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4.3 Referrals Procedure

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Information Sharing
  3. Making a Referral
  4. Responding to Child Welfare Concerns where there is or may be an alleged crime
  5. Response of Children's Social Care to a Referral


1. Introduction

If somebody believes that a child may be suffering, or may be likely to suffer Significant Harm, then s/he should always refer concerns to children's social care and/or the police.

The Customer Service Centre (CSC) which is part of the Local Authority is the point of contact for all referrals to Children's Social Care. Referrals to Lincolnshire Police should be via the Central Referral Unit.

When out of hours, all concerns that a child is suffering or may be likely to suffer significant harm should be through the Emergency Duty Team or through Police Head Quarters.

National advice on these matters is contained in the booklet 'What to Do if you're Worried a Child is Being Abused'.

All practitioners should have an individual copy of this booklet.

The Customer Service Centre will accept calls from professionals and the public and will offer:

  • Information on Parenting Issues through the provision of leaflets and website addresses;
  • Signposting to other services as appropriate including the Family Group Conference Service;
  • Sign posting into the Team Around the Child (TAC) process for children with additional needs;
  • Referral onto Children's Social Care : Family Assessment Support Team (FAST) or Children with Disability Team.

Where there are concerns that a child is suffering, or may be likely to suffer significant harm they will pass the referral to Children's Social Care or the Central Referral Unit of Lincolnshire Police.

Cases that require attention, will be forwarded to the relevant Social Care Team. If the case is an open case to Children's Social Care, they will transfer the call to the relevant worker / team. If the worker or the Team Manager is unavailable, the Customer Service Centre will pass the information to the relevant Principal Practitioner.

With regards to open cases, if further concerns are raised the key worker must discuss with the Principal Practitioner or Team Manager to consider if there is a need for a Section 47 enquiry to begin. If the child is subject to TAC and further concerns are raised, the Lead Professional must discuss with their designated officer, to consider if the child needs referral to CSC if there are Safeguarding concerns.

It is good practice for professionals to discuss any concerns they have with the family and, where possible, to seek the family's agreement to making a referral to Children's Social Care. However there are exceptional circumstances where such discussion and agreement-seeking would increase the likelihood of the child suffering significant harm. In these circumstances it can be appropriate to refer without discussion or agreement from the family, although the source of the referral will then be disclosed to the family by Social Care unless the referrer is a member of the public who has requested anonymity.

Professionals, if in doubt, may wish to seek advice - see Being Alert Procedure. In cases where a professional is acting in good faith in passing on third party information it may not be appropriate for Children's Social Care to reveal the source of the referral.

Other factors relevant to the decision whether to refer without prior discussion with the family include:

  • Issues of staff safety;
  • The risk of destroying evidence;
  • The likelihood of children or other family members being intimidated;
  • The possibility of an increased risk of domestic Abuse;
  • The possibility of the family moving to avoid professional scrutiny;
  • Detection and prevention of a crime for example sexual abuse.


2. Information Sharing

In deciding whether there is a need to share information, professionals need to consider their legal obligations, including whether they have a duty of confidentiality to the child. Where there is such a duty, the professional may lawfully share information if the child agrees or if there is a public interest of sufficient force. This must be judged by the professional on the facts of each case.

Where it is likely that a child may suffer Significant Harm, or there may be a risk of serious harm to adults, the public interest test will almost certainly be satisfied. However, there will be other cases where practitioners will be justified in sharing some confidential information in order to make decisions on sharing further information or taking action - the information shared should be balanced.

The child's best interests must be the main consideration in making any such decision. The cross-Government guidance, Information Sharing: Practitioner's Guide, provides advice on these issues (In addition, see Protocol on Sharing Information in Order to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children) Any decision whether or not to share information must be properly documented. Decisions in this area need to be made by, or with the advice of, people with suitable skills in child protection work such as named or designated professionals or senior managers.


3. Making a Referral

When a parent, professional or other person contacts the Customer Service Centre with concerns about a child's welfare, it is the responsibility of Customer Service Centre to clarify with the referrer:

  • Contact details including names, addresses and dates of birth for all children in the family including names and other relevant information on other adults living in the household;
  • The nature of concerns;
  • How and why they have arisen;
  • What appear to be the needs of the child and family, including any special needs arising from cultural, physical, psychological, medical or other factors;
  • Whether the identity of the referrer can be shared with the family - in the case of professional referrals the assumption is that the family will be told where the referral has come from;
  • If known, what other agencies and professionals are involved with the child and family;
  • Whether there are concerns about abuse or neglect, including the basis of the concerns;
  • Whether there are concerns about parental drug or alcohol misuse or mental ill health;
  • Whether the child/ren may need urgent action to make them safe from harm.

