Families First News

Front page - Welcome

Welcome to our first edition of 2019!

We have a full and busy newsletter to start the year off, with updates on the new Families First Practice Forum, which will be combining both the Tool Exchange and the Action and Impact meetings going forward, along with updates from the Chat Health service for teens, the Universal Credit roll out and much more.

We are excited to report that our St Albans Families First Event now has a full take-up for market stalls and is looking to be a very useful and informative networking event. Please do come along if you work in the St Albans area on Friday 25 January, 1.30-4.30pm (drop-in format) at St Albans City & District offices, Saint Peter's Street, St Albans, AL1 3JE. To book your place to attend this event as a delegate please register here:  Eventbrite - St Albans Event 

Also we are delighted to announce that we will be hosting a countywide Families First awards ceremony in the early Spring, celebrating the positive work being undertaken in early help. More details on location and date of this event to follow! In the meantime please start thinking about the work you and your colleagues do and the categories for nominations will be released in the coming weeks.

We hope you enjoy the newsletter and find it useful.

As always, we welcome your feedback and what you would like to see in future editions.

The latest news

NEW: Families First Practice Forum

Families First Partnerships, Practice & Development Team is launching a new local Families First Practice Forum from January 2019. The purpose of the local Forums is to:

  • Provide an opportunity for Practitioners to share learning and practice to increase their confidence and ability in using Families First Pathways and Tools. 
  • Extend Practitioners learning and development on the specifics of the Families First Assessment (FFA), Short-term work and the Early Help Module (EHM).
  • Improve the quality of recording and better evidencing of the FF Troubled Families Outcomes through our case work.
  • Opportunity to have face to face 1:1 support on individual cases identified by the keyworker that they are struggling to progress and require support.
  • Increase confidence in Practitioners’ ability to evidence their work with families and improved outcomes for families.The Practice Forums will be held half-termly in local double districts and will be facilitated by your local Senior and Families First Coordinators.Target Audience – All Keyworkers, TAF Members and Local Practitioners supporting or contribution to TAF through Families First Assessments, Graded Care Profile or Short-term work. Duration of the meeting – 2 Hours 

For more information and to book a date please visit Families First  Practice Forums

  • For further information on local Practice Forums, including meeting dates, themes for upcoming meetings and to book your attendance or individual case sessions, please click on the link below or visit www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/familiesfirstpractitioners
  • Structure of the Meeting – First Hour will be a facilitated themed practice discussion; following specific themes (see below) Feedback will be requested from Practitioners to inform discussions at future forums. Second Hour will be an individual case discussion surgery sessions (pre-booked) for Keyworkers – 15 minute slots with Senior Families First Co-ordinator.
  • Meeting Frequency – Half  Termly Meetings – starting beginning of February 2019 

Early Help Survey

We are currently developing the Families First Portal to make it easier for families to gain information regards the services that are available for them to support with needs and are conducting a survey to help us with this.

Please can you ask all your Family Workers and keyworkers to complete the following survey with families that they work with to gain their feedback.

The survey is an electronic survey and can be found in the link below.

Early Help Survey

The survey is aimed at parents/families and not practitioners, please do not ask for feedback from practitioners.

Please can you  ensure you do this with as many families as you can before the end of January when it will be reviewed.

Thank you in advance for all your support with this.

Troubled Families update

Troubled Families is a programme of targeted intervention for families with multiple problems, including crime, anti-social behaviour, truancy, unemployment, mental health problems and domestic abuse. It is funded by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and has two elements: grant funding and payment by results. The funding supports early help and service transformation and is championed by the Government to reduce public spending on families who require support from multiple parts of the state. The current phase of the programme runs from 2015 to 2020.

Government pays local authorities by results for each family that meet set criteria or move into continuous employment. Each family must have at least two of the following six problems and there must be evidence to show that outcomes have been achieved in these areas (as illustrated in the diagram below) and sustained for six months:

  1. Parents or children involved in crime or anti-social behaviour.
  2. Children who have not been attending school regularly.
  3. Children who need help: children of all ages, who need help, are identified as in need or are subject to a Child Protection Plan.
  4. Adults out of work or at risk of financial exclusion or young people at risk of worklessness.
  5. Families affected by domestic violence and abuse.
  6. Parents or children with a range of health problems.

The programme has less than 15 months to run and decisions about funding beyond March 2020 will be determined by the results of the Government’s spending review later this year.

Since April 2015,  support is known to have been provided to at least 7,003 families (attachments), and this has resulted in 1,795 payments by result claims out of a target of 4,670 (38%). Therefore as a county, we are behind the level that we should be. We are aware that there are families being supported that we have not yet identified and work is being undertaken to address this. This will result in more families known to have achieved successful outcomes. Further updates will be provide in future editions of Families First News.

This document has been created as a simple reference to what improved outcomes look like in terms of the Troubled Families Programme.

