Families First News

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News from the Families First Pathfinder Areas!

Families First is changing the way services provide early help to families in Hertfordshire, bringing together organisations who provide early help support to families under one ‘umbrella’ of consistent practice and clearer processes. 

This week the first of the new triage panels will run in the pathfinder areas of Stevenage, Broxbourne and Watford & Three Rivers. Our new electronic leaflet explains some of what is happening, and our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) give more detail.

You can stay connected and benefit from being a part of Families First:

  1. Send us content for this newsletter. More than 1000 people receive the newsletter direct to their inbox and over double that number view our articles, so it’s a great way to get messages out to a wide range of early help professionals across the county. If you have something to contribute or an article to share with Families First professionals, send it to the editor using the ‘Contact us’ button.
  2.  Visit the Families First Portal for information about services and to access training opportunities for Families First professionals. Let us know what you’d like to see and send us resources you think would be useful to other practitioners – including documents and useful websites.
  3.  Put in a request for materials from our range of Families First promotional items to help you promote Families First amongst your own local networks. We can also provide materials to help you promote Families First at events – check out our ‘Brand in a Box’  


The latest news

Delays to the Early Help Module (EHM) Remote Access "Live" date

Please be aware that remote access to EHM will not be available until 6 November 2016 - You'll find training dates for EHM training in the training section of the Families First Portal.

Families First Triage Panels

Families First Triage Panels are going live this week in the pathfinder areas in Stevenage, Broxbourne and Watford & Three Rivers. Families First Triage Panels can agree the level of intervention required (emerging, targeted or intensive) and can enhance the effectiveness of multi-agency working. They consider which contacts require multi-agency support  and identify the lead agency/family keyworker. They can identify, manage and coordinate responses to prevent escalation in risk factors where the safeguarding threshold has not been met.

We are looking for suitable venues to hold the triage panels for approximately a month at a time please contact Katie Underwood  if you are able to accommodate

Please see below information for the pathfinder areas.

Watford & Three Rivers





Otley Family Centre

Otley Family Centre, Otley Way, South Oxhey, WD19 7TB










Broadwater Children Centre

Longmeadow Primary, Oaks Cross, Stevenage, SG2 8LT










Finance Interview Room, Level 2

Broxbourne Borough Council offices, Bishops College, Churchgate, Cheshunt, EN8 9XQ


Community Services Meeting Room, Level 3


Members Interview Room, Level 2



Gendered Intelligence Youth Project for the young transgender community in Hertfordshire

The Gendered Intelligence Youth Group is a new county-wide project run by Youth Connexions in partnership with Gendered Intelligence. It is open to all young people who live, work, or are educated in Herts between the ages of 13 and 19 and who identify as transgender, non-binary, gender fluid and/or questioning their gender. We aim to provide a safe space for a social and support group. The group meets the first Wednesday of every month. Full details on MOGOlistings

New services to help resolve conflict between parents

Research shows that children in families with high levels of parental conflict have a higher risk of negative outcomes. Hertfordshire County Council aims to begin to address this through its inter-relationship support pilot, running in Broxbourne, Stevenage, Watford, Hertsmere and Welwyn Hatfield.

We have commissioned The Counselling Foundation to provide a counselling service and Herts Young Homeless will be providing a mediation service. Both services will only operate in the pilot areas.

If you are a professional working with parents in these areas, either together or living separately, where conflict between them is affecting the child/young person, you may wish to refer them to one of these services.  

More information and the criteria fact sheet for referring can be found online. If you have any queries, please email css@hertfordshire.gov.uk

All About You – FREE provision to help move families towards work

A new session called ‘All About You’ has recently started running in the Dacorum area. These sessions are for anyone who:

  • wants help to find work, training courses, volunteering, advice & information or CVs AND
  • is currently being supported through a CAF or Families First Assessment (FFA) AND
  • is currently claiming out of work benefits.

The sessions are run by Viv Davidson, the Troubled Families Employment Advisor for the Dacorum area. Viv held the first session at the beginning of September and has had a good attendance every week. Already through the sessions she has helped 2 people into voluntary work. Neither of these clients had worked in over 5 and 10 years respectively and needed to regain their confidence before looking for paid employment. By doing the voluntary work – both in retail – they hope to start looking for paid employment in the new year.

Viv has also been able to support a client where English is their second language, organising for them to start an ESOL course to enable them to find work. She is currently looking for courses in security training for another client.

All About You is held every Thursday from 10am – 2pm at the Greenhills Resource Centre in Hemel Hempstead. If you think someone you’re supporting through a CAF or FFA would benefit from this you can book them a half hour session by calling Viv on 07795 020 548.

