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3.1 Contacts and Referrals

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter includes actions that will be undertaken both when contacts are received regarding a child who is and also in respect of a child who is not currently receiving services from Children and Families and Specialist Services.

Professionals, employees, managers, helpers, carers, and volunteers in all agencies will consult the Continuum of Need document to obtain information regarding the types of services available for a child they are supporting and they must contact Hertfordshire Children’s Services via telephone or by email where a child:

  • Is suffering or has suffered harm through abuse and / or neglect;
  • Is likely to suffer harm through abuse and / or neglect; or
  • (With agreement of a person with parental responsibility) would be likely to benefit from family support services.

RELATED READING

This chapter should be read in conjunction with:

IF YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT A CHILD YOU HAVE A DUTY TO CONTACT CHILDREN'S SERVICES

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in May 2019 to reflect local practice.


Contents

  1. Key Terminology
  2. Duty to Contact Children's Services
  3. How to Contact Children's Services
  4. Acknowledgement of Contact by Children's Services
  5. Information to be Provided with a Contact
  6. Providing Parents with Information and Obtaining Agreement to Share Information with Other Agencies
  7. Timescale for Making Initial Decision About a Contact
  8. Children's Services Providing Information to Other Professionals
  9. Children Suffering Significant Harm
  10. Pathway Following a Contact
  11. The Assessment Framework

    Appendix 1: Pathway Flowchart


1. Key Terminology

Contact - A ‘Contact’ is where a member of the public or a professional makes contact with Children’s Services about a child who may be a Child in Need, and where there is a request for general advice, information or a service.

Referrer - The ‘Referrer’ is the member of the public or professional making contact with Children’s Services.

Referral - For this procedure, a ‘Referral’ is a possible outcome of a Contact, where a social worker or manager considers an assessment or services may be required for a Child in Need. In some instances it may be identified that a child may be better supported via other services such as Early Help or Universal Services (e.g. health, schools, children’s centres, etc.).


2. Duty to Contact Children's Services

The belief or suspicion about significant harm may be based on information which comes from different sources.

  • It may arise in the context of the Families First Assessment where the Lead Professional becomes concerned about the extent of the child's unmet needs and the risk of harm to the child;
  • It may come from a member of the public, the child concerned, another child, a family member or other professional staff;
  • It may relate to a single incident or an accumulation of lower level concerns;
  • The information may also relate to harm caused by another child, in which case details of both children, must be sent to Children’s Services;
  • The suspicion or allegation may relate to a parent or professional or volunteer caring for or working with the child - see Managing Allegations against Adults who work with Children and Young People Procedure.

Where a professional is unsure about contacting Children's Services - schools, children's centres and health agencies all have designated (or named) professionals responsible for safeguarding children and these professionals should be your first point of contact. Ask your manager if you are not sure of your agency’s safeguarding designated or named professional.

Where a case is already open to Children's Services - concerns/information should be sent to the allocated social worker (e.g. via information documented within a (request) form or telephone call and email follow up). If you have information which suggests an urgent child protection matter, please speak to the allocated social worker or their team manager without delay.

If there is a clear safeguarding concern where the child is not already known and an open case to Children's Services, or, if you do not know the name of the allocated social worker, you should contact the Customer Services Centre directly to make a new referral. Customer Service Centre - Tel: 0300 123 4043 or e-mail: protectedreferrals.cs@hertfordshire.gov.uk.

Consultation Hub for Child Protection Advice – Schools and Early Years Only

Children’s Services have implemented a single Consultation Hub pilot for schools and early year settings in response to recent discussions with schools about how we could strengthen support for referrals and ensure requests for support and safeguarding of children get to the right place, first time.

This will replace the current arrangements for consultations with Child Protection School Liaison Officers (CPSLO) and the Early Help Advice Line. The Consultation Hub will be operated by a Social Worker, a Child Protection School Liaison Officer and a Families First Coordinator and is intended to provide advice on child protection concerns.

