The wider network: the ‘four-tier model’ of services
CSC services play a specific statutory role within a wider set of children’s services. Many local areas describe this range using a four-tier model. This is often displayed as a pyramid or continuum of needs (see below). The terminology and boundaries between tiers vary slightly across the country, but generally they are:
- Tier 1 – Universal services such as schools, health visiting, GP and so on.
- Tier 2 – Targeted services for children and families beginning to experience – or at risk of – difficulties, for example school counselling, parenting programmes, support for teenage parents and so on.
- Tier 3 – Specialist services for children and families with multiple needs such as intensive family support, specialist child and adolescent mental health services, and services for children with disabilities.
- Tier 4 – Specialist services for children and families with severe and complex needs, including child protection services, inpatient child and adolescent mental health services.
CSC ‘sits’ within tiers 3 and 4 of this framework, meaning that it deals largely with families experiencing serious and complex difficulties. For families needing a bit of extra support or help, there are a range of other services that may be more suitable in the first instance.
The remainder of this section describes some of the processes for getting help at the lower tiers of this model.
The Common Assessment Framework
The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) is a national multi-agency assessment tool for all professionals involved with a child and their family, irrespective of their discipline. It is designed to assess the needs and identify early support for families and deliver coordinated services through a written plan that is reviewed regularly either by the lead professional or through the Team Around the Child (TAC) process. The process should be completed in partnership with the family and requires their consent.
The CAF should be offered to families where a child is identified as having additional needs to those already being met by universal services. The practitioner should follow local safeguarding procedures if a child or young person is considered ‘at risk’.
The CAF provides a common language to identify areas of strength and concern. It is also a way of actively involving families in the process and making sure that professionals work in a unified and coordinated way. It is an important tool for adult services staff to access early support for families, and is also used as a referral mechanism in many local authorities.
Team Around the Child (TAC)
The Team Around the Child and their Family (TAC/F) is a model of service provision where a range of different practitioners come together to help and support a child or young person. Essentially it is a ‘virtual’ team of involved professionals brought together – with the family’s consent – to devise a plan of action to support the child and their family. The plan of action is based on needs identified using the CAF.
Young carers are a diverse group. The amount and type of care they give varies so much that we cannot predict how it might affect each young carer’s wellbeing. So much depends on the level and type of care they provide – for example, giving emotional support can be just as demanding as the physical aspects of care. Several pieces of legislation and guidance formally recognise young carers and define service provision and the responsibility of agencies towards this group. Only a small proportion of young carers are currently identified or assessed for support. Research has found that young carers can experience substantial physical, emotional or social problems. They come across difficulties in school and elsewhere. CSC is required to assess any young carer coming to their attention, who asks for a carer’s assessment, even if the adult family member does not give consent.