Guidance on infection control

Public Health England have produced a document, Guidance on Infection Control in Schools and Other Childcare Settings, which sets out when and for how long children need to be excluded, when treatment/medication is required and where to get further advice.


Rebrand: 'Safe Space'

Safe Space is the umbrella name for Counselling in Schools (including Art/Drama/Play Therapy), Brief Therapy and Mentoring services. The name Safe Space reflects exactly what is at the core of our work – offering young people a creative, confidential and safe space to explore any issues affecting their everyday lives.

For almost 15 years, Counselling in Schools has been providing therapeutic support for young people in Hertfordshire. Since its beginning, the service has seen vast developments reflecting the growing need of children and young people. We have grown from a small team to the services we now offer, made up of over 30 counsellors and therapists, as well as Brief Therapy and Mentoring. This team, collectively known as Specialist Services, has become known as ‘Safe Space’. The name Safe Space reflects exactly what is at the core of our work – offering young people a creative, confidential and safe space to explore any issues affecting their everyday lives.

Check out their Safe Space's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)







Increase in concerns about children affected by domestic abuse

The NSPCC reports that, in the last 5 years, the number of adults calling the NSPCC Helpline with concerns about domestic abuse has increased by 75%. The NSPCC’s Domestic abuse recovering together (DART) service, which  provides a safe environment for children and their mothers rebuild their relationship following domestic abuse, is highlighted.

For more information see the DART website.

Invitation to attend the Inter-Parental Relationships Support Pilot Stakeholder Workshop – 4 November 2016

Children’s exposure to conflict between their parents – whether parents are together or separated – can put children’s mental health and long-term life chances at risk.

Specifically, unresolved inter-parental conflict can affect children’s long-term mental health and wellbeing while also adversely affecting wider aspects of family functioning, including parenting quality.

Last year, Hertfordshire was nominated as one of 12 local authorities to work with the Department of Work and Pension’s (DWP) to trial new approaches to supporting parents in conflict. Funding for phase one was received earlier this year, and we are now invited to apply for phase two funding to extend the programme.

The trials are presently running in five localities - Stevenage, Broxbourne, Watford, Welwyn Hatfield and Hertsmere. Additional funding will potentially allow us to involve more focus areas. This is a significant opportunity for Hertfordshire, and it will be important to design a second phase that has maximum impact on parents and children, making a sustainable change to our local system and allowing the work to continue beyond the DWP programme.

If you would like to hear more about phase one and take part in the discussions to develop phase two, you are invited to join us at:

The Inter-Parental Relationships Support Pilot Stakeholder Workshop

4 November 2016

Time: 10am – 12pm

Venue: Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage

To register please email CSS@hertfordshire.gov.uk to book your place.

You can also find out more about inter-parental relationship support on the Practitioners section at  www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/familiesfirst

Anti-bullying week in England

The Anti-Bullying Alliance has published free resources for use during Anti-Bullying Week in England, which runs from 14-18 November 2016. These include lesson plans, assemblies and activities. 

Are you familiar with Families In Focus?

Families in Focus CIC is an independent community interest company formed in 2007 and is dedicated to providing fully funded (so free to parents) practical and emotional support to parents caring for children and young people with SEND. We research, develop and deliver therapeutic parenting courses and Parent Network support drop in groups across Hertfordshire. Francine Swaby is an experienced counsellor with a Diploma in Integrative Counselling and has worked with adults in private practice, and later trained to work with children counselling in a more creative way. Her youngest son has Autism, epilepsy and severe learning difficulties. She has worked as a facilitator with groups of parents since 1999 and was invited by Scope to write the training pack for Face2Face befriending networks for parents of children with additional needs used across the UK since 2005.Lesley Chance is an experienced trainer and facilitator working alongside children and families for many years as an outreach worker supporting children and young people who were at high risk of exclusion from school. Qualified to work with and support parents and families with multiple and complex needs she has an excellent track record of supporting families. Together we develop and deliver all services provided by Families in Focus CIC. Dr Gummer is a leading authority on child development, play and parenting, with over twenty years’ experience working with families and children, and joined Families in Focus CIC to offer support with specialist research, ethical practice and programme efficacy. We have an established track record of delivering effective and supportive parenting courses and professional workshops to parents and professionals supporting families. Two of our specialist parenting courses, Handling Anger in Your Family and A Complete Guide to parenting Children with SEND are accredited by CANparent/Parenting UK as:

  • Evidence based, and is monitored and evaluated to improve parent/child relationships.
  • Parents can rely on the integrity of this class provider, its professional conduct, competence, data protection/confidentiality, to ensure suitability to deliver.
  • This class is responsive, warm and relational, engaging with parents and builds on these effective relationships to meet their needs.