If you are a key worker leading a Families First intervention and have a child protection concern about the family you are working with or a school/Early Years setting who has a concern that you believe warrants a child protection referral, please contact the consultation hub before completing the Child Protection Form (red form). This may help prevent wasted time for children who need an urgent response or risk alienating families for whom there is a better pathway for support.

If you complete a ‘red referral’ form and submit it to the Customer Services Centre without discussing it with the Consultation Hub first and there is no obvious imminent risk to the child outlined in the form, it will not be progressed and will be returned to you with a request for you to discuss with the consultation hub for advice in the first instance.

The consultation hub staff will give advice only and will not progress referrals. If they advise a professional referrer to make a child protection referral via the ‘red form’, they will record this on the child’s record. If they advise a referral should be made for family support services, they will note the same on the child’s record and referrers will need to complete a ‘green form’. The referrer should note on their red or green form that a consultation has taken place with the hub and that they were advised to make a red/green referral request. This will help Customer Services staff to speed through referrals to the most appropriate team to help or advise.

The Consultation Hub will be open to all schools in the County, including Independent Schools. There will be an expectation that you continue to consult the Continuum of Need and HSCB Child Protection Procedures and the designated safeguarding lead.

The Consultation Hub is operational as outlined below:

  • Monday to Thursday 9.00am – 5.00pm and 9.00am – 4.00pm on Fridays;
  • It is available during term time and school holidays, with the exception of Bank Holidays;
  • It is operational from Monday 30th of April 2018.

Where professionals are concerned that a child may be at imminent risk of significant harm please call 999 for police or make a child protection referral by either calling the Customer Service Centre on 0300 123 4043 or complete and submit a child protection referral (red form) to e-mail: protectedreferrals.cs@hertfordshire.gov.uk.

If there is an open Family First Assessment, you are the keyworker and you need further advice and Information, please contact your local Families First Coordinator, details can be found on the Families First Portal by clicking on the link: Speak to someone.

Children’s Services Child Protection and Service Request Forms

The child protection (Request) form and service request form are:

  • The Child Protection (Request) form is for safeguarding concerns only;
  • The Service Request form is for a request for a service within Children’s Services, where a child or young person has a need which requires a response from one agency only (for multiple needs a Families First Assessment should be considered).

Both forms can be filled in online and are available with guidance on Hertfordshire County Council Website at: Report Concerns About a Child or Request Support.

WHEN IN DOUBT, CONCERNS MUST BE SHARED APPROPRIATELY.


3. How to Contact Children's Services

Contact from Members of the Public

When members of the public are concerned about the welfare of a child or an unborn baby, they will contact the Customer Services Centre, who will either pass the information to the MASH, or the relevant Children and Families or Specialist Service Teams. Children at risk of imminent significant harm will be fast tracked to the appropriate Assessment Team for immediate action.

The Police and the NSPCC help lines offer an alternative means of reporting concerns and they must inform Children's Services of any child protection concerns.

Contact from a Professional

The professional referrer will confirm verbal and telephone contact in writing, within twenty- four hours, where possible using a multi-agency (request) form. Any Families First Assessments that has been undertaken will be attached to the (request form). Contacts will be e-mailed (see Section 2, Duty to Contact Children's Services) or addressed to:

Customer Service Centre,
P.O. Box 153,
Stevenage,
Herts.
SG1 2GH

Fax: 01438 737402(MB2).

Professionals Sending a Contact on Behalf of a Third Party

Any professional from another agency receiving a child protection (request) from a member of the public will:

  • Advise her/him to refer directly to Children's Services via the CSC;
  • Inform Children's Services of the details of the concern via CSC;
  • Note details of the concern and the communication with CSC.

Professionals will, in general, seek to discuss any concerns with the family and where possible seek their agreement to make contact with Children's Services.

