Covid-19 and early help
The biggest challenges in supporting children and young people are still to come
Early help practitioners working with children and young people have warned that the biggest challenges around coronavirus and supporting children and families are still to come.
Working in partnership with the Early Intervention Foundation, we carried out a number of interviews in April 2020 with heads of early help services, lead practitioners, and headteachers from across England.
In these interviews, we heard how coronavirus has changed early help services.
- The closure of schools, early years settings and children’s centres, together with social distancing measures, have restricted professionals’ in-person contact with children and young people. This has made it much more difficult for them to spot the more subtle signs of potential issues (such as domestic abuse, neglect, and mental health problems).
- Early help services have adapted to work virtually. This improved access for some groups, mainly teenagers. But it also made access more difficult for others, especially young children, children with complex needs and those without suitable devices or internet connections.
- Many of the interviewees said the biggest challenges were yet to come. An increase in referrals for early help is expected as lockdown restrictions are lifted. To meet this growth in demand, more investment is needed in early help services.
Action for Children’s recommendations
Following the report, we are calling on the government to urgently respond to children’s growing needs, prioritising support that helps children early.
The government must:
- Ensure local authorities have enough resources to invest in evidence-based early help services to deal with the expected increase in demand.
Local authorities and their partners:
- Should evaluate and improve the new ways of working used during the coronavirus period to make sure progress made around information sharing and multi-agency working continues.
- Should evaluate the benefits and barriers identified after moving early help services to digital and how it has affected children. The findings could help improve the quality of virtual delivery of early help beyond the current crisis.