 Extract from a parenting course end of programme report:

Family outcomes:

Parent was signposted by Families in Focus to Hertfordshire Money Advice Unit that the parents were unaware they could access.

This meant the parent had left work as the high care demands and frequent calls from school had made it almost impossible to continue to work. The parent was supported to access vital financial assistance and were awarded Disability Living Allowance that directly benefits the whole family and removes some financial barriers so the family can access additional support for the child with SEND and siblings.

Parents heard about and gained a clear understanding of EHCP and were signposted to Kids Independent Advisors and received support with their application.

This meant the parent was supported in gathering evidence of child’s needs, supported with working collaboratively with the school and beginning the application process which led to the parent reporting feeling calmer and more in control.

Parent learned empathic communication techniques to enhance family relationships and increase emotional wellbeing of whole family with the emphasis on the child with SEND and siblings.

This meant parent reported feeling more in control and angry ‘meltdowns’ continue to reduce significantly. Family attachments were beginning to feel stronger and calmer.

Parent met, for the first time others parenting children with a range of SEND.

This meant The parent reported feeling less isolated and felt more accepted and less judged by those that understood the daily battles and challenges.

Parental feedback did about the course

Extract from an email:

I also want to say what an amazing job Lesley and Francine do, I have found so much strength that I never knew I had! To be at the stage I am now and have learned so so much! Keeping calm is the best way   forward for me and my family. Thank you so much and so glad of the opportunity to do this course and was a real haven. I’m not sure I would have survived the last 4 months without your support and the friendships I have made.

Parent Network support, information & learning drop in groups, funded by the Lottery and running in Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City, Hemel Hempstead and Watford is the latest addition to our service provision. Aimed at supporting parents, grandparents and adoptive parents caring for children and young people (up to 25 years old) with any special/additional needs, disability and/or lifelong conditions. Parent Network offers support, signposting and SEND information. Parent Network members have free access to specialist workshops for example: SEND lawyers, Consultant Occupational Therapists. A significant part of this project is not only to bring parents together in supportive and safe groups but to also train some parents as Volunteer Hosts to offer support, empathy and some signposting to other parents joining the Parent Network groups. Parents wishing to further develop their skills will be able to access Families in Focus CIC training, which includes empathic communication skills, understanding group dynamics and facilitation skills and a full understanding of the 12 learning topics. This will enable parents to facilitate the Parent Network support, information & learning drop in groups and develop them and respond to the needs of their local communities. Families in Focus CIC will continue to offer support until 2019.


Website: www.familiesinfocus.co.uk

Email: info@familiesinfocus.co.uk

Tel: 01442 219 720

Monday to Thursday 9am to 2.30pm Monday to Thursday term time only   


Healthy Children's Centre Programme


Since its initial launch in September 2015, each children’s centre group in Hertfordshire has been working towards the Healthy Children’s Centre Programme. The next step for children’s centres will be the preparation towards recognition visits.

The purpose of the Healthy Children’s Centre Programme is to promote important public health messages and work with key partners, to improve the health and wellbeing of families. Between December 2016 and August 2017, each children’s centre group will be receiving a recognition visit to recognise the impact of the Healthy Children’s Centre Programme in your area, and to acknowledge how hard you have worked to make it happen. The recognition visit will include representatives from Childhood Support Services (CSS), Herts for Learning (HfL), and Public Health (PH).

In preparation for the visit, your lead person for the Healthy Children’s Centre Programme will be ensuring that the work of your children’s centre group meets the requirements of the programme. In addition, they will be gathering evidence to demonstrate how the programme is being incorporated into the work of the children’s centre group. The enthusiasm and support from all staff in the children’s centre group will be crucial for the success of the programme in your area. This may include supporting your lead person to gather evidence, promoting key public health messages to families, and embedding any changes made as part of the programme.

To find out when your children’s centre group will be having a recognition visit, please see the full schedule. Further information on the recognition visit can be found online.

For more information please speak to your lead person for the Healthy Children’s Centre Programme or to Meinir Jones by emailing meinir.jones@hertfordshire.gov.uk

October's Hertfordshire Additional Needs Database (HAND) newsletter has been published

hand logoThe October issue of the HAND newsletter has been published. Please signpost any parents/carers you know who have children with special educational needs and/or disability to HAND and the newsletter.

Learning & development

Future training dates


You'll find up-to-date training opportunities in the Practitioner's Area of the Families First Portal, under 'Training'

External partners:  Please complete this booking form and return by email to workforcedevelopment.familiesfirst@hertfordshire.gov.uk  

Please note that staff from schools and children's centres should also use this booking form.

