Face2Face expands service and celebrates the success of new volunteers in Solihull

face2faceWhat is Face2Face?

Face2Face, the parent befriending service provided by disability charity Scope continues to expand its service offering in Solihull, having recently trained 5 new volunteers and is recruiting more.

Having been established in several other areas of the UK for over 15 years, Face2Face launched in Solihull in July 2012.  Since then, demand for their core one-to-one befriending service has rocketed, as well as triggering the development of other supplementary services to support parents of children with additional needs in the Borough.

Face2Face is a one-to-one parent befriending service offering emotional support to parents whose children have been recognised as having a disability or additional needs.  The service is unique in Solihull, offering a befriending service to parents of children recognised as having any disability or additional need.  It is free and available for as long as the parent needs our support.

Many parents find it invaluable to talk to another parent of a disabled child (their Befriender).  Having someone to talk to, who has similar experience, gives a parent the freedom to express the emotion that many feel as a natural part of coming to terms with their child’s disability.  Acknowledging those feelings, which may include pain, uncertainty and loss, can help them to process their experience, enabling them to find better strategies for supporting themselves and managing their situation.

All volunteer parent Befrienders are also parents of children with additional needs, who are trained to support other parents emotionally.  Each volunteer Befriender is interviewed and undertakes 40 hours of quality assured training before starting any befriending; advanced DBS disclosures are taken up as well as references.

Volunteers are supported and supervised by a structure set up by Scope to ensure parents receive high quality support as well as ensuring the well-being of its volunteers.

Why is the service needed?

When your child is diagnosed with a disability or is recognised as having an additional need it can be a confusing and worrying time.  The process of learning of your child’s condition and adapting to a new ‘normal’ raises several emotions in parents.  The emotions are often distressing and conflicting; impacting on family relationships and dynamics, finances, as well as parents’ own well-being.  Fig.1 illustrates some of those emotions and their often conflicting nature.  The left hand side often correlates at the time of diagnosis or assessment, but also at other milestone moments in a child’s life: starting school, adolescence, transition to adulthood.

Eventually, after a period of adjustment, parents and families can begin to come terms with their child’s disability and start to realise the emotions on the right side of the diagram.  This process can be enhanced and accelerated by Face2Face Befriender support.


Many of the parents that Face2Face support are struggling to deal emotionally with the reality of their child’s condition and are not ready to acknowledge their feelings or have sufficient confidence to access other services available to them and their family, attend groups or interact with professionals.  Supporting parents at their own pace to navigate through their feelings and this adjustment phase helps them to move forward positively.


Parents from across the UK have voiced their enthusiasm and thanks to Face2Face over many years.  A recent independent study praised the service. It highlighted the holistic nature of the support provided; stating that Face2Face is unlike many other interventions which focus on the child and are only able to take into account one specific aspect of the child’s situation or physical needs.

The report concluded that befriending offers the benefits of both time limited and open ended support. This means it can be a focussed short term intervention which galvanises the Befriendee (the Parent)  to make the most out of each session, and may help with commitment where time might be an issue (and also serves to protect the Befriender).  Similarly it can adapt to the pace of the Befriendee and become a longer journey if needed. It commended that the service is affordable – a free service offered by professionally trained volunteers which means it is inclusive and available to everyone who needs it.

A recent Solihull-specific survey polled parents who had accessed Face2Face services in the borough.  We are pleased that 100% of respondents said they would recommend Face2Face to another parents and that they were satisfied with the service they received, with over 70% being very satisfied.

What next for Solihull?

Following the successful training of the first cohort of 8 parent Befrienders in July 2012, a further 5 completed their training in June 2013 and are eager to put into practice some of the key skills they honed during their training programme.