If informing the parents / carers or seeking agreement will place a child at increased likelihood of harm, having a discussion with parents/carers or seeking agreement will not be required (see Section 6, Providing Parents with Information and Obtaining Agreement to Share Information with Other Agencies).

Referrer Keeping Records

The referrer will keep a written record of:

  • Discussions with child;
  • Discussions with parent;
  • Discussions with managers;
  • Information provided to Children's Services;
  • Decisions taken (clearly timed, dated and signed).

All Health Contacts to Children's Services - All health contacts from hospital or CCG will include the child’s NHS number and must be made on a Child Protection Form or Service Request Form and sent securely to the Customer Service Centre.

Police and Schools - Police and all schools and educational establishments will contact the Customer Service Centre directly on their dedicated number, or if known, the named worker or team.

Contacts Outside of Normal Hours

Contacts to Children's Services outside normal Customer Service Centre hours (08.00 - 20-00 Monday - Friday & 09.00 - 16.00 Saturday) are diverted to the Safeguarding Out of Hours Service.

Contacts to the Police Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) should be made on 101 (unless it is an emergency then dial 999). The JCPIT normal hours are 08.00 - 22.00 Monday - Friday & 08.00 - 17.00 week-ends and Bank Holidays. Any emergency calls outside of these hours should be made via the 999 system.

Referrer Anonymity

Members of the public may prefer not to give their name to Children's Services or the NSPCC. Anonymous referrals from members of the public must be fully recorded and investigated thoroughly ad possible by Children's Services.

If the referrer does not wish for their identity to be revealed, this will be recorded. Where possible, staff will respect a referrer's request for anonymity; however there are limitations to confidentiality in certain circumstances, for example, where her/his identity may have to be given e.g. to a court. This will always be explained to the referrer.

Professional referrals cannot be anonymous and should be made in the knowledge that during the course of enquiries it will be made clear which agency has originated the contact.


4. Acknowledgement of Contact by Children's Services

Children's Services will acknowledge contacts in writing within one working day of receipt. Acknowledgement will be provided by an automated email (for contacts sent via email) or verbal confirmation (if contact made via phone). If no acknowledgement is received within three working days, the referrer must contact Children's Services again to establish the current status of their contact. At this stage the feedback provided will consist of acknowledging receipt of the contact only. Once the screening process has been conducted and a decision as to the outcome of the contact has been made, the referrer will be contacted again with further information.


5. Information to be Provided with a Contact

Referrers will have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified social worker with Delegated Authority. The referrer will be asked specifically if they hold any information about difficulties being experienced by the family/household due to domestic violence and abuse, mental illness, substance misuse and/or learning difficulties.

When making contact with Children’s Services, if the following information is known to the referrer, please provide as much detail as possible:

  • Full names, dates of birth and gender of children (including surnames used);
  • Family address (current and previous) and, where relevant, school/nursery attended;
  • Identity of those with Parental Responsibility;
  • Names and dates of birth of all members of the household (including all surnames used);
  • Ethnicity, first language and religion of children and parents/carers;
  • Details of any extended family or community who are significant for he child;
  • Any special needs of the children including the means in which they communicate;
  • Any significant / important recent or past events/incidents in the child or family life, including previous concerns;
  • Cause for concern including details of allegations, their sources, timing and location of incidences;
  • 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 his or her family;
  • Known current or previous involvement of other agencies/professionals e.g. schools, GPs;
  • Background information relevant to referral e.g. positive aspects of parents care, previous concerns, pertinent parental issues e.g. mental health, domestic abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, threats and violence towards professionals;
  • Information regarding parents' knowledge of and agreement to the contact/ referral.


6. Providing Parents with Information and Obtaining Agreement to Share Information with Other Agencies

The Data Protection Act should never be a barrier to ‘sharing information’ where the failure to do so would result in a child or vulnerable adult being placed at risk of harm or indeed on those occasions where seeking consent might increase the risk of harm. The Act ensures that information shared is done appropriately.