Hertfordshire County Council employees: Book via iLearn+ / ESS if you have access to it. Booking forms will only be accepted from external partners. 

Please note that staff from schools and children's centres should use the "external partners" booking form above, as they will not be able to book via iLearn or ESS.


Approaches for Empowering & Engaging Young People

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Venue: Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage



 Identifying & Supporting Young People with Drugs & Alcohol Problems

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Venue: Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage

Talking to Young People about Risky Behaviours

Thursday 30 June 2016

Thursday 13 October 2016

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Venue: Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage


Professional Boundaries when working with Young People

Thursday 7 July 2016

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Venue: Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage

Young People & Mental Health

Thursday 20 October 2016

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Venue: Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage


Personal Safety Training

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Venue: Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage


Talking to Young People about Sex & Relationships

Thursday 6 October 2016 – Hertfordshire Development Centre

Thursday 8 December 2016 – Hertfordshire Development Centre


Working with Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LBGT) Young People & Sexual Health

Wednesday 21 September 2016 – Hertfordshire Development Centre

Wednesday 30 November 2016 – Hertfordshire Development Centre

Sexual Media & Sexual Health

Tuesday 4 October 2016 – Hertfordshire Development Centre



Families First learning needs assessment receives good response

FOR DOWNLOAD: FF WFD logo colourIf you completed the Families First and Domestic Abuse Workforce Learning Needs Assessment launched at the start of the summer holidays, you were one of the many 800 respondents who have helped frame the multi-agency training and development programme for the Families First workforce. Thank you!

Families First is Hertfordshire’s branding of early help services in the county and is made up of over 8,000 people across all sectors, who manage and/or deliver a wide range of support and early help services to children and families.

The survey ran for nearly two months and although unfortunately time constraints and some organisations’ technical issues did prevent some sectors from participating, it was a successful survey and reflected a strong desire of the workforce to embrace the Families First vision of providing early help, to the ‘whole family’ in a joint working approach.

We are still analysing results but so far the responses highlighted:

  • A need for broader awareness of assessments
  • As well as targeted training, interventions such as peer support, coaching and shadowing are important, especially if we are to develop provision that supports ‘whole family’ working and is not only ‘child focused’.
  • Confidence is high across all professions and understanding of early help practice is positive, although
  • Confidence wanes in facilitating and chairing meetings and carrying out the role of lead professional. This is due probably to professionals not yet having had the opportunity to do so or the role did not previously require it.

Thank you to all who took the time to complete the comprehensive survey – we appreciate your help in shaping the multi-agency training programme and other joint workforce development initiatives.

If you missed the survey but want to find out more, visit the Training section at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/familiesfirst.  To keep abreast of what is happening across the Families First workforce make sure you subcribe to this newsletter and via the Families First website

You can also email familiesfirstportal@hertfordshire.gov.uk if you have any suggestions or questions.

Spending a day in someone else's shoes

During the summer, we told you about an exciting new workforce shadowing development launching in September – ‘Spend a day in someone else’s shoes’.

This is now available and if you haven’t registered to take part, either to shadow, or as an organisation offering a shadowing opportunity – it is not too late. All Families First partner organisations and teams are encouraged to pledge themselves as host organisations as soon as possible – please visit the website for more detail on how to complete the short form and register if you are able to host a shadowing opportunity.

If you are a practitioner and wanting to participate and shadow a colleague in another team or organisation, but don’t see an offer with that team on the list, please talk to your manager or email us via the Families First portal at familiesfirstportal@hertfordshire.gov.uk with your requirements.


Difference we're making

Celebrating expert help for new mums

On 7 October 2016 colleagues from Hertfordshire County Council (HCC), Hertfordshire Children’s Centres and Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust (HCT) health visiting service came together to celebrate achieving Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) accreditation stage 2.

This celebration event included speakers from across all the partners involved including: Sally Orr, Head of Early Childhood and Early Help Commissioning for HCC; Kay Gilmore, Head of Children’s Universal Services/Deputy General Manager for Children and Young Peoples Services HCT; Georgina Berg, Infant Feeding Coordinator East and North HCT; Kim Bilsby Locality Manager Health Visiting for the South and Ease Localities Children’s Universal Services, HCT. The guest speaker was Jackie Syme, Practice Manager 0 -19 Services for SEPT Community Health Services. Jackie is also part of the National Infant Feeding Network and represents the East of England.

Attendees also heard from Karthica Underwood accompanied by her baby son Seb who gave a first-hand account of the wonderful support she and Seb had received through their local children’s centre and how important they had been in assisting her to continue breastfeeding Seb for a long as she can and coping with any problems along the way.

