Critically Analyse the Influence Early Support Has on the Support Given to a Young Disabled Child or Their Family


According to Hilton Davis, (1993) Parents of Children with Chronic Illness or Disability, Leicester: BPS books, ???Parents seeking help are usually vulnerable, they have problems that are, in themselves, distressing; they will be uncertain for the future and what they should do; they will be unsure of themselves, the setting and the helper???.

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Being a parent of a young disabled child asks for more than any parent would anticipate after having a baby. The people that are involved in the child??™s life are often too many (professionals) and usually most parents have never had this experience so they do not know what to do. This is the reason why Early Support was established, to help guide the family through the journey of dealing with professionals in order to provide that which is best for their child.

Early Support is a government programme that was established in order to make the lives of those who have children that are disabled easier by helping them to access the services that are available for them. This government initiative works as a middle man between families and multi agencies. This programme followed after the publication of the Every Child Matters in September 2003, but has anything changed, if yes, is it for better or worse, are the needs of the families being met

According to the Early Support website, Families say it helps with:
??? co-coordinating services provided by different agencies and people
??? getting better information
??? continuity of support ??“ particularly in areas where lead professional or key worker support is available
??? Confidence.

When speaking of Early Support, the term that is used to describe the person that works with the families in order to provide good and excellent service between the families and the multi agencies is called a key worker. According to the CCNUK: 2004,p1, ???A key worker is both the source of support for disabled children and young people and their families and a link by which other services are accessed and used effectively.??? The key worker ensures that the families have got every thing that they need.

One of the things that the key worker helps the parents or carers with is being the source of information for them. Parents may not know where to go, who to see, how to get in contact with services, what to do next and lots of other things they may need to know, the key worker is able to answer those questions. According to Greco et al:2005,p190, ???In the area of education, key workers have the potential to fulfil a very important role as information brokers and can provide a useful service by explaining school procedures and processes to families, while advising teachers about children??™s attitudes and behaviour and, in mainstream school, the implications of their impairments???.

I agree with what Greco said about the key worker because their knowledge is quite vast and not limited in regards to disabled children and the services available for them and since they also work with the child they are able to offer necessary advice to other agencies who work with that particular child.
However they are likely to have learning needs in a variety of areas. Greco et al: 2005, suggest their induction and ongoing training may include:
??? ???Information about work of all agencies relevant disabled children and their families, and if possible the provision of key contacts in these agencies.
??? Information about common disabling conditions and about where to find further information.
??? Information about relevant legislation.
??? Information about sources of financial support for families and eligibility criteria.
??? The personal skills needed by key workers ??“ communication, listening and negotiation skills; communication with disabled children; time management.
??? Disability awareness and understanding to what life is like for families with disabled children???.

Key workers also provide emotional support to families. The key worker provides this support by contacting the family and by listening to them. Families may be stressed due to the difficulties that a child in that family may have and also other things may have been caused by that situation. For example financial problems, relationship difficulties, isolation are some of them. According to the Department for Education and Skills and Department of Health: 2003, p23, ???Policy guidance requires key workers to provide personal and emotional support, sensitive to needs and family circumstances???. However is this being done According to Townsley et al: 2004, the families that were interviewed, only half who had a key worker, felt the key worker would provide emotional support, if they needed it.

According to Judith Cavet: 2007, ???Practical support put in place by key workers may be in the form of help or advice directly relevant to the disabled child??™s care and treatment or may be aimed at improving physical, social or educational environment of the disabled child. It may take the form of initiating or streamlining service input. Sometimes it will take the form of services for other family members???.

Key workers have got the necessary skills to work with parents and services. According to Cunningham and Davis: 1985, p67, the key aspects of communicating with families is respect, genuineness, attending, getting parents to talk, empathy and challenging skills. I agree with them because in dealing with people it is essential to respect them and not to treat them as though they are nothing because regardless of the situation anyone may be in, we are all the same. I also think that genuineness is what families want other than somebody who is not real and pretends as though they are empathising with them and yet they are not. Pretence defeats the whole purpose of key working.

Key workers offer basic counselling and communication skills. This gives parents the opportunity to establish a relationship with their key worker and to know that there is someone who is willing to listen to them always. However according to the course handout, Leicester: 2008, this can be emotionally demanding, reducing the helper??™s ability to distance her or himself or avoid listening to problems.

The support that is given by key workers to families takes a lot and it pays a lot. According to the course handout, Leicester: 2008, a parent said ???Enlightenment came in the form of our speech therapist who took on the role of care coordinator. She was our liberator??¦.It made and still does make a huge difference???.