The manner in which the provision of information and obtaining agreement from parents to share information is required, or not required, is as follows:

  • Parents Informed and agreement obtained to share information is obtained - The child and family will, where possible, be informed about the contact into Children’s Services and parents' permission will generally be sought by Children's Services before discussing information about them with other agencies;
  • Parents Informed Only - In this instance, the child and family will be informed only, but agreement to share is not obtained due to various reasons (e.g. It was not possible to gain agreement but it is in the best interest of the child to share information urgently);
  • Parents Not Informed and Agreement to Share Information is Not Obtained - Permission is not required if any criteria below apply:

    If parent(s) have not been informed prior to the contact, the professional referrer should be asked to inform them unless it is considered to do so might place the child at an increased likelihood of suffering significant harm by:

    • The behavioural response it prompts e.g. a child being subjected to abuse, maltreatment or threats / forced to remain silent if alleged abuser informed;
    • Leading to an unreasonable delay;
    • Leading to the risk of loss of evidential material;
    • Placing a member of staff from any agency at risk.

Inter-agency discussion without parental permission may also be justified if it is concluded that information held in other organisations is likely to inform a decision to conduct Section 47 Enquiries.

In the absence of consent by the parents the Lead Professional will make a judgement as to whether, without help, the needs of the child to be safeguarded will escalate.

A Children's Services Team Manager will authorise any decision to discuss the referral with other agencies without parental knowledge or permission, and the reasons for such action will be recorded. When there is a possibility that a crime may have been committed, discussion with the Police may occur prior to informing the parents of the concern.


7. Timescale for Making Initial Decision About a Contact

In accordance with Working Together to Safeguard Children (paragraph 69) within one working day, the manager or social worker with delegated authority will, in most cases, make a decision about the type of response that is 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;
  • There is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm, and whether enquiries must be made and the child assessed under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 (see Section 47 Enquiry Procedure);
  • 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;
  • To see the child as soon as possible if the decision is taken that the contact requires further assessment.


8. Children's Services Providing Information to Other Professionals

Requests for Information – General Advice

If a child is open to a Children’s Services team, any requests for information or requests to view files will be processed by the allocated worker (CSC will add documents to Livelink and add Casenotes).

If a child is closed, CSC will open a Contact on LCS and use the following guidance for processing the request.

If the requests for information relates to an adult who was a former recipient of Children’s Services, CSC will open an Adult Contact on LCS to process the request.

If another local authority requests information due to a section 47 enquiry then CSC can confirm this without consent. Confirmation should be sent by email to a .gov.uk e-mail address.

All other information requests from agencies require a copy of a consent form from the individual or someone with PR.

The enquirer should be informed by CSC (telephone or email) that they need to provide evidence of consent/their statutory role with the family before we can process their request. The current request will not be processed.

Requests to Ascertain if a Child is Known to Children’s Services

If a statutory agency such as CAFCASS; SEN; Ofsted; CRI; SPA (Mental health) HYH; police, probation, schools/free schools/academies or NHS ask whether a child or their family is known to Children’s Services, and if the requestor confirms that the information is required for the purpose of protecting and safeguarding the welfare of a child, OR they have gained written consent from someone with PR the following action should be taken:

CSC to confirm details such as whether the child is known, whether the case is open or closed (if the Referral is Open to a Team this request would be sent via Casenotes to the allocated worker to progress) and the dates, purpose and outcome of Children’s Services involvement. Practitioners should check the dates and content of the following before recording on Enquiry Forms:

  • LCS and EHM Forms tab: Contacts (including outcomes, only record if these have not been progressed to a Referral); Referrals (including outcomes); Assessments (including outcomes); S47 enquiries (including outcomes); CP conferences; Closures;
  • LCS CP tab: Periods of Child Protection Plans and Reasons;
  • LCS CLA tab: Periods of CLA history, Accommodation and Legal Status;
  • LCS Chronology: Any Domestic Violence incidents not recorded as a Contact/Referral;
  • IES Referrals tab: Any referrals progressed for Early Interventions/Help;
  • IES Forms tab: Closure records.

