Right conversation, right people, right time.


Leeds recognises that continual assessment supported by conversations is the best way of identifying and responding to the needs of children and young people. A check list approach is mechanistic and identifies weaknesses. It doesn’t take into consideration the complexity of individual situations and can overlook strengths.

When a child’s needs cannot be met by Universal Services alone quality conversations strengthen and improve decision making and joint working to provide the right help at the right time for families.

This is better than the use of predetermined thresholds to define service responses as:

  • Thresholds cannot take account of the complexities of individual children’s lives
  • They give a false sense of certainty based on limited rule based assessments
  • They are based on unrealistic models of decision-making
  • They can produce incentives to pass on responsibility by ‘gaming’ the system, raising or lowering thresholds or tailoring referrals.

We use the term conversation opportunities to describe the phone calls and meetings that take place between those working across Universal, Targeted and Specialist Services. These take place when it is felt that the child’s needs are not being met and something else is needed to improve outcomes for the child.

In order to ensure that children and young people are receiving the right service at the right time conversations need to be constructive. They must go beyond a discussion about concerns, to form part of a meaningful assessment and where appropriate, a plan to support the child, young person and their family. Conversations continue in order to inform the on-going planning and reviewing.

The advantages of this approach are:

  • Founded on collaboration and conversation
  • Promotes shared responsibility and flexibility
  • Recognises complexity of unique needs of each individual child and family
  • Reduces bias of individual professional and agency decisions through debate

Sometimes conversations can be challenging, and practitioners (and families) may not always agree. In such instances practitioners should seek support from their line manager or agency safeguarding lead and implement the concerns resolution procedures.

All conversations, whatever the outcome, should be recorded appropriately in order to show that they took place, identify what was agreed and evaluate how effectively they enabled needs to be met. In this way quality conversations can demonstrate their impact on successful practice.

When a child’s needs change and they move between different support services conversations must also take place to ensure this happens in a planned and safe way.


How we respond to the needs of Children and Families 

It is everybody’s responsibility to assess those children and young people they come into contact with, and where a need is identified to respond early by holding conversations within and between

  • Universal
  • Targeted and
  • Specialist Services

to identify how those needs are met collectively.

As children’s needs are met and concerns are reduced, we continue these conversations in order to provide appropriate support for the child and their family until that support is no longer required.


Always consider the need for consent


Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) government guidance states:

If at anytime it is considered that the child maybe a child in need as defined in the Children Act 1989, or that the child has suffered significant harm or is likely to do so, a referral should be made immediately to local authority children’s social care. This referral can be made by any professional.’

If you are concerned that this is the case for any child you are working with, you MUST call the Duty and Advice Team tel: 0113 3760336 (option3) (out of hours contact Children's Emergency Duty Team 0113 2409536).


For further information on Early Help:

For support in registering or completing an Early Help Assessment contact 0113 378 1840 (option 1)


Documents available for you to print off: