Guide to Qualifications and Training: Early Help

Charlotte Goddard
Thursday, September 1, 2022

The government is investing £200m to extend its Supporting Families programme to March 2025. Supporting Families provides targeted early interventions for families with complex, interconnected problems.

The programme was revamped in 2022 to tackle 10 specific challenges facing families, such as domestic violence, child abuse and exploitation.

The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, published in May 2022, called for a £2 billion investment in a wider early intervention programme to be called Family Help, which would incorporate Supporting Families. It said the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities should pass responsibility for family support workers to the Department for Education and called for central investment in training and professional development, and a Knowledge and Skills statement for family support workers to establish expectations for the role.

Supporting Families workforce

Local authorities run the programme in different ways, but the role of keyworker or lead practitioner is central to delivery. Keyworkers, often known as family support workers or family intervention workers, work with every member of the family and bring local services together to resolve issues at an early stage. According to a 2021 evaluation of the programme, 63 per cent of keyworkers have an NVQ 4+ or equivalent while 28 per cent have a NVQ 1-3 or equivalent.

Supporting Families co-ordinators lead the programme in a local area, co-ordinating with other relevant national government programmes. They are mostly educated to NVQ 4 or degree level, or higher.

Data leads provide data analysis to support and underpin the programme’s delivery.

Supporting Families employment advisers are employed by the Department for Work and Pensions/Jobcentre Plus and seconded into specialist roles, working closely with others in the early help system to support families on the programme. The most common route into the role is by working as a work coach or employment adviser, a lone parent adviser or an 18- to 24-year-old work coach.


Supporting Families’ 2022 annual report found keyworkers expressed a need for more consistent training and greater access to specialised training across areas such as mental health. Most areas support basic mandatory training with tiered training programmes and optional courses on topics such as safeguarding, child development and parenting techniques.

Family hubs and Start for Life

The government is investing £82m to create a network of family hubs, bringing together support services for families with children aged 0 to 19. The National Centre for Family Hubs is planning a series of events to support local family hub providers in setting up and delivering their early help services.

The £170m Start for Life programme aims to improve support for parents during a baby’s first two years and will include breastfeeding support services and parenting programmes. Five local authorities are sharing £10m to develop “innovative Start for Life workforce models”.  

Read more in CYP Now's Children’s Workforce Guide to Qualifications and Training

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