Solihull holds both challenges and opportunities for the Early Support approach. The challenge of bringing diverse groups together is easier for a unitary authority than for some of those with two or three tiers to manage, but whilst the small size of the borough helps with flexibility and communication, it also means there is a lack of wider capacity which larger boroughs benefit from, and the economics of change are also affected by the limitations of a reduced purse.
Early Support in Solihull has benefitted from some successful innovations that have driven current thinking. These have included:
2002 – The Solihull Child and Family Support Model: This model allowed Early Support to sit alongside other Early Intervention agendas in a seamless process. Key achievements were that:
- An integrated process was developed to support children and families with needs.
- The Early Support Training and Common Assessment Framework (CAF) training were aligned. Our understanding grew of how families who had complex needs often sat within several agendas. This later became Local Integrated Needs Led Coordinated Support (LINCS).
- The support scaffold was developed to support the needs of professionals and parents working in this new way. This was not continued when LINCS developed but learning from this is used with the work undertaken by SignPost Inclusion Community Interest Company (CIC). This company was successfully set up by parents to support parents using work inspired by the Early Support Parent Workshops and with the help of the Disabled Access to Childcare Programme.
2004 – The Early Support Pathfinder: This work enabled us to support the development of the Early Support approach across a number of different services and agendas, with children 0-5 and their families, within Solihull. Key achievements included:
- Embedding Early Support in the Local Integrated Needs Led Coordinated Support (LINCS) process. Our aim was to integrate the approach across all services and from birth through to adulthood. We saw the approach sitting across the Every Child Matters agenda and Aiming High for Disabled Children with a Disability agenda.
- Developing the Parent Champion Role. This carried on through to the Disabled Children’s Access To Childcare (DCATCH) Project and resulted in Solihull’s Children with Additional Needs (CAN) parent/carer forum being formed.
- Supporting access to information for both parents and professionals.
2009 – Disabled Children’s Access to Childcare (DCATCH) Programme: This programme took some of our local work and placed it within a broader context which had at its core the ability of parents of disabled children to be able to access work. As the focus moved away from the Early Support Pilot, Solihull was able to retain an Early Support focus through several projects that sat within this programme. This programme included the following projects that helped the Early Support approach:
- The Parent Champion Project led directly to the Signpost Inclusion Community Interest Company. This is a parent led CIC that has been set up to promote and embed Early Support across Solihull and the region. They do this through direct parent support, training for professionals and parents, through the development of information and a web site. Signpost Inclusion work closely with Solihull CAN.
- The ‘Embedding LINCS Project’ led to the Early Support agenda continuing through until adulthood within Solihull. The aim of this project was to increase the take up of the tools (common assessment, single plan, lead person/key working functions and team around the family) used to support integrated working within universal and specialist services with families with an unmet need. Early Support was embedded within this process and the Early Support approach was seen to underpin this model. The Local Integrated Needs Led Coordinated Support process works with children from birth through to adulthood and includes families where a child or children have a disability.
- The Early Intervention Project’s aim was to support Schools through to the end of Foundation Stage and Childcare in the Private, Voluntary and Independent sector (linking to Short Breaks), to include children with additional needs and embed the Early Support approach within working practices. This work is carrying on within the Early Years team and through the development of the Early Support Schools Project.
- The Extending Early Support Project was driven by parents who had asked for Early Support to extend through to adulthood. This led to the development of the Early Support Parent Workshops for older children with additional needs and extending the use of the Early Support family file with older children.
- The Data and Information Systems Project aim was to use information systems to support Solihull to understand the needs of children with additional needs. Our learning from this project is used within several agendas currently. It has a specific link to Short Breaks and is supporting us to identify which children are using our current Short Breaks offer.
2011 – Early Support contract with NCB: Solihull now holds the contract with NCB for the development and delivery of a programme that will embed Early Support, not only within Solihull itself but also across the West Midlands region. As a result Solihull MBC hosts the post of Early Support Regional Facilitator for the West Midlands. This post is held by Fiona Holmes.
Examples of work taking place in Solihull currently
Parents and Young People
The complementary imperatives of Early Support and the Green Paper Pathfinder work together when it comes to empowering parent carers and families.