On some occasions, agencies such as Housing may request information. This may be due to a family having rent arrears. This information sharing would not be informing a possible safeguarding decision and should therefore not be given without signed parental consent.

Requests from the UK Border Agency

The UKBA (or UKIVA) often request information that may inform the future plans for a child, i.e. a child being allowed to safely remain in the UK or safely return to their country of origin. For these requests for information on a child CSC can provide information without parental consent. All confirmation to UKBA should be sent by email to a .gov.uk e-mail address.

Requests for Detailed Information from Other Local Authorities or CAFCASS

CSC will complete the initial CAFCASS Request for Information form.

If another Local Authority (OLA) or CAFCASS want detailed information about Hertfordshire’s involvement with a child/family (chronology, C and F assessment etc.) then this will be processed by the team currently working with a child (open cases to all services) or the relevant Safeguarding or 0-25 Assessment team (closed cases).

  • The requests need to be clear why the information is being requested and the context/background to the request, otherwise, CSC will return the request asking for more information;
  • Contact to be opened on LCS by CSC and progressed to ‘Info and Advice’ (or open and closed as an Adult Contact on LCS if relating to adult former recipient of services);
  • CIAO/Service Support to request paper files where appropriate and arrange with the OLA a date to view files;
  • Support to be provided by Service Support/CIAO/Children’s Practitioner to enable access to LCS (supervised at all times) ensuring that only child and relevant family members’ records are viewed;
  • In some cases, where OLA is some distance from Hertfordshire, or the relevant information is limited (e.g. Contacts / Information Only records), CIAO or Children’s Practitioner can cut and paste records/provide a chronology of relevant information and send this securely to LA. All relevant information will be included. If the OLA have asked specific questions, these will be answered as far as possible, or a reason provided if this is not possible. A Team Manager/CSW will oversee what is to be sent before it is sent. Information shared will be attached to either Livelink or case notes, so that subsequent requests may build on previously shared information;
  • Legal advice to be sought regarding provision of copies of relevant documents to the OLA.

Correspondence from Courts/Solicitors

  • If case is open - case note to allocated worker and email to CLU Helpdesk;
  • If case is closed - Contact to be opened on LCS and email to CLU helpdesk.

Data Protection Team specific requests for information

Where police (or another Government agency) make a request for information which is required for the prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension and prosecution of offenders or the assessment or collection of any tax or duty, should be referred to the Data Protection Team e-mail: data.protection@hertfordshire.gov.uk or tel: 01992 588099.

These requests for information are commonly called s.29 Requests (S.29 of the Data Protection Act 1998). These types of requests can only be made by organisations with an investigatory function such as the police, UKBA, Probation and CEOP and so on.

S.29 requests are routed through to the DPT and they will take the requestor though verification / justification to ensure the exemption is justifiable and then we invite the requester in to view the information.

The Data Protection Team will also progress Subject Access to Records Requests.

No other requests for information will be processed by the DP Team.

IF IN DOUBT of Requestor identity or the legitimacy of the request.

If CSC is IN DOUBT of requestor identity or the legitimacy of the request – CSC should inform them that they need to provide evidence of their identity as a statutory agency (and consent from someone with PR unless there is a child protection risk) before providing any information. The request will not be processed in the interim.


9. Children Suffering Significant Harm

If there are indications that a child be may be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, the manager will 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.

If there is suspicion that a crime may have been committed including sexual or physical assault or neglect of the child, the Police will be notified immediately.

On receipt of notification that a child has been taken into Police Protection the Team Manager should have a strategy discussion with Police. See Hertfordshire Social Work Procedures Manual, Police Protection Guidance


10. Pathway Following a Contact

See also: Appendix 1: Pathway Flowchart.

