Review of Early Help services

Early Help services

Early Help services support families to keep their children safe and well. They protect vulnerable children and young people from harm, and assist their educational progress. Early Help services directly support the Council’s priority outcomes of keeping vulnerable people safe, helping people help themselves and economic growth.

In East Sussex, these services include groups and courses at children’s centres and youth centres, youth work and intensive work with families. The Council’s Early Help services support and enable thousands of families every year. Support relies on joint work with partners. These include:

  • health visiting and school nursing
  • schools and early years providers
  • police, GPs, hospitals, mental health services
  • community safety, youth offending prevention and
  • other partners in the public, private, voluntary and community sectors.

Providing Early Help services

The Council provides Early Help and broader preventative services that support families and young people, through two teams: 0–5 years and 5–19 years.

The 0–5 activity is integrated with Health Visiting and Community Nursery Nursing services. The East Sussex Healthcare Trust provide Healthy Child Programme services, with health, wellbeing and resilience checks and advice for all families. Health and care professionals work together in children’s centres with the same managers, this ensures families get joined-up parenting support, and enables information sharing about vulnerable families.

Different kinds of Early Help services meet different levels of need. They all aim to enable families to help themselves, to prevent their problems becoming more complex or serious, so that they can meet their children’s needs without further help:

  • level 1 – services for families meeting their children’s needs, e.g. open groups and play sessions, general parenting information
  • level 2 – services for families with additional needs, e.g. parenting advice, targeted parenting groups and parenting courses
  • level 3 – services for families with multiple complex needs, e.g. intensive support also known as keywork.


Families have a keyworker who works intensively, with their agreement, to help address identified needs. The keyworker:

  • co-ordinates assessment and planning across multiple services, such as early years providers, schools and healthcare services, to support positive change
  • works with parents to build resilience and skills to help them look after their children, this may include finding support for issues such as mental health, managing money, school attendance and their child’s vulnerabilities
  • works directly with children and young people e.g. on emotional health and wellbeing, reducing risk-taking behavior and keeping themselves safe, substance use, sexual health and risk.

Level 4 is the highest level of need – children and young people with acute needs, and those in need of protection. Families at Level 4 will need help from children’s social care and other teams.

Children’s centres

Children’s centres offer targeted professional support to families who need guidance to meet their children’s needs:

  • drop-in parent support groups and Incredible Years parent training
  • postnatal and anxiety groups run with Health Visitors
  • targeted support groups for parents on speech and language development
  • one to one work with Health Visitors to address health related issues

We offer crèches so parents can attend these groups.

Youth Services

Young people can access youth clubs and music sessions at youth centres in Eastbourne, Hastings, Peacehaven, Heathfield and Bexhill and in other community locations. There is also targeted youth work, such as for those with a disability or identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning.

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