Demand for befriending in Solihull is still outweighing supply, with the service receiving over 100 referrals in 12 months.  In an effort to ensure that parents have the shortest wait time possible to be matched with a Befriender, Co-ordinator Jo Bussey is looking for more parents in Solihull to become volunteer Befrienders.  Another training programme is scheduled for January 2014.  If you are a parent of a child with a disability living in Solihull and would like to support other parents, please contact Jo for more details.  Similarly if you are a professional working in the Borough and know parents who would be able to support their peers raising a child with additional needs, please get in touch.

The demand for one-to-one befriending has been such that it has led us to look at other ways of supporting parents in Solihull.  Listening to their needs in a comprehensive survey last summer (2012) we recognised the need to support parents of children with emotional, social and behavioural difficulties in particular.  Accounting for the majority of Face2Face referrals, these parents of children with ‘unseen’ disabilities felt forgotten by many support services and their challenges were the least tolerated by wider society, causing them additional stress.

As a result of this feedback, Face2Face launched a group for parents of children with ESBD in January 2013.  The group has gone from strength to strength and continues to grow in numbers.  The group is more than a social gathering, but less intense than one-to-one befriending.  It has been well received by parents who are ready to acknowledge their child’s difficulties and begin to form their own social networks.  The group is a facilitated session, discussing different elements that arise from the parent’s input.  There is also plenty of time for parents to chat and make new friends.  Lunch and a crèche are provided to make accessing the service as easy as possible.  Guest speakers are planned for the Autumn term from Autism West Midlands, Solihull DIAL and Scope Response, as well as any other agencies that parents would like to hear from.

To support parents with specific causes for concern or stress, Face2Face Solihull has been able to draw upon the expertise and knowledge of Scope. Specifically, Time2Behave workshops have been scheduled for October 2013, and early 2014.  Time2Behave offers behaviour management support and strategies to parents of children with disabilities and/or special educational needs.  Additionally, Face2Face are hoping to facilitate a parent’s workshop focussed on sleep issues and support, later in the year.  As with all Face2Face services, these workshops will be free of charge.

Face2Face exist to provide support parents of children with a disability or additional needs.  Aiming to help parents feel less isolated, more empowered to move on with their lives and more optimistic and positive about theirs, their child’s and their family’s future.

The first group of volunteer parent Befrienders receive their certificates from Rt. Hon. Lorely Burt MP at the launch of Face2Face Solihull in July 2012.

The first group of volunteer parent Befrienders receive their certificates from Rt. Hon. Lorely Burt MP at the launch of Face2Face Solihull in July 2012.


For further information and all enquiries about Face2Face Solihull, please contact Jo Bussey, Face2Face Co-ordinator on 0121 444 8584 / 07772010685 or by e-mail to joanne.bussey@scope.org.uk


TAC, Keyworkers and Empowerment.

To answer some basic questions parents ask; ‘Why don’t the people helping my child talk to each other?’, ‘Why can’t I have just one special person who helps me join it all together?’ and ‘Whose child is it anyway?’ – important questions because they are often asked of service providers with a high degree of parental frustration and anger.

Team Around The Child Logo


TAC (the Team Around the Child model) has been designed to meet the particular support needs of babies and young children who have an on-going multifaceted condition. Because these children have a range of needs in various developmental areas, e.g. motor, perception, communication, cognition and behaviour, the child and family can find themselves at the centre of confusing networks of service providers.

In this article I want to describe TAC as a successful response to the problematic complexity that can arise and as an example of horizontal teamwork. I will also show how TAC both depends on and supports keyworkers and outline the opportunities TAC brings to give more decision-making power to parents.

Putting it another way, the article and the TAC model answer some basic questions that parents often ask; ‘Why don’t the people helping my child talk to each other?’, ‘Why can’t I have just one special person who helps me join it all together?’ and ‘Whose child is it anyway?’. These are important questions because they are often asked of service providers with a high degree of parental frustration and even anger.

Why don’t the people helping my child talk to each other?