Families are offered support by Early Support through the Expert and the Family Partnership model. The Expert model involves the professional being the one that is in charge in the meeting between the professional and the parent whereas the Family Partnership model involves the parent and the professional working together in aiming for one goal which is the child??™s well-being.

According to the course handout, Leicester, the Expert model may meet the parents??™ expectations for expert advice to solve their problems; may give the relief of having another person take over helper and likely to reward the helper??™s own need for esteem and competence and success. However this model denies the expertise of the parent and ignores the control of the parent when it is vital to take part because they are with the child more than the so called expert, therefore I disagree with this model because it limits the parents??™ involvement from their on business. Where the Expert model is concerned, the expert is in charge; they make the decisions and control the interaction and this may be overpowering for the parents.

Parents are in need of empowerment, to give them hope and to give them encouragement to go on. Empowering parents is so vital when working with families of disabled children because of the concern of the well-being of the child. If the parents are stressed and down, taking care of their children becomes almost impossible, so it??™s the responsibility of the helper to empower the parents.

With the Partnership model, the parent and the professional work together in order to come to an agreement, so the professional needs the parent and the parent need the professional, so it??™s a two way interaction. I think this is a really good model because the parents have a say and it is beneficial for them to share their views and to give ideas about what they think is best for their child. This model has a great influence on the support that is given to the parents because they not on their own and they have someone who will contact professionals for them, inform them on services and products available for them and they have help and support whenever needed. I agree with what Hilton Davis said, (1993) Parents of Children with Chronic Illness or Disability, Leicester: BPS books, ???The ideal relationship is a partnership and not a dictatorship in which the professional, virtue of knowledge, is assumed to be superior???.

According to the course handout, Leicester: 2008, the Partnership model is beneficial to the parents because it allows their expectations to be expressed, explored and negotiated, maximising the setting of appropriate goals; acknowledges parents??™ contribution, enabling them to take appropriate credit and parents are likely to optimise outcomes in terms of broader aims of helping, including parental and family adaption and problem management. However, according to the course handout, Leicester: 2008, this model is more emotionally demanding, reducing the helper??™s ability to distance themselves and to avoid listening to problems; is likely to require higher degrees of sensitivity, skilled listening, understanding and active communication and may be more time consuming.

Early Support provides families with materials about the different services that are available for them and also materials on different conditions, that they may have a better understanding on the condition that their child may have. The family is given a Family Pack which contains booklets with information on services, and the Family File. The Family File allows the family to put an introduction and write other things that concerns their child so that they do not have to say the same thing every time someone new comes. According to Paul Gutherson and Elizabeth Pickard, (2007), ???The Family File aims to keep the needs of the child central at all times; to improve communication between families and professionals; be flexible, so parents can use it in the way that helps them and their family best and to make sure that relevant information is available when it is needed, so that families do not have to say the same thing over and over again to different people???.

Early Support provides training for those that are working with families in order for them to work more effectively. According to Hilton Davis and Lorraine Meltzer: 2007, the training is vital for all workers that are working with parents and children in order to help them understand the processes that are involved in helping and develop the necessary skills and qualities.

Early Support helps the multi agencies to work together, allowing them to work towards the same goals for the family. Without Early Support, the co-ordination of these services would be difficult, they would hold different information about the family and the goals would not be the same. Early support identifies and addresses the needs of family members whereas according to Townsley et al: 2004, multi agency services did not appear to be able to respond to this and the focus of support was very much focused on the disabled chid with complex health care needs, to the detriment of other family members and the family as a whole. Hence Early Support has offered the support to families and their needs that could not be met by multi agencies before. Early Support has been able to stand in the gap between families and multi agencies in reaching out to families as far as multi agencies could not go. Townsley et al: 2004, suggested that, ???Multiagency services did not appear to pay much attention to supporting parents to develop new skills in managing their child??™s complex health needs???.
According to the secondary research, Early Support has improved people??™s lives by giving them hope and encouragement to go on. Early Support and the knowledge it offers makes it easier for parents and everyone that is involved in a child??™s life to face the reality of having a disabled child with complex health care needs and how to react to it.


Hilton Davis, (1993) Parents of Children with Chronic Illness or Disability, Leicester: BPS books

Cavet, J. (2007) Best practice in key working, Leicester: CCNUK

Davis, H., Meltzer, L. (2007) Working with parents in partnership, Leicester.

Working in partnership through Early Support, (2006), training programme: Participant??™s pre-reading pack.

Working in partnership through Early Support: Training programme, Leicester.

Gutherson, P., Pickard, E. (2007) Information sharing, the Common Assessment Framework and Early Support, Leicester: CfBT Education Trust.

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