County Lines Conference: supporting children who are missing and criminally exploited'

Missing People presents ‘County Lines Conference: supporting children who are missing and criminally exploited'

Stevenage, Hertfordshire - 19th March 2019

Missing People invites front-line staff and managers to our specialist conference that will be held in Stevenage.

This event is especially relevant for anyone working with children who are being exploited or are at risk of being criminally exploited including: police, social care workers, criminal justice system and voluntary sector. 

We know that young people who are criminally exploited to become drug mules are very vulnerable and are often forced to go missing for days or weeks at a time leaving them exposed to further abuse, violence and other risks while away. Left behind are families and carers who not only face the trauma of ambiguous loss but the worry that their loved-one (or they) will be seriously hurt or harmed.

The conferences will feature a mother who will share her story and lived experience of County Lines and child criminal exploitation. 

Lunch will be provided along with refreshments throughout the day.

There will also be an opportunity to network and learn from representatives from a variety of professional backgrounds. 

Location: Cineworld Cinema, Stevenage, SG1 2AN

Times: 09:30 – 16:00

Course price: £99

Sign up today by following the link below or visiting www.missingpeopletraining.eventbrite.com

Universal Credit Update

The roll-out of Universal Credit is now complete across Hertfordshire.  New claims can no longer be made for income-based JSA, income support, income-related ESA, housing benefit (unless the claimant is in temporary or ‘specified’ accommodation), child tax credit or working tax credit.

Those already on these benefits can stay on them unless they have a change of circumstances. But if your client needs to make a new claim for one of these benefits, they cannot. Instead they can claim UC, except in certain situations (see below).

There are situations in which a claim for UC is necessary, but sometimes a better-off calculation needs to be done to check that claiming UC is the best way forward – contact the MAU on 01438 843444 or moneyadvice.unit@hertfordshire.gov.uk.  Note that if your client already gets CTC and needs to add WTC, or vice versa, this can be done as it does not count as a new claim.

There are two situations where the family can (or will be able to) claim legacy benefits instead of UC. These are if:

  • they have three or more children – in this case they cannot make a new claim for UC, but can claim legacy benefits instead. This exception is currently due to end on 31/1/19.
  • they get a severe disability premium in their legacy benefits, from 16/1/19. They cannot make a new claim for UC, but can claim (other) legacy benefits instead.

Further UC changes were announced in the Budget on 29 October, including an increase in the work allowance from April 2019. The work allowance – an amount parents and people with an illness/disability can earn before UC starts to reduce – is increasing by around £1,000 a year. This means an extra £630 or so of UC over a year for working parents on universal credit”

Families in conflict news

New Couple Counselling, Couples Mediation and Conflict Coaching services are now available for parents in conflict across Hertfordshire

Families in conflict who are in need of more intensive support can now be referred by their Families First practitioner to free Couples Mediation, Couple Counselling or Conflict Coaching.

To be eligible for a referral, families need to meet the following criteria:

  • Have a Families First Assessment in place or one planned.
  • Have one or more children under the age of 18 (under the age of 25 if the child/ren have special educational needs) or expecting a baby
  • Are resident in Hertfordshire
  • There is evidence that they are in conflict and that this conflict is impacting negatively on their children
  • Agree to engage with the service on a voluntary basis

Further details on the different services and how to refer can be found on the practitioners page www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/betterrelationships

For further details on the new services and the referral process, please email EHCommissioning@hertfordshire.gov.uk

Health for Teens

ChatHealth is a web-based application for staff, designed to manage the clinical risks of using messaging with service users in frontline healthcare environments. A range of safety features help to ensure no message goes unanswered.

The system is designed to NHS information governance standards, providing a secure alternative to staff conducting messaging from mobile handsets. The transcribing interface promotes timely record keeping and auditability.

Service users can send SMS text messages from their own handsets in the usual way at the usual cost. Visit the Health for Teens website for more information.

Lower rate of teenage pregnancies in Hertfordshire

YC Hertfordshire has welcomed recent statistics which show that the rate of teenage pregnancy is in decline in the county.


The service works with other agencies across Hertfordshire to offer young people support and guidance on sexual health, and the figures released by the Office of National Statistics shows that Hertfordshire’s 2017 teenage pregnancy quarterly numbers and rates for U18 conceptions have decreased.


The county is on course to have a lower rate at the end of this year compared to last year (which was its lowest recorded at 14.4 per 1,000). The current rate is 11.4 per 1,000 compared to 14.5 the same time last year. The rate is 17.9 nationally.


The latest statistics are positive for Hertfordshire and our services are dedicated to providing free and confidential advice so that our young people can stay safe and healthy and make informed choices about their futures.


YC Hertfordshire Access Points provide free and confidential sexual health services including:

  • Free condoms through the Condom Wallet Scheme
  • Free chlamydia testing
  • Free pregnancy testing



Have your say ....

... on the Hertfordshire Children’s Services commitment to the voices of children, young people and families

A working group of staff, young people and parent carers from across Children’s Services have worked together to produce a set of public commitments for all staff to abide to. These aim to make clear our absolute commitment to the voices of children, young people and families, ensuring we work together and are proactive in our response to feedback.

