Thresholds of Need

Children, young people and their families have different levels of need and these may change over time.

There are four levels of need and it is important to identify children and young people’s needs at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure they get the right help at the right time.

Level One - Universal

Most children will have their needs met through universal provision. At this level, services are ‘universal’ meaning that they are available to all children and young people. Families and young people can use these services without the need for a referral or assessment for example:

  • Family Information Service, schools
  • GP surgeries
  • Children’s Centres
  • Libraries
  • Leisure centres
  • Health services
  • A range of services provided by private, voluntary and independent services.

Level Two – Earliest Help (Additional Needs)

For some children and families, help is required to respond to a specific need that cannot be met solely through universal provision. This may include for example: specialist speech and language services, a specific health need, a temporary response to an event, ie bereavement, eviction/homelessness, school non-attendance etc. This is often a single agency response.

We have introduced the term 'earliest help' to aide people’s understanding of support.

An Early Help assessment and plan is needed to co-ordinate a SMART response for the child and family.

Level Three – Early Help (Complex Needs)

Some families have multiple needs and won’t achieve positive outcomes without co-ordinated support from a number of agencies led by one professional. We should aim to build on existing trusted professional relationships to gain consent and engagement with the support being offered.

Help can be achieved using a multi-agency 'Team Around the Family' (TAF) approach within the Early Help Framework.

An Early Help assessment and plan is needed to co-ordinate a SMART response for the child and family. Families requiring support at this level may require specific support from Children’s Services via Start Well.

Level Four – Safeguarding Acute and Specialist

Some children, young people and their families will require more specialist social work support to ensure they can achieve their full potential. Without this help and support their health and development may be significantly impaired. This includes children who may have a disability. These are referred to as 'children in need'.

For more information see S17 of the Children Act 1989 (external link), this gives a full definition of 'children in need'. Some children will need social work support to protect them from significant harm. This can be to prevent harm or as a response when harm has already occurred.

See S47 of the Children Act 1989 (external link) for a full definition of child protection. A small number of children, young people will require statutory interventions from the Targeted Youth Support Service.

The child's journey

The needs of children and young people change and develop over time making it essential that we provide the right help at the right time.

The key to this is Early Help. The Early Help Assessment is used to identify a child’s needs.

This is most useful for children and young people in the low-level needs and emerging needs categories but can also be used as a starting point for those with multiple or complex needs.

For those with complex or serious needs immediate referral to the Children First Partnership Hub (previously MAST) is the most appropriate action.

Thresholds of Need guidance

The Thresholds of Need guidance has been refreshed for 2021 and provides a detailed walk through of the child’s journey through the four levels of need.

The Threshold of Need and response guidance includes:

  • Making and managing referrals to services
  • Who to refer to and when
  • More information on the type of needs and services available
  • When to complete an Early Help Assessment
  • When Early Help is not enough
  • Section 47 child protection concerns
  • Examples of the different thresholds

Greater Manchester procedures

  • Detailed guidance on Early Help Assessments - Chapter 2 of the TRI.X procedures
  • Detailed information on how to manage cases where there are areas of concern about a child’s safety and welfare - Chapter 3 of the TRI.X procedures - this includes a detailed guide on Wigan’s assessment process (Chapter 3.3) and pre-birth assessments (chapter 3.11).

Further information

For advice on how to proceed with an Early Help, please ring the Children First Partnership Hub on 01942 828520.

If you need to discuss a child concern, please seek advice from the Children First Partnership Hub on 01942 828300 (between 8.45am and 5.00 pm Monday to Friday).