Hayley Moran is a parent of two boys who have a disability and is the Chair of Solihull CAN; Solihull parents’ forum for parents of children with a disability. At her instigation, members of the forum will be trained to use the Multi-Agency Planning and Implementation Tool (MAPIT) by the Early Support Lead. As a consequence of the MAPIT training request this Early Support training will be offered to the other parent forums in the region. One of the key aims of this training is to give parents knowledge of the frameworks and the common language which will enable them to engage with the strategic leads within their respective authorities. As such it contributes to the aim of supporting integrated service improvement and parent participation. This programme of training is due to start in January 2013.
Signpost Inclusion is a newly established parent led Community Interest Company, established by Nikki Reeves and Lisa Hunt, both parents of children with disabilities. The aim of establishing the CIC was to enable the embedding of Early Support practice and principles in Solihull and across the region. Significantly the company is parent led and the training programmes that form part of its work focus on cascading knowledge and skills. The organisation offers:
- Parent to parent support offering groups and drop in sessions around Solihull in a friendly environment. This includes work with Mums, Dads and Young People
- Early Support training and capacity building
- A growing resource base with books and sensory resources
- Signposting to relevant services
- Work with local structures and services to reduce duplication of effort and to ensure a joined up agenda
The opportunities to hear from the Solihull community about what is really going on and their hopes for the future would come through this piece of work. The parents involved take an interest in all the Governments agendas, e.g. SEND Green Paper Pathfinder (parents involved in the CIC are also Pathfinder Parents), Early Intervention, Short Breaks and Early Support.
Solihull is developing a Case Study on the CIC and guidance on sustainable approaches to training on behalf of the DfE and Early Support Consortium. Signpost Inclusion and Solihull CAN work closely together and more information about both can be found at: http://signpostinclusion.org.uk/
Early Identification and Assessment – Special Educational Needs (SEN) and the Disability Green Paper Pathfinders.
Solihull is one of the 20 SEN Pathfinders with the remit to examine how the Single Plan might develop in Solihull. Our core areas of focus are:
- A multi-agency approach to assessment and planning, with clear lines of accountability;
- Links between support planning and strategic commissioning, particularly through health and well-being boards;
- Pooled and aligned budgets;
- Focus on outcomes in a single plan;
- Transferability of social care support across area boundaries;
- Value for money and cost; and
- Increased use of mediation for parents.
With the additional area for examination being:
- Personal Budgets, and
- Support to parents and young people.
It is recognised within our Pathfinder that the principles of Early Support underpin everything we do. The Early Support Lead and the Green Paper Pathfinder Lead work closely together to ensure a LEAN (preserving value with less work) approach to these agendas. We are currently focussing on the way in which Early Support training is able to support the requirements of the Pathfinder, and on how their respective processes can work together in a way that is seamless for parents.
Learning and Achieving
As the remit of Early Support has extended to the age of 25, parents have expressed a desire to see schools adopt the Early Support approach. School leaders in turn expressed a wish to see examples of the approach in action and achieving positive outcomes through case studies. To this end Early Support and Achievement For All collaborated on establishing the Schools Project. This project will be entering its second term in January 2013 with case study material being produced and disseminated from early 2013.
The Early Years Team already has a history of facilitating the implementation of Early Support within Solihull. Two nationally trained trainers and capacity builders are members of this team, and it is they who support Signpost Inclusion with its parent workshops. The team also has the remit of embedding the Early Support approach across third sector childcare settings.
Services working together for families
The Solihull Early Support Lead is working with Margaret Ruane, the Authority’s Workforce Development Manager to examine the ways in which Early Support training can be integrated within existing training plans. This will ensure that the approach is incorporated into the working practices of the area’s workforce as a whole.
The LINCS Team aims to support children and young people before they reach crisis point. It is a way of giving support early to prevent problems later on. LINCS (Local Integrated Needs Led Coordinated Support) brings the different agencies that are involved with a child together so they can share information. It incorporates:
- Common Assessment Framework (CAF)
- Lead Person (LP, also known as Lead Professional or Lead Practitioner)
Evidence shows that 9 out of 10 children and young people supported through LINCS experience improved outcomes as a result. Early Support is already integrated within the LINCS process.