This is a fair question and it would seem both logical and common sense for teachers, therapists, psychologists, nurses, nursery staff, play workers and anyone else working directly with the same baby or young child with a disability to share observations and approaches with each other. In my experience in the UK and other countries many parents experience the opposite; practitioners do whatever it is they are supposed to do separate from each other. The consequence can be a failure to treat the child as whole, contradictory advice, treatment programmes that do not fit together, gaps of unmet need and sometimes too many people doing too many things.

TAC philosophy suggests that a few key practitioners around each child – those with the most practical and regular involvement – agree to meet together every so often for face-to-face discussions. Two major features help define TAC; the child’s parent(s) has a full place in the team and the team membership is restricted to three, four or five people so that it is child- and family-friendly. TAC is not an old-type case conference for all comers.

TAC is a horizontal team because it is freed from vertical or hierarchical management. When a social worker, therapist and teacher, for example, agree to join their efforts together around a particular child none of them can assume the role of team manager. Nor can the culture and working practices of any of these three agencies (social work, therapy/health and education) predominate. This helps define the role of the child’s keyworker (used synonymously here with the term ‘lead professional’) and makes space for the key people around the child to speak up and influence how support is provided.

Why can’t I have just one special person who helps me join it all together?

Perhaps you have heard this question as frequently as I have. It often comes from exasperated parents who are bewildered and overwhelmed by the number appointments, assessments, planning meetings, reviews, etc. they have to keep abreast of. Often the dense scribbling on the calendar on the fridge tells the story. The plea is for one person who is known, liked and trusted by the family to sit with the parent at the centre of the web and help to make sense of it all – help fit it all together so there is maximum benefit to the child and minimum cost to the child and family’s functioning, wellbeing and mental health.

At its worst, under traditional discipline-specific approaches, parents can find themselves lost and disempowered in chaos. This suggests no negative reflection on any practitioner’s expertise, commitment, care or concern for the child and family. While each one of them is working with skill and compassion, the lack of any local co-ordinating system can reduce them, in the eyes of parents, to just one more piece of a jigsaw that is never put together.

In the TAC model, local senior managers work in their own cross-agency horizontal teams to create integrated pathways that will carry each child through the journey of referral, assessment, action planning and support. This strategic effort builds the horizontal landscape between the local ‘vertical’ agencies engendering effective communication and networking, co-ordination of all interventions as far as possible and close collaborative teamwork on each child’s programmes.

The beneficiaries of this effort are child, family and keyworker. The keyworker, instead of being swamped by the same local chaos that disempowers parents, now has a well-organised environment with interagency systems and protocols. Work can now be more effective in supporting the child and family and helping them get the best from the services around them.

The keyworker is typically the facilitator of the child’s TAC, being the one who knows the child and family best and supporting TAC meetings through their agendas. TAC is always a collective effort and each member will take on tasks to avoid the keyworker being overloaded.

Whose child it is anyway?

This is the plea of the parent who wants to be more involved in deciding what is going to happen to their child. They see plans are being made but do not feel they have been allowed to play a part – and do not necessarily agree with what has been decided. Frustration is made worse when they feel none of the practitioners have got to know the child or family very well or listened properly to their aspirations for the child.

The TAC model affords parents a full place in their child’s TAC and, once there, acknowledges the role of the child’s parent with very special knowledge and expertise. Opinions will be actively sought and their voices will be listened to with genuine rather than feigned interest. Parents are an equal member of the TAC and have a full part to play in its horizontal teamwork.

The spirit of TAC is the collective effort; the belief that, when facing very complex issues, two or three heads are better than one. While each person in the TAC brings their own particular skills and expertise, the TAC as a whole represents shared experience, shared concern, shared resourcefulness and shared wisdom. Decisions about a child’s health, wellbeing and, sometimes, survival are likely to be better founded when they come from the child’s TAC rather than from a single person. This authoritative voice of each child’s TAC is built into the workings of the local integrated pathway in recognition that no other group or person has the same degree of knowledge or concern.

