All children and young people who require integrated support from more than one practitioner should experience a seamless and effective service. This is delivered most effectively when one practitioner – a lead professional – takes a primary role to ensure frontline services are coordinated, coherent and achieving intended outcomes.

When putting together a package of support for a particular child and their family, representatives from the various agencies involved will agree with the child and family who is most appropriate to act as lead professional, taking into account a wide range of factors. This will typically be as a result of an assessment using the Common Assessment Framework.

It is important the circumstances of each case are considered carefully by the parties concerned so the best-placed person is agreed as lead professional. The lead professional may be based in any sector of the children, young people or family workforce, depending on the issues involved and the individual relationship with the child.

The role of lead professional

The lead professional is not a new role, but a set of core functions to help deliver effective, integrated support, namely:

  • act as a single point of contact for the child or family
  • coordinate the delivery of the actions agreed by the practitioners involved
  • reduce overlap and inconsistency in the services offered to families.

A lead professional will be required to carry out a number of tasks, which will be a normal course of action. These might include

  • building a trusting relationship with the child and family (or other carers) to secure their involvement in the process
  • being the single point of contact for the family and a sounding board for them to ask questions and discuss concerns
  • being the single point of contact for all practitioners who are delivering services to the child
  • coordinating the effective delivery of a package of ‘solution-focused’ actions. And also establishing a process by which this will be reviewed regularly.

Any practitioner taking on the role will naturally have strongly developed strengths in communication.

If the child is young or developmentally young, the lead professional is likely to draw on skills that involve

  • communicating with the child using forms of communication appropriate to their age and level of understanding
  • engaging parents and carers
  • understanding key transition points in a child’s life, for example, moving into the next key stage at school.

If the lead professional is working with young people, he/she will draw on skills that involve

  • gaining the child's trust and respect
  • being able to challenge the child when necessary and help them move on in their thinking
  • ensuring an effective transition to adult services if necessary.

Line management and supervision

Managers of lead professionals benefit from being fully aware of the lead professional functions and the time and workload commitment. Lead professionals will need supervision and their training needs should be supported. Training is usually accessed through local areas.

One of the factors to be taken into account when agreeing the lead professional role will be any administrative support that might be needed in a particular case. This may be provided within the lead professional’s home agency, or from support provided elsewhere within the multi-agency team.

Another factor to take into account is the availability of the lead professional. For example, a school-based lead professional is not available during school holidays and should plan ahead with other agencies to ensure there is formally agreed ‘cover’ to support the family.

Benefits

Practitioners reported the following benefits of taking on the lead professional role:

  • the role helped them access services for the child or young person in a swift and timely manner, thus intervening before problems escalated    
  • many welcomed the opportunity to work more closely with the child’s parents or carers in a different way
  • they were able to develop valuable skills for their own career development. 

Please note: National eCAF is the electronically enabled version of the CAF form and process.