Contacts and Referrals

1. Initial Contacts

A contact is created on recorded on the electronic database, CareDirector when Children's Social Care receives a referral regarding any concern for a child who may be a child in need, risk of harm or request for Early Help Services.

All contacts need to be considered alongside the Threshold Document and Early Help Criteria 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 services may be required for a statutory assessment.

Any significant information received about a child who is an open case will be passed to the child's allocated social worker and information recorded on CareDirector.

An Early Help Assessment is not a referral form, although it may be used to support a Referral or a specialist assessment.

The following process applies both to children who are already known to the authority and those who were not previously known.

The process of any new information regarding a child must consider the Threshold Document and/ or Early Help Criteria 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 manager will consider the following:

  • 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:

  • 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 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 (DfE).

If there are indications that a child may be at risk of significant harm, the manager may authorise whatever actions are necessary to protect the child or others in the household from significant harm, which may result in the immediate provision of services. This may result in consideration of a Strategy Discussion and of a multi-agency response (see Swindon Safeguarding Partnership Procedures, Child Protection Enquiries - Section 47 Children Act 1989 Procedure, Strategy Discussion / Meeting).

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.

2. Referrals

A Contact will be progressed to a Referral where the social worker or manager considers the statutory assessment may be required.

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.

3. Timescales

Within 1 working day, the manager should make a decision decision regarding next steps for the child 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.
    (see Swindon Safeguarding Partnership Procedures, Child Protection Enquiries - Section 47 Children Act 1989 Procedure, Timescales for Section 47 Enquiries);
  • 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;
  • The social worker has 45 working days to complete a statutory assessment.

4. Outcome of Referrals

The outcome of a referral is authorised by the manager and options are:

  1. That the child does not appear to be a child in need, which will result in one of the following: the provision of information, advice, sign-posting to another agency, referral to early help or universal services, recorded for information;
  2. That the child appears to be a child in need with a moderate level of need and the manager authorises a single assessment;
  3. 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 under section 47 enquiry.

Professional referrers will be advised of the outcome 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 within 5 working days if the decision is taken that the referral requires a statutory 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.

5. Recording of All Information Received

All contacts and referrals are recorded on the electronic database, CareDirector, in relation to the child of concern.