The Leeds Approach to Think Family, Work Family; Principles and Practice Guidance


We want Leeds to be a safe and compassionate city for all and recognise that in order to support families to make changes that are helpful and long lasting we need to work with all members of the family. By understanding and recognising that the needs and desired outcomes of each person in the family affect each other, we are more likely to affect sustainable change. For this reason Safer Leeds, Leeds Safeguarding Children Partnership and Leeds Safeguarding Adults Board, have joined together and are committed to working across agencies, to improve joined up working, the provision of high quality and responsive services which meets the needs of children, young people, adults with care and support needs and families.

Family means different things to different people. We know that different communities and cultures consider family in a different way and this is not static. The understanding of family changes, develops and is often affected by external circumstances and environments. Therefore it is important to explore with individuals what family means to them, and the individuals who make up their family (including blood relatives, extended family or community members).

When working with someone to understand their needs and wishes, it will also be important to understand their family support networks, considering whether other family members are able to provide the appropriate care the person needs, and what the impact of these arrangements might be on them. Family members may have their own care or health needs or need support to carry out their caring role. Consideration of the demands and impact on others will help ensure the arrangements made are sustainable and reflect the support needs of the family. When considering people’s family networks, it is important in particular to recognise the role and demands on carers within the family.

We know that some families have linked complex difficulties in their lives such as learning disabilities, physical disabilities, domestic violence and abuse, mental health conditions, substance or alcohol misuse. Evidence shows that traditional approaches alone cannot make the difference therefore a joined up approach that helps both children and young people and adults is needed to support what is already in place. Some services are already working within a `Think Family, Work Family’ approach and we want to ensure that this is embedded in all services and agencies across the city.

Think Family, Work Family simply means:

  • Think Family – all staff need to remember that people rarely live in complete isolation and therefore we need to understand the needs of the wider family when we are working with a child, parent or adult. 
  • Work Family – all staff and services need to talk more, work together better and make sure that all the people working with children, young people and adults in a family, plan and coordinate their work.
  • Think Family, Work Family – an approach which helps to understand the unique circumstances of an adult or child, and the strengths and resources within the family to provide for their needs, but also identifies where additional support may be required.
  • It places a responsibility on all practitioners to respond to identified issues from signposting and referral, through to providing services. 


Why are we taking this approach?

Think Family works. Research suggests that a multi-agency, ‘Think Family’ approach can be effective in helping families, even for those who have not benefited from traditional service approaches. This approach is undertaken with children and families in Leeds for four main reasons:

  • Think Family works
  • High levels of need
  • Shared legal duties
  • The high cost of failure to the individuals and society 

We know that to improve the lives of those individuals facing the biggest challenges, we need to identify, understand and resolve the issues of all individuals within a family. A small minority of families struggle with a long, intergenerational history of linked and complex problems such as mental illness, abuse, learning disabilities, domestic violence or substance misuse and the evidence shows that traditional approaches cannot make the difference – a joined up approach that helps both the children and adults is needed. 

Documents available for you to print off:

The Leeds Approach to Think Family, Work Family; Principles and Practice Guidance

Think Family, Work Family Briefing Paper



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