well-being model we will:

  • update tools and processes supported by single and multi-agency training, reinforcing core principles of ‘Think Family ‘and extending strength based approaches.
  • review support provided to universal services and parents, pre safeguarding thresholds.
  • ensure partners continued understanding of Well-being Model step up/down threshold and pathways.

-Continue to deliver the MSCB priority of ‘Think Family’ and ‘early help’.

-Continue to work with Public Health, Merton CCG and our new community health provider to provide integrated services, delivering better outcomes for children, young people and families.

-Exploit the Youth Offer further as part of a package of intervention for more vulnerable adolescents.

-Map the range of interventions available via our schools and pathways for access to ensure best use of resources and economies of scale.

For more information see the webpages:

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The next edition will be published in July 2017