At the end of any discussion about a child, both the referrer and Customer Service Centre should be clear about who will be taking what action, or that no further action will be taken. The decision will be recorded by Customer Service Centre on the agreed referral form and by the referrer if a professional in another service.

All staff should make a referral by phone and should confirm the referral in writing within 24 hours, repeating all relevant information and agreed actions.

The TAC form must be used for this purpose, and can be downloaded from the Lincolnshire website.

See also Professional Resolution and Escalation Protocol.


4. Responding to Child Welfare Concerns where there is or may be an alleged crime

Whenever Children's Social Care receives a referral which may constitute a criminal offence against a child, they should always discuss the case with police at the earliest possible opportunity. This consultation may or may not constitute a Strategy Discussion. The staff in both agencies must explicitly record the outcome of their discussion and determine if it constituted a Strategy Discussion or not as well as the outcome of the discussion. Staff can contact the police for a consultation to establish if there is a role for the police at this stage of the enquiry based on available information.

Whenever other agencies, or the Local Authority in its other roles, encounter concerns about a child's welfare which constitute, or may constitute, a criminal offence against a child, they must always consider sharing that information with Children's Social Care or the Police in order to protect the child or other children from the risk of suffering Significant Harm. If a decision is taken not to share information, the reasons must be clearly stated and recorded.

In dealing with alleged offences involving a child victim, the police should normally work in partnership with children's social care and/or other agencies. Whilst the responsibility to start a criminal investigation rests with the police, they should consider the views expressed by other agencies. There will be less serious cases where, after discussion, it is agreed that the best interests of the child are served by a children's social care led intervention rather than a full police investigation.

In deciding whether there is a need to share information, professionals need to consider their legal obligations including whether they have a duty of confidentiality to the child. Where there is such a duty, the professional may lawfully share information if the child agrees or if there is a public interest of sufficient force. This must be judged by the professional on the facts of each case. Where there is a clear that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, or there is serious harm to adults, the public interest test will almost certainly be satisfied. However there will be other cases where practitioners will be justified in sharing some confidential information in order to make decisions on sharing information or taking action -the information shared should be proportionate. The child's best interests must be the overriding consideration. Any decision whether or not to share information must be fully recorded and where complex decisions arise, practitioners should seek advice from senior / designated professionals.


5. Response of Children's Social Care to a Referral

Children's Social Care should decide on the next course of action within 24 hours, normally following:

  • Discussion with any referring professional or service;
  • Looking at existing records;
  • Involving the police where a criminal offence may have been committed against a child;
  • Involving other services and professionals as far as possible;
  • It is important to consider the needs of all the children in the household at this stage.

This initial consideration of the case should address, on the basis of the available evidence:

  • Whether there are concerns about either the child's health and development, or actual and/or potential harm which justify further enquiries, assessment and/or intervention and if so; When those enquiries - the Social Work Assessment - and/or intervention should take place.

When responding to referrals from the wider community, personal information about the referrer, including identifying details, should be disclosed to third parties (including subject families and other agencies) only with the permission of the referrer.

Children's Social Care should acknowledge a written referral within one working day of receiving it and should feedback their decision on next steps of action to the referrer within one working day. If the referrer is a member of the public, this should be done in a way consistent with respecting the confidentiality of the child. If the referrer is a professional, the feedback should be in writing, using the reply slip in the TAC form.

Sometimes it may be apparent at this stage that emergency action should be taken to safeguard a child. Such action should come before an immediate Strategy Discussion between the police, social services and other agencies as appropriate. See Immediate Protection Procedure

Where Children's Social Care decides to take no further action at this stage, feedback should be provided to the referrer, who should be told of this decision and the reasons for making it.

The referrer should be advised of alternative options for ensuring the family can be offered support services to promote the child's welfare. Opportunities include information and advice, referral to another agency including the Family Conference Service or a co-ordinated package of inter-agency support through the TAC process. The referrer should discuss these options with the parent and young person and gain consent for the next steps. The referrer will have a key role in taking forward these options in partnership with the family.

In the case of public referrals where children's social care decide to take no further action at this stage, feedback should be done in a manner consistent with respecting the confidentiality of the child.

New information may be received about a child or family where the child or family member is already known to children's social care. If the child's case is open, and there are concerns that the child is suffering or may be likely to suffer significant harm then a decision should be made about whether a strategy discussion should be initiated (see Strategy Discussions Procedure) and a new Section 47 Enquiry commenced. In these circumstances it may not be necessary to undertake a Social Work Assessment before deciding what to do next. It may, however, be appropriate to undertake a Social Work Assessment or to update a previous one in order to understand the child's current needs and circumstances and inform future decision making.

End