We are giving all Children’s Services staff the opportunity to comment on the commitments before they are finalised and published. Please also encourage and support, where appropriate, service users to complete the survey via the link or redirect them to the Hertfordshire County Council consultations webpage.

Link to survey: https://surveys.hertfordshire.gov.uk/s/MEFEV/

This public engagement is open from Wednesday 21 November 2018

This public engagement closes on Monday 28th January 2019

Small in Size. Be Aware of a Big Problem

It's especially important at this time of year to be aware of toys and devices that use button batteries (the flat disc-like silver batteries) and to make sure we keep children safe by using, storing and disposing of them properly.

It’s extremely dangerous to swallow button batteries or to insert them into noses or ears where they can still create a circuit and cause harm.

Button batteries are in far more products that you might initially think , including car key fobs, musical cards and books as well as toys that are powered and household electrical items, such as a thermometer.

Always make sure that button batteries are securely stored out of sight and reach of children. When they are no longer powering items, dispose of them safely and do not leave them laying around – they can still harm children if swallowed, even if the product they power needs new ones.

We have created the attached poster to use on your site or in your communications to raise awareness and make sure children are kept safe.

If you suspect that a child or young person has swallowed a button battery, seek medical advice urgently and take them to A&E.

Download the leaflet

First Impressions in Dacorum

We all know how important it is to make that first impression in an interview and looking smart is the first step and we would like to remind you all about our clothing bank ‘First Impressions’ here at Dacorum Borough Council.    We want to be able to help people living in Dacorum, whether they are tenants, leaseholders, young adults or private sector tenants and homeowners. 

There is no charge for the clothes when they visit First Impressions and they are able to try on and take the perfect outfit away with them on the day they visit. 

All you need to do to refer someone is to contact the Housing Projects and Engagement Team on tel: 01442 228218 or email tenant.involvement@dacorum.gov.uk

News from our partners!

We have created this page to link directly to some of our partners' newsletters which we feel may be of interest. Please visit the links below to read current news, events and updates from these services. You may also wish to subscribe to receive these direct. 


If your service has a newsletter which you would like to appear on this page please email: FamiliesFirst.Support@hertfordshire.gov.uk

Learning & development

Shadowing made simple!

Workforce Shadowing is an exciting opportunity to "spend a day in someone else’s shoes" and is open to the entire Families First partnership. 

Accessing the Workforce Shadowing scheme has been simplified into 3 easy steps:

  1. Choose your shadowing opportunity from this list (on the Families First Portal)
  2. Simply send an email to FamiliesFirst.Shadowing@hertfordshire.gov.uk  copying in your manager to indicate their support of your application
  1. Get shadowing!

Could your service host shadowing?
If you would like to offer a shadowing opportunity within your organisation:

  1. Nominate a contact in your team
  2. Email Shadowing@hertfordshire.gov.uk and we will be in touch.

WFD logo USE

Difference we're making

You are a star!

Lauren Penrose

Congratulations to Lauren Penrose, this month’s “You are a star”

Lauren was nominated by all the staff in the Intensive Family Support Team for Stevenage and North Herts. 

They said:

“We would like to nominate Lauren  due to her ongoing passion and commitment to the team and service. 

Lauren is extremely devoted to being the best Manager she can be, not only to the staff and the families the team supports but to her own personal development expectations.

Lauren challenges staff to develop critical thinking skills and encourage autonomy within the role. For example, she will question staff’s choices of actions not to critique, but in order to reassure them of their decisions, thus fostering greater confidence within the team member. Lauren is also open to being challenged herself and although management structure exists within the team, team members have expressed their ability to openly, honestly and objectively discuss situations with her.

Lauren goes above and beyond that expected of a team manager. Through her approach she provides a positive role model and inspires team members to improve and enhance their own skills.

Lauren manages a team of 16 staff who support over 100 families with multiple and complex needs in the local community through enablement and empowerment. The role is extremely challenging as the team support all members of a family to prevent escalation into social care. Staff state that she not only knows and responds to the needs of the families, but also knows every member of the team really well in order to support their individual development and ensure their well-being is paramount.

Lauren will support all staff in their continual professional development and encourages anyone to attend training if relevant to their role. This then enables them to implement evidence based best practice on a day to day basis. Lauren leads by example by being a motivated person herself which in turn empowers staff to feel motivated to do the best job they can.

Lauren shares updates with the team to ensure they are aware how the team’s budget can be used and where savings can be made. She has supported the team to develop a variety of in-house courses to enable funding to be used on specific resources to enhance family’s opportunities.

A member of the team has described Lauren as fair, honest, approachable, realistic, supportive and understanding. These qualities describe a team manager with integrity. Lauren is an asset to HCC.”

 Is there a person in your team or a colleague you have worked with who should be recognised for going the extra mile? Nominate them for a ‘You are a star’ award by emailing csnews@hertfordshire.gov.uk


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