Once a contact is received, the Customer Services Centre will signpost the contact to the most relevant service where a social worker will review the concerns against the Continuum of Need guidance to determine what information, advice or support is required.

At any time, a contact may become a referral if it appears that services may be required for a Child in Need under Section 17 or Section 47 of the Children Act, 1989.

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

Following a contact the information gathered will be reviewed as part of the screening process to determine the most appropriate service for a child. This screening process will establish:

  • The nature of the concern;
  • How and why it has arisen;
  • What the child's needs appear to be;
  • Current location of child, when last seen and by whom;
  • Whether the concern involves abuse or neglect (e.g. Is the child a Child in Need and an assessment should start, or is it suspected that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm and should an Assessment under Section 47 be commenced?);
  • The foundations for these concerns;
  • Any need for urgent action to protect the child / any other children (does the child require immediate protection?);
  • Services should be provided;
  • Further specialist assessment is required;
  • Whether the child is or has been known to children’s services;
  • Whether the child has any siblings, including half-siblings, or there are other children in the household, that are or have been known to children’s services. Whether adult members of the child’s family (including those closely connected to the child’s family, i.e. mother’s boyfriend) have themselves been known to children’s services and whether these adult members have other children who are or have been known to children’s services.

This above process will involve:

  • Discussion with referrers;
  • Any existing records for the child and for any other members of the household (including if children are or have ever been the subject of Child Protection Plans);
  • Involving other agencies as appropriate (including the Police if any offence has been or is suspected to have been committed) (see also Section 47 Enquiry Procedure, Single and Joint Agency Investigations) and in accordance with Information Sharing: Advice for Safeguarding Practitioners:
    • Consent from the parent or carer will normally be sought where possible (See section 5) depending on the;
    • Partners will only share information that is ‘necessary and proportionate’.

Outcomes of Contacts / Referrals

The initial outcome decision following a contact, which must be authorised by the manager, may be:

Option 1: No Further Action / Information and Advice - The child does not appear to be a Child in Need, the provision of information, advice, sign-posting to another agency and/or no further action.

Option 2: Services Provided by Families First/ Targeted Youth Support Services or Universal Services - The child’s need may be best met by a coordinated multi-agency response (i.e. Early Intervention) via a Families First Assessment or Targeted Youth Support Services, access to Short Breaks (children with disabilities), or from Universal Services in the community such as health or schools, etc. and may not require intervention under the S17 or S47 of the Children Act 1989.

Option 3: Further Assessment: Where the child appears to be a Child in Need which requires a Child and Family Assessment or it is suspected that the child is or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, which will result in an assessment with a view to conduct a strategy discussion prior to Section 47 Enquiries.

The child will be seen as soon as possible if the decision is taken that the contact will progress to a referral requiring further assessment. See Hertfordshire Social Work Procedures Manual, Child and Family Assessments Procedure.

  • For Child in Need, a Child and Family Assessment will commence immediately and the child will be seen within 5 working days;
  • For a child who is or is likely to suffer significant harm, a decision to initiate a strategy discussion and S47 Enquiries will be made with 24 hours.

Further Communication with Referrer

Following the gathering of further information if another service has been deemed more suitable to meet the child’s needs the receiving team will inform the referrer of where they have signposted their contact.

If the referrer made the referral on behalf of someone else or referred on information s/he received, they will be reminded that it is their responsibility to feed back the actions to the person they received the information from.

In the case of contacts from the public, feedback must be consistent with the rights to confidentiality of the child and her/his family.

The holding team must actively respond to identification of risk or harm first, and satisfy themselves that there are protective factors in place, then look at transferring the case between teams.


11. The Assessment Framework

In instances where children and families progress to further assessment, the following will apply:

See chapters on Single Assessment in the HSCB Manual or Child and Family Assessments within the Social Work Procedures Manual and Families First Assessment and Early Help page on the Hertfordshire Internet site.


Appendix 1: Pathway Flowchart

Click here to view Appendix 1: Pathway Flowchart.

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