Pioneering Early Help Hub and MARU schemes demonstrate success of joining up children’s services in Cornwall

As Members of the Council’s Cabinet support the “One Vision” Partnership Plan, Cornwall’s pioneering integrated Early Help Hub and MARU schemes show the success of partners working together to deliver services for children and young people.    

Cornwall’s “One Vision” Partnership Plan which aims to change the way services work together to improve the lives of children, young people and their families in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, reached a key milestone today when the draft Plan was formally approved by the Council’s Cabinet. 

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The ambitious Plan, which has been produced jointly by Cornwall Council, the Council of the Isles of Scilly and NHS Kernow, in partnership with Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, sets the foundation for a Children and Young People Transformation Plan 2017-2020.  

Formally launched in January, the One Vision Plan covers a wide range of education, health and social care services commissioned by Cornwall Council, NHS Kernow and the Council of the Isles of Scilly.  These include education and early years’ services, support for children with special educational needs and disabilities, community child health services, including child and adolescent mental health services, early help services, and children’s social care, including child protection, children in care and care leavers. 

Introducing the Plan at today’s meeting of the Cabinet Andrew Wallis, the Council’s Lead Member for Children and Young People, said “This is not about cutting services for children, young people and families in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.  Itis about improving services and building on the success of projects such as the Early Help Hub and our Multi Agency Referral Unit ( MARU) where we are already working closely with our partners to deliver ground breaking services which are changing lives.” 

“We know that parents and carers and young people are not interested in which organisation runs a service – they just want to know that the service will be there when they need it.  We already have strong relationships with our partners in health, schools, the police and the voluntary and community sector.  Developing the One Vision Plan will help us to deliver improved joined up services which meet the needs of our children, young people and families." 

Cornwall’s pioneering integrated multi agency Early Help Hub was launched 18 months ago by Cornwall Council and Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to provide a single point of contact for information, advice and guidance about Early Help services for children and young people and their families, as well as access to a range of universal and targeted Early Help services. 

The first integrated Early Help Hub to be set up in the country, it is dedicated to quickly assessing any problem affecting a child or young person up to the age of 18 and ensuring that they connect with the right support at the right time from the right service. 

Staffed by professionals from both health and social care services, the Hub currently receives around 1,200 referrals a month from parents, GPs, school nurses, health visitors and other sources who have concerns about a child’s physical or emotional health, their behaviour at home or issues at school. 

Each case is treated individually, with staff aiming to point the person making the referral towards the best help within 48 hours.  This could mean linking them with teams in the community or voluntary services, resolving the problem over the phone or providing them with access to self help resources. 

The success of the Hub is based on sharing information at an early stage and speedy response times, often nipping a problem in the bud before it reaches crisis point or becomes more firmly established.  Staff have access to up to date information on all the services available, as well as immediate access to health, social care and school records which they use to make decisions.  

The work of the Hub has been widely praised by parents, schools and health partners, with 87% of parents and carers who had accessed the service, and 78% of professionals saying they were satisfied or very satisfied with the service they had received.  

“This is a brilliant service – thank you for making life easier” said one service user, while another added “ very understanding and helpful service –and was able to give support when other services couldn’t help”. 

The Early Help Hub sits alongside Cornwall’s Multi-Agency Referral Unit (MARU) which provides an integrated response to concerns about the safety of a child.  

Set up in 2012 and staffed by professionals from the Council’s social care team, heath partners and Devon and Cornwall police, the MARU has played a key role in improving safeguarding services for children and young people in Cornwall by ensuring that concerns are addressed in a timely manner. 

The MARU is the single point of contact for anyone who is concerned about the welfare of a child. Its function is to provide professional advice and consultation and to determine whether the case meets the LSCB approved threshold criteria for statutory social work intervention.  Where cases do not meet that threshold, referrers are provided with information, advice and guidance, including signposting to targeted and preventative services. 

Where it is felt that early help or youth support is a proportionate response to concerns raised, the contact is passed to the Early Help Hub to process the contact through to locality-based Early Help Services.  

Cases that meet the threshold are passed to the relevant  team for a statutory social work assessment or for a strategy discussion in those cases where there is evidence of actual or potential risk of significant harm and where there is evidence, a child protection enquiry.  If a service is required cases can be referred to Early Help Services, Family assessment and support teams, the specialist Adolescent team or the Child Protection and Court Teams.  

In line with guidance on child sexual exploitation the MARU is supporting the development of the CSE forum in Cornwall, to promote the use of proactive/ preventive approaches to child sexual exploitation with partner agencies.

Story posted 17th March