Empowerment of parents extends beyond the service to each individual child. Collectively, local parents hold a valuable store of experience, expertise and energy. In TAC thinking, parent empowerment means inviting representative parents into the planning of the local integrated pathway, into the discussions that agree a local vision for what support ought to look like, and into processes for gathering feedback for service development.

I have a repeated experience, in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and Australia of speaking about TAC to groups of practitioners and managers without any parent in sight. These major stakeholders, for whatever reason, are absent from discussions which will surely impact on their lives and on the lives of families coming along. The result is that parents are denied a voice and service managers lose the grounding and dynamism that parents would have brought to the table. When we are planning new service models we should always ask ourselves, ‘Whose children are they anyway?’.

Further reading:

Alexander, S., & Forster, J. (2012). The Key Worker: Resources for Early Childhood Intervention Professionals. Melbourne: ECII. Noah’s Ark Inc.

Dale, N. (1996). Working with families of children with special needs: Partnership and practice. London: Routledge.

Davis, H., & Day, C. (2010). Working in Partnership: The Family Partnership Model. London: Pearson.

Davis, S. (Ed). (2007). Team Around the Child: working together in early childhood intervention. NSW: Kurrajong Waratah.

Limbrick, P. (2003). An integrated pathway for assessment and support: For children with complex needs and their families. UK: Interconnections.

Limbrick, P. (2009). TAC for the 21st Century: Nine essays on Team Around the Child. UK: Interconnections.

Limbrick, P. (2012). Horizontal Teamwork in a Vertical World: Exploring interagency collaboration and people empowerment. UK: Interconnections.

Limbrick-Spencer, G. (2001). The Keyworker: a practical guide. Birmingham, UK: WordWorks with Handsel Trust.

Sitrin, M. (Ed). (2006). Horizontalism: Voices of popular power in Argentina. Oakland, USA: AK Press.


Contact the author

E-mail: peter.limbrick@teamaroundthechild.com

Visit: www.teamaroundthechild.com

Please note: This essay was first published as a Members’ Briefing Paper in March 2013 in the Equity and Childhood Program of the Youth Research Centre at Melbourne University, Australia.


The Reason I’m Here, New Early Support Video.

Early Support has commissioned a series of films to show our principles across the country. These films demonstrate the work that is going on out there, including the work other delivery partners are doing. Signpost Inclusion with Solihull Council and the Renewal Family Centre assisted with the making of one of these, not least by organising and promoting a family event around which to base much of the filming. The concept of the film was devised by the film’s Producer, Nidge Dyer with Fiona Holmes and Dave Howard.

NNPCF and the Regional Networks

Sarah Thomas is Co-Chair and West Midlands Representative on the National Network of Parent Carer Forums Steering Group.

Sarah Thomas

The National Network for Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF) is a group of parent carers working collectively to make a positive difference for and with families of children and young people with additional needs.

The Network is made up of 151 local parent carer forums and is spread across the 9 English regions. One of the key objectives of the Network is to bring local forums together to provide support for each other and to share information and best practice. The Network is a pan disability organisation that promotes parent carer participation and partnership working between parent carers and professionals at all levels.

The Network defines partnership as a process where parent carers are valued members of a team shaping and delivering services for families of children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities. Effective parent participation happens when parents have conversations with and work alongside professionals in order to design, develop and improve services.

NNPCF Markers of good practice for parent carer participation:

• Parent carers’ engagement is valued, planned, and resourced.

• Pan disability parent carer forum linked with effective two way communication with wider parent carer community.

• Parent carer led and solution focussed.

• Constructive partnerships where parent carer participation is evident throughout planning, delivery and monitoring stages with authentic co-ownership of work.

• Parent Carer Forums participate in regional networks and are well linked to local single issue or condition specific groups.

• Transparent written forum governance, including clarity about function of forums, representatives roles and ‘Reward, Recognition and Remuneration’ policy in place.

• Ongoing outreach to build representation and recruit wider membership, offering support and training opportunities.

