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Multi-agency support for young children with complex needs: Experiences of parents and professionals in the early years

11 January 2021

Author: Marco Cheng (University College London)

Research and current legislations emphasise the importance of the voice of parents and multi-disciplinary collaboration in the provision of early intervention for children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).

These are arguably most pertinent in the early years, when parents play particularly central roles in meeting the everyday care and developmental needs of their child, as well as coordinating support from different agencies in the community.

The systematic literature review explored the parental experience of working with professionals in early intervention in the 0 to 5 age range.

Twelve studies from seven different countries were identified to meet the requirements of the review, and were critically assessed on quality and relevance to this topic.

A meta-aggregation of findings from the included studies identified key factors that influenced parents’ perceived quality of their partnership with professionals.

The empirical study focused on the multi-agency support for young children with complex and/or multiple support needs who require substantial professional involvement that crosses agency and disciplinary boundaries.

Using a mixed methods approach, data were collected from a brief online questionnaire and semi-structured interviews to explore parents’ and professionals’ experience of in multi-agency support in the context of one local authority.

Descriptive statistical data showed that parents and professionals rated their experience highly overall. Interview data was analysed using Thematic Analysis.

Parents described the important ways in which professionals supported them in relation to the needs of the child, as well as those of the wider family.

Parents and professionals commented on the enabling aspects of multi-agency working that contributed to the experience of collaborative, family-centred support service.

Professionals also identified practical and systemic factors that influence the success of working in a multi-agency way.

Recommendations for practice and future research were discussed in relation to findings from both the review and empirical papers.


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