For more information on responding to children disclosing abuse, see the NSPCC resources.
When a professional working in Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth or Southampton assesses that a child/family requires additional support, they need to complete an inter-agency referral or contact form as per local processes and share this with the relevant Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub. The use of the Threshold Guidance will assist this process and help inform the practitioner’s decision-making.
Anyone who has concerns about a child’s welfare should make a referral to local authority children’s social care and should do so immediately if there is a concern that the child is suffering significant harm or is likely to do so. Practitioners who make a referral should always follow up their concerns if they are not satisfied with the response.
Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 Places duties on a range of organisations, agencies and individuals to ensure their functions, and any services that they contract out to others, are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
Anyone who has concerns about a child’s welfare should make a referral to local authority children’s social care. For example, referrals may come from: children themselves, teachers, a GP, the police, health visitors, family members and members of the public. Within local authorities, children’s social care should act as the principal point of contact for welfare concerns relating to children.
When professionals refer a child, they should include any information they have on the child’s developmental needs and the capacity of the child’s parents or carers to meet those needs. This information may be included in any assessment, including the early help assessment, which may have been carried out prior to a referral into local authority children’s social care. Where an early help assessment has already been undertaken it should be used to support a referral to local authority children’s social care, however, this is not a prerequisite for making a referral.
The speed with which an assessment is carried out after a child’s case has been referred into local authority children’s social care should be determined by the needs of the individual child and the nature and level of any risk of harm they face. This will require judgments to be made by the social worker on each individual case.
Within one working day of a referral being received, a local authority social worker should acknowledge receipt to the referrer and make a decision about next steps and the type of response required.
Making a referral
New referrals on open cases should be made directly to the allocated worker for the child / family (or in their absence their manager or the duty social worker). For new referrals on closed or unknown children where the child/children have NOT suffered significant harm or are NOT in immediate danger, the referral should be submitted to the Children’s Reception Team (CRT) online using the Inter Agency Referral Form (IARF). Should it become apparent that a case is already open to the department, this information will be transferred directly to the responsible worker.
If a professionals believe a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, they should contact CRT directly using the professional’s telephone number. Any telephone contact with CRT will need to be supplemented with a further Inter Agency Referral Form (IARF). Professionals can refer child protection concerns directly using the IARF.
The referrer should provide information, using the relevant local form, about their concerns and any information they may have gathered in an assessment that may have taken place prior to making the referral. The referrer will be asked to provide the following information:
- Details about the individual making the referral
- Details of the children, parents and or other significant adults
- The reason / nature of the concerns raised
- Any identified risk factors
- Any risk assessment tools that have been used
- The family background
- Outcome the referrer is seeking
There should not be a delay in order to collect information if the delay may place the child at risk of significant harm.
All referrals from professionals should be confirmed in writing, by the referrer, within 48 hours. If the referrer has not received an acknowledgement within three working days, they should contact children’s social care again.
Response to a referral
When a parent, professional, or another person contacts local authority children’s social care with concerns about a child’s welfare, it is the responsibility of local authority children’s social care to clarify with the referrer (including self-referrals from children and families):
- the nature of concerns;
- how and why they have arisen;
- what appear to be the needs of the child and family; and
- what involvement they are having or have had with the child and/or family members.
Within one working day of a referral being received, a local authority social worker should acknowledge receipt to the referrer and make a decision about next steps and the type of response required. This will include determining whether:
- the child requires immediate protection and urgent action is required • the child is in need and should be assessed under section 17 of the Children Act 1989
- 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
- any services are required by the child and family and what type of services
- further specialist assessments are required to help the local authority to decide what further action to take
- to see the child as soon as possible if the decision is taken that the referral requires further assessment
The child and family must be informed of the action to be taken, unless a decision is taken on the basis that this may jeopardise a police investigation or place the child at risk of significant harm.
For children who are in need of immediate protection, action must be taken by the social worker, or the police or the NSPCC if removal is required, as soon as possible after the referral has been made to local authority children’s social care.
The maximum timeframe for the assessment to conclude, such that it is possible to reach a decision on next steps, should be no longer than 45 working days from the point of referral. If, in discussion with a child and their family and other practitioners, an assessment exceeds 45 working days, the social worker should record the reasons for exceeding the time limit.
Feedback should be given by local authority children’s social care to the referrer on the decisions taken. Where appropriate, this feedback should include the reasons why a case may not meet the statutory threshold to be considered by local authority children’s social care for assessment and suggestions for other sources of more suitable support.
Where the outcome of the referral leads to a continuing assessment, see Assessment Procedure.