Trust between team members at the Centre has built up over a period of time (three years) when there has been little staff turnover. Staff are co-located; sharing an office and building means more opportunities for informal communication. Efforts have been made to build relationships; having time to get to know each other over shared lunches has been important, as has joint project work (for example on Change4Life and the Early Years Foundation Stage progress report for two year olds).
Staff prioritise attendance at a weekly ‘Family Matters’ meeting, where packages of support for families are discussed and there are regular discussions about families with a Common Assessment Framework (CAF), Child in Need Plan or Child Protection Plan. All staff who have contact with the parents and children are encouraged to contribute, and know that their observations are important.
All team members are open and honest with parents at each stage – parents know what will be discussed at any meeting of professionals, and why. A lead health visitor comments ‘I’ve had no parent ever say no about information sharing on any subject, as long as we are honest with them and say why.’
The Centre is a pilot site for shared records; a small number of cases have been identified where children’s centre staff have a significant role. So far all cases have had a CAF, Child in Need Plan or Child Protection Plan. The health visiting team have assisted with record keeping training for children’s centre staff.
Early Support meetings are also held in the Centre, as are a significant number of Child Protection meetings; if possible a crèche is provided. This encourages parental attendance and engagement with Children Centre activities. Staff work as an integrated team with the CAF process, and try to share the role of lead professional between health visitor and Family Support Worker.
Health visitors have monthly meetings with the Centre Co-ordinator to discuss health issues, such as breastfeeding rates or joint antenatal sessions.
Student Social Workers on placement are invited to shadow the health visiting staff, and Student health visitors invited to shadow Family Support Workers to promote understanding of the roles within the team.
A lead health visitor attends local weekly GP practice meetings, so that she can take to the GP any issues a family have asked to be discussed with their doctor.