Contacts and Referrals
RELEVANT PROCEDURES AND GUIDANCE
AMENDMENTIn December 2021, guidance contained in this chapter was reviewed and updated as required to reflect guidance from the refreshed Working Together to Safeguard Children and related changes to the London Child Protection Procedures.
1. Initial Contacts
An Initial Contact is made where Children's Social Care is contacted about a child, who may be a Child in Need, and where there is a request for general advice, information or a service.
All contacts need to be considered alongside the Wandsworth Safeguarding Children Partnership Thresholds for Intervention and a decision made within 24 hours regarding the level of response required.
At any time, an Initial Contact may become a Referral if it appears that a child may be at risk of significant harm or services may be required for a Child in Need.
Any significant information received about a child who is an open case should be regarded as an Initial Contact, passed to the child's allocated social worker and recorded on the electronic data base.
In all other cases, at the point when an Initial Contact is made the MASH should establish whether the enquiry can be dealt with by the provision of information and advice or re-direction to other agencies or services.
The MASH should also check the electronic data base records to see if the child or family is known and, if so, retrieve information on them. See Section 4, Screening Process.
An Initial Contact will be progressed to a Referral where the Integrated Front Door considers an assessment and/or services may be required for a Child in Need or a child at risk of significant harm.
Referrers should have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified social worker. The referrer should be asked specifically if they hold any information about difficulties being experienced by the family/household due to domestic abuse, mental illness, substance misuse and/or learning difficulties.
Once the Referral has been accepted by local authority children's social care the lead professional role falls to a social worker.
The social worker should clarify with the referrer, when known, the nature of the concerns and how and why they have arisen.
The social worker will arrange to visit or contact the referrer and obtain as much of the following information as possible:
- Full names, dates of birth and gender of children;
- Family address and, where relevant, school/nursery attended;
- Identity of those with Parental Responsibility;
- Names and dates of birth of all members of the household;
- Ethnicity, first language and religion of children and parents;
- Nationality and immigration status;
- Any additional needs of the children including the means in which they communicate;
- Any significant recent or past events;
- Cause for concern including details of allegations, their sources, timing and location;
- The child's current location and emotional and physical condition;
- Whether the child needs immediate protection;
- Details of any alleged perpetrator;
- Referrer's relationship with and knowledge of the child and their family;
- Known involvement of other agencies;
- Information regarding parents' knowledge of the referral.
Once received, all Referrals must be written up and a decision made about their disposal within 1 working day of the initial contact (Note: This should be as soon as possible where it is evident the child is seen as requiring immediate protection/urgent action).
This will include determining whether:
- The child requires immediate protection and urgent action is required;
- There is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm, and whether enquires must be made and the child assessed under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989;
- The child is in need, and should be assessed under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989;
- Any services are required by the child and family and what type of services; and
- Further specialist assessments are required in order to help the local authority to decide what further action to take.
4. Screening Process
The following process applies both to children who are already known to the authority and those who were not previously known.
The process of Referrals must include screening against the Threshold Document and/or EHA and must include internal electronic database and agency checks to establish whether the family is previously known, and whether there is a Child Protection Plan in relation to the child and/or whether the child is Looked After.
The screening process should establish:
- The nature of the concern;
- How and why it has arisen;
- What the child's needs appear to be;
- Whether the concern involves Significant Harm;
- Whether there is any need for urgent action to protect the child or any children in the household.
This process will involve:
- Discussion with the referrer;
- Consideration of any existing records, including whether the child is the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
- The parent or carer should normally be informed that a Referral is being made unless to do so would place a child or vulnerable adult at increased risk of harm;
- The Information shared should always be necessary, proportionate, relevant, accurate, timely and secure;
- Involving other agencies as appropriate and in accordance with Information Sharing Advice for Safeguarding Practitioners, DfE and Working Together to Safeguard Children.
If there is suspicion that a crime may have been committed including sexual or physical assault or neglect of the child, the Police must be notified immediately.
Personal information about non-professional referrers should not be disclosed to the parents or other agencies without the referrer's consent.
Parents / carers should usually be informed before discussing a referral with other agencies unless this may place the child at risk of Significant Harm, in which case the manager should authorise the discussion of the referral with other agencies without parental knowledge. The authorisation should be recorded with reasons.
The GDPR provides a number of bases for sharing personal information. It is not necessary to seek consent to share information for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child provided that there is a lawful basis to process any personal information required. The legal bases that may be appropriate for sharing data in these circumstances could be 'legal obligation', or 'public task' which includes the performance of a task in the public interest or the exercise of official authority. Each of the lawful bases under GDPR has different requirements. It continues to be good practice to ensure transparency and to inform parent/ carers that you are sharing information for these purposes and seek to work cooperatively with them (WT 2018)
5. Initial Disposal of Referrals
The initial disposal of a Referral, which must be authorised by the manager, may be:
- That more information is needed to determine the appropriate threshold and the referral is passed to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH);
- That the child does not appear to be a Child in Need, which will result in one of the following: referral to Early Help; the provision of information, advice, sign-posting to another agency and/or no further action;
- That the child appears to be a Child in Need with a moderate level of need, in which case, the manager may authorise a Single Assessment;
- That the child appears to be a Child in Need with a high level of need, which must result in an Assessment;
- That it is suspected that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer from Significant Harm, which will result in a Single Assessment, with a view to conducting a Strategy Discussion, prior to a Section 47 Enquiry commencing.
Professional referrers should be advised of the disposal of the Referral.
Feedback on the outcome of the Referral should also be provided to non-professional referrers in a manner consistent with respecting the confidentiality of the child.
The child and family must be informed of the action to be taken.
The child should be seen as soon as possible if the decision is taken that the Referral requires further assessment.
Where requested to do so by local authority children's social care, professionals from other parts of the local authority such as housing and those in health organisations have a duty to cooperate under section 27 of the Children Act 1989 by assisting the local authority in carrying out its children's social care functions.
6. Recording of Referrals
All Initial Contacts and Referrals should be recorded on the electronic database.