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1.5.7 Need to Know Process


These guidelines apply to Swindon Borough Council staff in Children Families Services and Community Health. They set out what the Head of Children, Families & Community Health needs to know about, when, and how to brief her/him.

The Head of Service will brief as required the Director, Lead Member and Chief Executive as appropriate to ensure that:

  • All necessary steps have been taken to safeguard children (or staff where the need to know involves a staff member);
  • To provide appropriate resources, support or guidance;
  • Ensure that potential for media interest is managed;
  • Arrange any necessary external body/regulatory body notification (e.g. Ofsted, CQC, DfE notifications or Serious Case Review requirements under Working Together Guidance);
  • That any relevant partner “need to know” system has also been triggered

This is necessary to ensure that those with overall responsibility are aware from the outset of any issues which may affect or disrupt service activity, service profile, service reputation and are able to strategically manage the implications from the outset.

This chapter was added to the manual in October 2014.


  1. What should the Head of Service be Briefed about?
  2. Out of Hours
  3. The Briefing Procedure
  4. Contact Details of Relevant Staff
  5. The Need to Know System Checklist

    Appendix 1: Case Briefing Structure

1. What should the Head of Service be Briefed about?

  • Sudden, unexpected and or unexplained deaths;
  • Serious untoward clinical incident;
  • Missing children looked after or child subject to a child protection plan;
  • Fire, flood, significant vandalism, burglary of an office base;
  • Significant accidents, injuries, and all violent incidents involving staff/volunteers;
  • Controversies (e.g. forthcoming court hearings and inquests concerning clients or staff, service problems, complaints and inter-departmental issues of a serious nature;
  • Any other matter which carry serious, immediate and real risk of adverse publicity for the service.

If you are still unsure whether the Head of Service needs to be briefed about an incident or controversy, discuss the matter with your manager.

2. Out of Hours

If the incident occurs out of hours it will usually be appropriate for staff to follow normal emergency procedures and contact the relevant manager or member of the senior management team first thing the following morning.

With reference to children looked after who go missing, including those receiving respite care, staff should use their discretion to distinguish between “missing” and “absent without agreement/knowledge”. Only contact the Head of Service out of hours in exceptional circumstances when it is necessary for the Head of Service to make a decision or take immediate action. If the media are to be contacted to make a public appeal for information or similar, the Head of Service must be contacted to confirm this decision out of hours.

3. The Briefing Procedure

When an incident occurs staff should first follow the operational guidelines appropriate to the service or team involved.

  1. The first point of contact for the staff member involved should be the relevant third tier officer/Service Manager, or another of the directorate Service Managers if the appropriate one is not available;
  2. The Service Manager will then contact the Head of Service via email if there is no immediate urgency or via the phone if immediate notification is required. If the Head of Service is not available another member of the senior leadership team should be contacted.

    If at any time there is likely to be delay due to unavailability of the tier of management, the staff member should simply move up to the next tier. It is better that the Director or senior leadership team is involved prematurely than delayed involvement occurring with adverse effect.
  1. Outline the incident and give a contact name and number of the member of staff who can provide up-to-date information. If there is an available mobile telephone number - provide this too;
  2. The staff involved on the front line should keep a full record of events including timing of incidents, actions, and details of those contacted and information given in the normal way. All such records should be saved or copied to the client file as soon as possible;
  3. The Service Manager will need to provide the Head of Service with a written briefing (see Appendix One for structure of briefings on cases) as soon as possible (always within 24 working hours) and send a copy by e mail. Note - the Head of Service will advise if any wider circulation of information is required - e.g. elected Members, Press Office, Chief Executive.

E mails should be marked “official- sensitive”. And the title starts with the words ‘Need to Know’

4. Contact Details of Relevant Staff

Up-to-date contact details for Children’s Senior Management teams, Service Managers and other relevant staff including the Press Officer are held by the Emergency Duty Team who will get a message to the person. Likewise the personal assistants to any of the Directorate senior management staff also hold up-to-date contact details.

5. The Need to Know System Checklist

Click here to view the The Need to Know System Checklist.

Appendix 1: Case Briefing Structure

Click here to view Appendix 1: Case Briefing Structure.