In the Midlands local forums are supported by two regional networks, one in the East Midlands and one in the West Midlands. Each region has selected one parent carer to sit on the National Network Steering Group. Currently Dave Nutting is the NNPCF representative for the East Midlands and Sarah Thomas is the NNPCF representative for the West Midlands and Co-Chair.

If you want to know more about parent carer participation please visit the NNPCF website http://www.nnpcf.org.uk

Lincolnshire Drop-Ins

Drop-in clinics for Parent/Carers who have Children with Disabilities, Autism Spectrum or Sensory Needs.

From the beginning of May the Early Support Care Co-ordination service (ESCO), have introduced ‘drop-in’ clinics at 21 children’s centres around the county. The clinics enable parents or carers to have 1:1 consultations with an Early Support key worker from the children with disabilities service and are bookable direct through the customer service centre (CSC) on 01522 782111. The drop-in clinics form part of a new service offer for ESCO which recently extended provision from under 5’s to children in the 0-13 age range. From June this has been extended to all children and young people up to 18 years of age who have disabilities (to include autism), sensory loss and/or complex medical needs. Working closely with the CSC, the idea was developed in response to parents wanting face to face consultations, help with problem solving and bespoke signposting to universal and targeted services to include Lincolnshire’s short breaks programme.

ESCO Image


Parents can choose a clinic nearest to the family home or place of work and at a time to suit them.

For more information about ESCO’s new service offer contact Jon Hird ESCO practice supervisor on 01522 552389 or 07795968494, or email esco@lincolnshire.gov.uk 



Building Confidence Through Training and Leadership

James Hempsall.

This week we have been introducing Early Support to the latest cohort of childminders in Birmingham.  The training was organised with the city council and the Birmingham branch of the National Childminding Association.  It was enthusiastically received by the 15 practitioners in attendance, who by their own admission knew little or nothing about the programme before coming onto the training.  Which is, of course, why they were there on the Saturday and the following Wednesday evening.  For us, Early Support training courses for early years and childcare practitioners have been transformational.  They have impacted on practitioners’ integrated practice and their essential contribution to early identification, working in partnership, and successfully using procedures such as family service plans.  It’s always great to see those pennies dropping and confidence rising, says Kate Sparling, Hempsall’s Training Manager.  Practitioners see the benefit too:

“I now know the policies and procedures to inform and grow my professional development and practices”.

“I now know where to go to get support to help with my families I work with”.

In Birmingham, we have been impressed with how the local authority rolled out Early Support right from the start and how they maintain a drive and commitment to continue its approach and principles.  It has been terrific to have been closely involved in all stages along the way.  Their continuing investment in supporting all parts of the children’s workforce is an indication of the work necessary to ensure Early Support is maintained through this period of difficult decisions and challenging resources.

It all started in 2007 with our launch events for managers working in the sector, partner organisations and children’s centres.  This set the tone for the way forward and gave inspirational leadership (from outside and inside the local authority) within a culture of shared goals and values.  We have found that senior leadership commitment is vital to make things happen, and with such commitment established and publicly demonstrated, it was then time to deliver a programme of introductory seminars to the wider workforce.  This allowed our trainers to explore Early Support with those charged with the idea of integrating it into their day-to-day practice.  It takes concentrated effort to manage change, objectively audit your work, identify improvements needed, and develop ways of building even better partnerships with parents.  Once this process had started, we could feel a sense of direction and joint commitment.

Delivering WIP was a really useful next step to embed the vision into routines and procedures.  It helped the development of new working relationships, and a deeper understanding of everyone’s different roles, starting points, and future contributions.  Partnership working does take work, and training like WIP goes a long way to making this happen.  Since the beginning many courses have been delivered with numerous multi-disciplinary and specialist groups of professionals and parents.  We have learned that training alone does not deliver the Early Support outcomes we all want.  Work before, during, and after training has been vital in Birmingham to join everything up and really make a difference.

