Initial Contacts and Referrals
1. Receiving Initial Contact / Referral
The Early Help and Safeguarding Hub (EHaSH) deal with all NEW initial contacts, including initial contacts on cases that are closed. The Locality Teams deal with contacts on cases that are open to Children's Social Care or cases that have been open and have closed within the last eight weeks. Concerns about children out of hours are dealt with by the Emergency Duty Team.
The EHaSH receives a large volume of initial contacts which vary in their nature and seriousness. Contacts may be made by members of the public or by professionals who may be working with a family. Any initial contact where a child's name and or other details are given is recorded in the first instance as an initial contact on Liquidlogic. Some of these will be referrals - because they are concerns about impairment to a child's health and development or concerns about significant harm - and others will be simple queries that may only require signposting to another agency. The initial contact stage involves seeking information and clarifying concerns and a process of screening to decide how each initial contact should be responded to.
Referrals on cases that are already open: If the child concerned is already an open case to one of the teams in the Localities, or has been an open case within the last eight weeks, the caller is directed to the appropriate team.
If the child is not known or is a closed case then the call is passed to the Duty Officer and the person making the initial contact has the opportunity to discuss their concerns. In the conversation that takes place the Duty Officer may ask the following questions:
- Agency (i.e. school, etc) address and contact details of referrer;
- Has consent to make the referral been gained? Information regarding parents' knowledge and views on the referral;
- Full names, dates of birth and gender of children;
- Family address and, where relevant, school/nursery attended;
- Previous addresses;
- 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;
- Any special needs of the children or of the parents and carers;
- 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 (name, date of birth, address, contact with other children);
- Referrer's relationship with and knowledge of the child and his or her family;
- Known involvement of other agencies;
- Details of any significant others; and
- 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.
It is expected that the referrer will have informed the parent / carer and child (if old enough) that they have made a referral to Children's Social Care, unless to do so would itself place the child at increased risk of significant harm. The person making the initial contact (if a professional) then sends written confirmation within 48 hours.
In addition to discussion with the person making the initial contact, there should be consideration of information held on Liquidlogic including whether the child is the subject of a Child Protection Plan.
If it is a member of the public making the referral and they wish to remain anonymous, information is taken and the referrers request for anonymity is recorded. The referrer would be advised that their request will be respected but it may be that the there may be circumstances where their anonymity can not be guaranteed. For example, the family may be able to identify where information has come from because of the limited number of people who are party to it.
2. Seeking Further Information in Relation to an Initial Contact / Referral
At this early stage it may be clear to the Duty Officer that the initial contact is not a referral about additional needs, impairment to a child's health or development or significant harm and that further information is not needed to inform the decision about the appropriate response. Rather, it may be a request for information or advice. In this case the Initial Contact Record should be completed and information or advice given which may include signposting to another agency.
However, if the initial contact does concern additional needs, impairment to a child's health or development or significant harm then further information may be needed to inform the decision making. A Referral Record should, therefore, be completed. Having established with the person making the referral that the parent / child has been notified that a referral has been made, the Duty Officer should contact the parent / child confirming that a referral has been made and seeking their consent to information sharing with other agencies.
Consent to share information can be dispensed with if to do so would place the child at risk of significant harm, in which case the Team Manager should authorise the discussion of the referral with other agencies without parental knowledge or consent. The authorisation should be recorded with reasons.
The Duty Officer should then consult other agencies and professionals as necessary.
The Duty Officer will consult with the Team Manager and a decision will be made (and recorded) on how to respond to the initial contact within a minimum of one working day. The decision to accept a referral is made by the Team Manager, see note above).
4. Screening Process
The initial consideration of the case should address - on the basis of the available evidence - whether there are concerns about impairment to the child's health or development which justify a Children's Social Care Assessment to establish whether the child is a child in need or if there are clear indications that the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm which justify a Strategy Discussion and Section 47/Enquiry.
The determination of the level of need involves a screening process with reference to the Hull Safeguarding Children's Partnership Guidelines and Procedures Manual, Threshold of Need Framework and Guidance.
This process will involve:
- Discussion with the referrer;
- Consideration of any existing Liquidlogic records to establish whether the family is previously known, including whether the child is the subject of a Child Protection Plan, or a Looked After Child;
- Involving other agencies as necessary.
It should establish:
- The nature of the concerns;
- How and why they have arisen;
- What appear to be the needs of the child and family;
- Whether the concern involves Significant Harm;
- Whether there is any need for urgent action to protect the child or any children in the household.
If there are indications that a child may be at risk of significant harm, the Team Manager may authorise whatever actions are necessary to protect the child or others in the household, which may result in the immediate provision of services.
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. A strategy discussion will take place between the Police and Children's Social Care designated decision makers. In Children's Social Care it is the Team Manager who consults with Police and / or commences Section 47 enquiries. See Hull Safeguarding Children's Partnership Guidelines and Procedures Manual, Child Protection Enquiries Procedure.
5. Outcomes of an Initial Contact / Referral
The initial disposal of a referral, which must be authorised by the Team Manager:
- That the child is not thought to be a child in need (under Section 17 Children Act 1989) and there is not a role for Children's Social Care. The initial contact will be recorded on Liquidlogic as an initial contact with no further action. The referrer may be given advice or information or signposted to another more appropriate service;
- That the child has additional needs that could be best met by a direct referral to another agency or complex needs which would be best met within the Early Help process. In this case the case will be closed to Children's Social Care after having passed the matter to the identified lead agency;
- That there are concerns:
- About the child's health and development and a Children's Social Care Assessment is required to establish whether the child is a child in need and what services would best meet those needs;
- That the child may be suffering or likely to suffer significant harm and a strategy discussion and Section 47 enquiry is required.
Please refer to the Hull Safeguarding Children's Partnership Guidelines and Procedures Manual, Child Protection Enquiries - Section 47 Children Act 1989 for the procedure to follow when there are concerns of significant harm.
Where there is a risk to the life of a child or a likelihood of serious immediate harm the Team Manager should act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child.
Professional referrers should always be informed about what action is to be taken by Children's Social Care, including if no action is to be taken and the reasons why. 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.
6. Recording an Initial Contact / Referral
The Duty Officer completes either the Initial Contact Record or the Referral Record on Liquidlogic. The outcome of the initial contact or referral is then signed off by the Team Manager by the completion of a decision record.
7. Informing other Professionals of the Outcome of a Referral
Good communication between professionals is one of the essential features of effective safeguarding and is the responsibility of all professionals working with children and families.
When a formal referral is made to Children's Social Care, the social worker dealing with the referral should send a letter to the referrer informing them of the outcome of the decision making. This might include: progress to further assessment; no further action on the part of Children's Social Care; or contain information about recommendations.Non-professional referrers will be informed of the outcome consistent with respecting the confidentiality of the child and family concerned.