1. Initial Decision Making – Procedures to be followed
Within one working day Children’s Social Care will:
- Decide – on the basis of available evidence – whether there are concerns about either the child’s health and development or actual and/or potential harm, which justifies an Initial Assessment to establish whether this child is a Child in Need;
- Record the referral on the Referral and Information Record including decisions taken as to what is to happen next;
- Acknowledge a referral in writing.
This initial consideration of the case should be based on:
- Discussion with a referring professional;
- Consideration of information held on past records;
- Discussion with any other professionals as appropriate. Where fabricated illness is a possibility the paediatrician responsible for the child’s health care must be consulted as part of the initial decision making process. (See Fabricated or Induced Illness).
It is the responsibility of the referrer to:
- Contact Children’s Social Care again if they have not received a written acknowledgement within 3 working days;
- Record in their own agency records the decisions taken following referral.
2. Information Gathering and Sharing
When deciding whether it is necessary to approach other agencies for further information to assist initial decision making, consideration should be given to the advice on information sharing set out in Government guidance Information Sharing: Practitioners and Managers Guide.
Seeking consent from parents should be the first option when deciding whether to contact other agencies for information. However, in some circumstances, the proportional response at the initial decision making stage may be to seek information without contacting the parents. For example, in order to decide whether a referral is malicious, it may be that one phone call to another agency might prevent extreme distress to the parents/child. Whichever approach is taken the practitioner must record the reasons for their action on the Referral and Information Record.
If there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child may be suffering, or likely to suffer Significant Harm, parental permission to seek information should only be sought where such discussion and agreement – seeking will not place the child at increased likelihood of suffering Significant Harm, or lead to any interference with any potential investigation.
When responding to referrals from a member of the public, details about referrers, including identifying details, should only be disclosed to third parties (including subject families and other agencies) with the consent of the referrer.
3. Procedures to be Followed After the Initial Decision has Been Made
Where the decision is no further action or referral under the EHA:
- Feedback should be given to the referrer, who should be told of the decision and reasons for it. In the case of public referrals, this should be done in a manner which is consistent with respecting the confidentiality of the child.
Where the decision is to conduct a Single Assessment of the child’s needs
- The assessment should be led by a qualified and experienced social worker, supervised by a highly experienced and qualified social work manager, and the assessment carried out in line with the Assessment Procedures.
Where likelihood of Significant Harm has been identified
- The child should be allocated a qualified and experienced social worker and a Section 47 Enquiry commenced in line with the procedures in Action to be taken where a Child is Suffering or Likely to Suffer Significant Harm – Section 47 Procedure.
Where immediate action is needed to protect the child
- The Team Manager in Children’s Social Care should ensure that a qualified and experienced duty social worker is made available and action is taken in line with Section 5, Immediate Protection of the Child.
4. Assessment of the Child’s Needs
A Single Assessment is an assessment of each child referred to Children’s Social Care to determine whether the child is a Child in Need and the nature of any services required. Where an Early Help Assessment has been completed prior to referral, the Assessment should build on the assessments already undertaken.
Where a Lead Professional had previously been appointed for the child, Children’s Social Care should agree with the Lead Professional who should continue to co-ordinate services currently in place.
A Single Assessment will:
- Be completed within the agreed timescales
- Be led by a qualified and experienced social worker, supervised by a highly experienced and qualified social work manager;
- Include the child being seen. The child should be seen by the Lead Social Worker without his or her carers when appropriate;
- Be carefully planned with clarity about who is doing what, as well as what information is to be shared with the parents;
- Be undertaken in collaboration with all those involved with the child and the family;
- Take into account all relevant information (including information about the history and functioning of the family both currently and in the past, and adult problems such as domestic violence, substance misuse, mental illness and criminal behaviour/convictions);
- Take account of the child/family’s ethnicity, culture and religious upbringing;
- Use the Single Assessment Record to record information, analysis and judgement, including the date when the child was seen by the Lead Social Worker and whether the child was seen alone;
- Ensure that where concerns regarding Significant Harm are identified, a Strategy Discussionis arranged immediately to decide whether to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry;
- Ensure that where there are no concerns about harm, but the assessment confirms that the child is a Child in Need, a planning meeting is held with the child, family and relevant professional in order to agree the Child in Need Plan. The plan should be recorded and a copy given to the child, family and professionals who are involved in providing services as part of the plan.
An Assessment is deemed completed once the assessment has been discussed with the child and family and authorised by the manager.
5. Immediate Protection of the Child
Emergency action might be needed:
- As soon as a referral is received;
- At any point in involvement with children and their family.
Children in need of protective action may include not only the referred child but also
- Other children in the household;
- Children in the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere.
It is the responsibility of the local authority where the child is found to take action to secure the immediate safety of the child. Where the child is Looked After or subject to a Child Protection Plan in another authority that authority should be consulted. Only when the other authority explicitly accepts responsibility (subsequently confirmed in writing) is the first authority relieved of the responsibility to take emergency action.
Where there is likelihood of the child suffering immediate harm, Children’s Social Care or the police should act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child. However, powers of Police Protection should only be used in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an Emergency Protection Order or for reasons relating to the immediate safety of the child.
Planned emergency action should normally take place following an immediate Strategy Discussion between police, Children’s Social Care, and other agencies involved with the child and their family. Legal advice should normally be obtained before initiating legal action, in particular when an Emergency Protection Order is sought.
Where a single agency has to act immediately a Strategy Discussion should take place within twenty four hours in order to plan next steps.
A Section 47 Enquiry should be immediately initiated following any emergency action in order to assess the needs and circumstances of the child and agree action to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child in the long term.
The child’s safety should be secured by either:
- A parent/carer taking action to remove an alleged perpetrator;
- The alleged perpetrator agreeing to leave the home;
- The child remaining in a safe place or being removed to a safe place, either on a voluntary basis or by obtaining an Emergency Protection Order;
- The police using their powers to place a child in Police Protection and remove a child, or keep a child in suitable accommodation.
Where the child is Looked After by the local authority, the child’s social worker and Independent Reviewing Officer should be informed of the action taken at the earliest opportunity.