The celebration ended with certificates being given to the BFI workers in each children’s centre group to recognise their achievement. HCT also gave certificates to their teams.

The Baby Friendly programme is based on a set of standards designed to provide parents with the best possible information to support building close and loving relationships with their baby. It also enables parents to make informed decisions about feeding their baby.

For three days in July 2016 Unicef BFI assessors visited Hertfordshire to evaluate how children’s centre staff and health visitors are embedding Unicef UK Baby Friendly standards on infant feeding support and how effective training for those staff in the standards has been. The assessors interviewed members of staff from both services, to ensure staff could demonstrate skills and knowledge in infant feeding and supporting parents. At the end of the three days the assessors were very clear that they had been impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment of the children’s centre staff. They also found evidence of strong collaborative working between children’s centres and health visiting teams.

The accreditation demonstrates that every member of staff working in Hertfordshire Children’s Centres and the health visiting service has been trained to support breastfeeding mothers whilst also providing mothers who have chosen to bottle feed with information to do this as safely as possible and in a responsive manner.

Sally Orr, said, “This is a credit to all involved. Hertfordshire is a very large and diverse county and it is a great achievement to be awarded tage 2 concurrently across both services”.

Jackie Syme praised Hertfordshire for their hard work in achieving the stage 2 accreditation in a very short space of time, and for their working in partnership with HCT colleagues. Jackie said she is now looking forward to Hertfordshire achieving stage 3 early next year.

You can find your local children’s centre and/or infant feeding support groups online.

Please visit Unicef UK website for more information on the Baby Friendly Initiative.


Summer Groups

Education group

This group was run every Tuesday throughout the summer holidays 10-12pm by the Thriving Families Team (now known as the Intensive Families First Support Team) in the Dacorum & St Albans area.

Aim of group:

  • For children who would struggle to reintegrate in to a school setting in September to continue some educational structure during the school holidays.
  • To enable children who have missed out on education due to illness or being school refusers to ‘catch up’/ motivate them to learn building their self-esteem and confidence.

The group worked well and by the end, the children settled in to the structure of the group and what was involved.

The group was very successful and therefore it has been decided to continue the group on a weekly basis for those children who are on reduced timetables for the foreseeable future.



IFFST East Herts & Broxbourne coffee morning

IFFST East Herts & Broxbourne held a coffee morning on 30th September 2016 to raise funds for MacMillan Cancer Support. Several members of the IFFST team baked cakes including a Luscious Lemon, a Surprising Sponge, Rocky Road, Victoria Sponge, Muffins and a Chocolate Fudge Heart.  Staff from B3Living and NHS teams joined us.  A total of £146.50 was raised.  Our thanks to Veronica Hanna for her hard work in organising the event and decorating the room.

EHBX coffee morning

Julia's journey back to work

Thank you to Dawn Draper - Troubled Families Employment Adviser for sharing this good news story!

Julia’s key worker had referred her to me just for an initial discussion around training options, advising me that work wasn’t something to currently discuss. However Julia obviously had other ideas and told me that despite her complex family issues, she knew that remaining on benefit would not help her situation.

We looked at what her barriers were, how we could help address them and how we could work within her restrictions.

Julia needed flexibility with her hours and a job that was local (as she didn’t drive and was interested in some form of care work). She had previously taken advantage of available support from her local Jobcentre and had completed her Level 1 in Health and Social Care and had an up-to-date CV. As she was in receipt of Employment Support Allowance (ESA), I also explained to her the option of permitted work.

After a case conference with the local DWP Partnership Manager, who advised me on some new opportunities and gave me a number of options and contacts, I went back to Julia to discuss these further.

Julia decided that she liked the idea of working with adults with additional needs, so I spoke to a nearby assisted housing provider where there were vacancies for care assistants. I took Julia along for a visit to the homes so she could get an idea of the work involved and to meet the manager and staff. This gave Julia the opportunity to ask questions and to determine whether she would feel comfortable in the role. I then arranged an interview for Julia, gave her some tips and interview practice and accompanied her on the day.

Within a few days she had been offered a part time job, which she was delighted about. She had another short wait whilst the employer arranged her DBS but is now happily working in the group home. Although she is currently only working 12 hours per week, she is hoping to increase her hours in time.

Her last comments to me were, “I knew I wanted to work and that it would be good for me, but didn’t know how to get there. I needed someone to believe in me and to help me open some doors. Thank you for being the one to do that”.

Don't forget that you can share your good news stories and best practice examples using the 'Share your successes' button (below the Portal button).

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