Hello, I’m Jenny Wilkins, I have worked at Volunteer Cornwall for 10 years!  (-almost to the day) I started off covering maternity leave as a Volunteer Centre Manager, and have recently developed and handed over the Community Hospital Befriending service to the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust Volunteers team.  I have now just embarked on an exciting new role working with the Early Help Hub at County Hall.

The Early Help Hub is the single point of contact for advice and requests for early help and support for a child, young person or family who may have additional needs that cannot be met by universal provision and where there is no perceived risk of significant harm. It is about identifying problems at an early stage and providing purposeful and effective help as soon as possible, working with families to solve those problems before they get worse.

Cornwall has an active and thriving voluntary and community sector that also provides a wide range of early intervention and prevention services and support. Some of this is directly commissioned or funded by statutory organisations, but a much broader range of support is provided in the community and accessed by a significant number of families. The voluntary and community sector has considerable expertise in providing support to certain groups, such as families with children with learning difficulties, and has strengths in engaging families, for example those living in poverty, who might not access statutory services in the same way.

Our aim is to facilitate links and broker relationships between Voluntary and Community Organisations (VCO’s) and the Early Help Hub; Identifying the range of diverse services and support that can respond to the needs of individual children and families.

My first day followed the Bank Holiday, and I was pre-warned that many of the desks in the open plan office would be empty, with staff still being on annual leave, and I would be able to take my pick of where I could sit. Settling myself down, after spending several minutes adjusting the complicated chair with the array of unreachable levers, I had my laptop, pen and notebook and a fleeting air of trepidation.

Those staff that were not away in the Algarve or attempting to keep their tent pegged down in Dorset, were friendly and very interested in what I was doing there.

 I gave a brief synopsis of the expectations of my role, it wasn’t all-encompassing or listed specific tasks I was about to carry out, but more of a ‘brownie promise’; that I would do my best to help them access support for their families from voluntary and community sector in Cornwall.

My brain was a bit frazzled by 12 ‘o’ clock, I had been introduced to the Triage Team, the Contact Workers, Social Workers, and other professionals that came from the world of acronyms –MARU, FIS, SALT, SECH, TAC and RAS, to name a few; They are an amazing group of people who are all dedicated to supporting families through difficult times to ensure that vulnerable people, including children and adults are safeguarded from harm.


For the rest of the short morning, I shadowed a couple of the contact workers, observing them telephoning families who have been referred. They would discuss their concerns with them; recommending solutions and assisting them to make decisions about the best course of action for a particular child or family member. For example this may include signposting to service providers for parenting courses for support for a young person with high functioning autism, or accessing the school nurse for help with nutritional advice for a child who doesn’t eat very well.  It’s a busy and quite intense environment, the staff have a continuous flow of referrals coming in, they complete the tasks back-to-back, so it can appear pretty stressful, but it’s an exciting hive of activity; with a high volume of people to-ing and fro-ing between desks, sharing their views and perspectives, having open discussions on how to achieve the best possible outcome for the families. I’m looking forward to being a part of it, and hope we can make a valuable contribution.