Supporting the workforce through informed and empowered parents, staff, managers and leaders is essential.  So, it was great we were able to use our Early Support capacity building status to support Birmingham’s continued progress.  We advise and support through training trainers for the WIP course, and by attending the Birmingham Early Support Task Group where we have contributed our perspective, objective view, and training advice.  It has been great to know that everyone around the table was interested in listening and acting upon everyone’s views and ideas to drive the way forward for implementation and innovation.

This also supported us to jointly develop the delivery of Service Audit Tool and Key Working training.  We also supported a review of Early Support and the roll out of Early Support Champions in all children’s centres across the city – which for Europe’s largest local authority was certainly a challenge. The role of children’s centres is as a single point of contact for practitioners to implement the Early Support approach.  A clear example of how integrated practice can link to models of delivery, share resources and work together between practitioners and parents.

Throughout these five years we have learned lots of lessons and have identified key elements we feel need to be in place for successful implementation and delivering Early Support outcomes, some of these are:

Training is an essential ingredient of any Early Support strategy, and it needs to be universally available in the long-term.  This is because staff change and develop, and services are reviewed and restructured regularly.  This results in understanding varying through the natural ebb and flow of service delivery.  Training alone cannot achieve Early Support goals.  The approach needs to be at front of mind, so there needs to be a firm commitment from senior managers in place and agreed local pathways to support effective implementation.


One specific learning point has been for training delivery, the WIP course does need to be delivered to multi-disciplinary learner groups.  This provides for an environment of highly effective interaction, the sharing of professional perspectives, and the continued process of developing mutual respect and partnership working.  Which is, of course, at the very heart of the Early Support approach.

Telford & Wrekin Embracing Early Support.

Use of Early Support with Families of Hearing Impaired Children
in Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire Local Authorities.

The Sensory Inclusion Service (Hearing Impaired) has been part of Early Support as a pilot programme and then as a Pathfinder.  Over this period of time SIS have undertaken a number of small scale evaluations of the work and developed policies and procedures informed by family views.

Principles of SIS work

The Sensory Inclusion Service supports the principles and methodologies of Early Support and is committed to meeting its objectives.  SIS uses these principles and methodologies to empower families and put them at the centre of decision making for their children.

Use of Early Support Information / Supporting Informed choice

Following the detection of hearing loss, families are presented with a ‘minimum offer’ which includes the ‘Deafness’ Booklet alongside the Early Support Blue Box and Family File.  This ES information is used alongside NDCS Materials that promote informed choice.  Families have access to the full range of ES materials through SIS and an Information Hub based at Telford & Wrekin’s multi agency centre ‘Stepping Stones’.

Adaption of Family Files by Sensory Inclusion Service

Following the consultation period, many elements of the Family File were considered by families not to be useful.  Families however are still be offered the Family File and supported in its use if they wish.  Families however considered the Family Support Plans to be useful.  These are now incorporated into an Initial Needs Assessment as well as ongoing Foundation stage reports.  This ensures that at every stage the family’s voice is heard and valued.

Use of Developmental Journals

The Common Monitoring Protocol (CMP) acts as the core assessment material for hearing impaired children 0-3 years.  Families continue to hold the CMP.  It remains the choice of the families how they complete the CMP.  The advent of the Newborn Hearing Screening means that The Sensory Inclusion Service are often the first agency that work with hearing impaired children who may have additional difficulties.  In this context SIS staff use the Early Support Developmental Journal and Downs Syndrome Journal with families.  SIS use an adapted version of the CMP summary sheets and Level 2 materials as a Teacher of the Deaf held assessment tool.


Early Support – The Context In Solihull

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.

Building Resilience

One of the key challenges identified by Pathfinders and being voiced at Action Learning Network events and the recent SEND Regional Events has been the need for parents to have opportunities to build their confidence, increase their skills whilst also building family resilience. This results in empowering them to make the most of the opportunities that new Bill will offer. Early Support has a well established, highly evaluated series of peer led Workshops aimed at delivering these outcomes. They have also proven to be extremely effective as entry level Parent Carer Participation training, ensuring a steady flow of knowledgeable Parent Carers to work in partnership with local services.

Early Support is a core delivery partner for the implementation of the proposals set out in the Governments Green Paper, which identified Early Support as a key approach to meeting the needs of disabled children, young people and their families. The approach has been extended across the full age range from birth to adulthood.

Outline of the workshops

These are a series of workshops that follow on from each other and follow the parent carer’s ‘journey’. They are peer led having been written by, and are led by trainers who are parent carers themselves. They are aimed at the parent carers of children and young people of any age, with any additional need or disability and at any stage on their ‘journey’. They aim to support parents to work actively with services to get the very best outcomes for their family:

Workshop 1: Understanding This Unknown World-the importance of information, including what Early Support can offer

Workshop 2: Changing Relationships-looking at working with practitioners, multi-agency assessments and planning

Workshop 3: The Child Beyond the Disability-looking at different levels of acceptance and the child beyond the disability

Workshop 4: Ordinary Lives?- looking after yourself, reviewing the skills gained on the workshops and looking to the future

Workshop 5: Growing Up, Moving On-helping your child to grow up and get the most from life as they make the transition to adulthood. (For parent carers of young people 14+)

The workshops have recently been reviewed and updated, and a capacity building programme is underway. Please contact the Early Support team for more information about this and about making contact with training providers who are currently available to work with you to establish a programme of Workshops in your area. Email Priya Plowman pplowman@ncb.org.uk or call her on 020 7843 6350. You can also visit the Early Support website for more information – www.ncb.org.uk/earlysupport or email Eileen Strevens (estrevens@ncb.org.uk) for information about our regional facilitators who can offer more localised support and information.

Warwickshire Training Group

In September 2009 a multi-agency training group was formed to devise an Early Support training package for Warwickshire. Parents have been involved throughout the process helping to put the training together and also delivering a regular slot where they share their experiences and answer questions.

The one day training course has been delivered across the county to an audience of multi-agency professionals who work with children 0-5. The professionals included Paediatricians, Health Visitors, Child Development Advisers, Social Workers, IDS Key Workers, Speech and Language Therapists, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Teachers, Nursery SENCO’s/staff and Children Centre Staff.

In total approximately 500 Warwickshire multi-agency professionals have attended the Early Support Training.

Our philosophy has always been:

“Don’t just attend the training go away and do it.”

That has certainly been the case. Families who have a child with complex needs and a range of professionals involved are now benefiting from having an Early Support Lead Professional. Early Support team around the child (TAC) meetings are regularly taking place in homes, clinics, nurseries and Children Centre’s across Warwickshire.

It gives the training group great satisfaction to receive comments from parents/carers demonstrating that Early Support is really beginning to make a difference for children and families in Warwickshire.


Early Support – Parent Evaluation Comments


How useful did you find the Early Support process?


  • Very useful to have a point of contact
  • I think the Early Support process is very useful and important
  • Felt like everyone was on the same page and working together
    • Was good to hear everyone’s individual opinions and I could give mine too
    • Everyone was there and suggestions relating to my child’s needs were made which maybe wouldn’t have been thought of by just speaking to one person
    • By everyone being in one place at the same time, rather than trying to get in contact with lots of different people, especially appropriate as we have a lot of medical appointments
    • Highlights areas to concentrate on and also quite motivating as it highlights progress
    • Excellent service
    • It meant the professionals were able to communicate directly concerning my child
    • This support is very important in order to ensure parents/carers are aware of how to best support their children


How use was it to have an Early Support Lead Professional?


  • Very useful, she helped to get all health professionals together, so everyone knew what was happening and ways to move forward and help and support me
  • Very useful, she helped to get all health professionals together, so everyone knew what was happening and ways to move forward and help and support me
  • Opens up lots of additional resources
  • Before I found it was me that to ensure all involved professionals came to meetings