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3.1 Referral, Investigation and Assessment

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter details the initial and referral processes and procedures when professionals and members of the community are concerned that a child may be 'at risk' and reflects Working Together to Safeguard Children. The chapter contains relevant links, including a Multi-agency professionals referral form (MARF) and what can be expected as the outcomes.

RELATED CHAPTERS

Responding to Need Guidance and Levels of Need Framework Procedure

Single Assessments (including Section 47 Enquiries) Procedure

Strategy Discussion / Child Protection Referrals – Safeguarding (s.47) Referrals Procedure

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

What to do if you're worried a child is being abused, GOV.UK website

Working Together to Safeguard Children, Assessing Need and Providing Help

AMENDMENT

This procedure was slightly update in August 2019. A revised Escalation Procedure was added.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Referral by Professionals
  3. Response by Professionals in Agency
  4. The Welfare of Unborn Children - Referral
  5. Referrals by Members of the Public
  6. Referrals to Careline
  7. What is Done in Careline
  8. Safeguarding Referrals
  9. Escalation Process for Contested Decisions


1. Introduction

  • Any person who has knowledge of or suspects that a child is suffering, or is at on-going likelihood of suffering Significant Harm must refer their concerns to either Liverpool Children's Services or the Police who have the duty to investigate. All cases of suspected child abuse must be referred without delay to either Careline or the Police. Local Authorities have responsibilities towards all children whose health or development may be impaired without the provision of support and services or who are disabled. These children are described as Children in Need by the Children Act 1989;
  • Children's Social Care have a duty under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 to make enquiries when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found in, their area is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm.
  • Such concern could arise via:
    • Referral from another agency or professional;
    • Referral from a concerned member of the public; or
    • From new information coming to light about a family with whom Children's Social Care are already involved.

A referral should be made to Careline (0151 233 3700) if there are any signs that a child under the age of 18 years has been abused or neglected, is experiencing abuse or neglect or is suffering, or is likely to suffer 'Significant Harm'. Referrals will be passed onto the relevant service within Children's Social Care. This may be one of the Safeguarding Teams which are city wide.

Referrals to Careline by professionals will only be accepted where they are written and submitted via the on-line Multi-Agency Referral Form (MARF) or a completed Early Help Assessment Tool (EHAT). Prior to submitting the MARF it is important to obtain consent from parents / carers.

The only exception to this arrangement is Section 47 Child Protection referrals, where there is reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm. In such instances, professionals should continue to make an immediate telephone referral to Careline 0151 233 3700, followed by an online MARF. (All Section 47 referrals will be brought to the attention of a social work Team Manager immediately).

Professionals making Section 47 Child Protection Referrals are required to complete an online MARF within one working day of making a telephone referral to Careline.

If you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to a child then consideration should be given to calling the police and a Section 47 referral to Careline should be made via phone and followed as is required within one working day using the online MARF.

In all other cases, before submitting a request for single assessment by Children's Social Care using the MARF, it is important that professionals consider whether a child's and their family's needs can be more appropriately supported through Early Help.

It is important all professionals carefully consider the LSCP Responding to Need Guidance & Levels of Need Framework. Professionals who submit a MARF and have not appropriately applied the Levels of Need Framework will be expected to initiate an Early Help Assessment. If an Early Help Assessment is not initiated within 10 working days, a member of the Early Help Hub will contact the professional to support them in progressing this.


2. Referral by Professionals

Every referral made to careline will be treated seriously and in confidence. Where a member of the public refers a concern, their identity will be protected unless they have specifically given permission for their name to be made known. However, it should be noted that the identity of the referrer may be revealed at the request of a Court if it is felt to be in the best interests of the child.

The phone will be answered by a Customer Service Advisor (CSA) who will take all the details and check for eligibility i.e. does the child live in Liverpool. If the query is simply for information the CSA will deal with this at that point and may well signpost to an appropriate service, for example a children's centre.

If the call relates to a child or young person who is already an open case to a social worker the call will be passed to the appropriate social worker, if the call is in normal working outside hours. If the call is outside of working hours advice will be sought for the out of hours social work co-coordinator to establish if there is any urgent action required.

If the child or young person is not an open case then the information will be taken and advice will be sought as to whether a referral will be taken. The caller will be advised of this. The information will be added to the children's information system. Any professional unsure as to whether their concern should result in a referral to Children's Social Care should consult with the Designated Professional/Named Professional within their organisation, in accordance with the agreed procedures of the organisation.

If a referral is generated it may well be that this is allocated to a social worker to undertake further work and speak to agencies who know the child or young person. If it will not place the child or young person at further risk then the family will also be spoken too.

If the concern is of an acute or urgent nature the referral will be generated and sent to an area team to assess within an hour. The referral will be signed off by a social work Team Manager. The referral may not have a full set of agency check due to the time scale in order to completed.

Further advice on how to proceed can be sought from the Safeguarding Unit. The purpose of such consultation is to assist the potential referrer in deciding whether or not to make a formal referral. The decision on whether to refer lies with the potential referring agency. The decision and reasons for any decision not to refer should be recorded in the child's record by the agency concerned. The decision as to whether a referral is accepted lies with Children's Social Care. In the event of referrer being unhappy with a decision this should be escalated through the agencies own safeguarding lead.


3. Response by Professionals in Agency

Professionals should follow their own agency procedures and discuss concerns with the nominated person for their agency.

Prior to making a referral to Children's Care consideration should be given to the complexity of the child's needs and the need for an Assessment. It is therefore important that professionals consider whether a child's and their family's needs can be more appropriately supported through Early Help.

Before submitting an online MARF It is important all professionals carefully consider the LSCP Responding to Need.

Professionals who submit an online MARF and have not appropriately applied the Levels of Need Framework will be expected to initiate an Early Help Assessment.

If an Early Help Assessment is not initiated within 10 working days, a member of the Early Help Hub will contact the professional to support them in progressing this. Complex situations requiring co-ordination of services and in depth assessment are appropriate referrals under the Children in Need Procedures and must be made using the MARF.

Outcomes of discussions within the agency may be:

  • No further action;
  • Child is not at risk of Significant Harm but has additional needs:
    • If the child is subject to an Early Help Assessment contact Lead Professional and discuss concerns to assess further action according to EHA (Early Help Assessment) guidance;
    • An EHAT (Early Help Assessment Tool) will need to be undertaken if not already in place.

The Early Help Assessment Tool promotes multi-disciplinary and multi-agency working at an early stage in order to identify and provide services to children in need of additional support before their needs escalate (link to levels of Need Framework). The EHAT Form is not a referral form although if there is an OPEN completed EHAT in place this may be used to support a referral as opposed to completing a Multi Agency Referral Form (MARF).

Liverpool Safeguarding Children Partnership's (LSCP) 'Responding to Need Guidance and Levels of Need Framework ' has been designed with partners from across the Children's Trust and the LSCP to ensure that children's needs are responded to at an appropriate level and in a timely way. This guidance should be seen as overarching guidance for the whole of the children and young people's workforce within Liverpool and should be used by professionals when considering how best to meet the needs of individual children. Whilst individual agency response to levels of needs will vary depending on the individual agency, their responses should all support this framework, and deliver appropriate interventions for children and families.

The Responding to Need Guidance and Levels of Need framework clearly identifies when it is appropriate for agencies or professionals to make a referral to Liverpool Children's Social Care in respect of a Child in Need. Consultation between agencies and professionals prior to and regarding referrals for assessment is positively encouraged in the protocols and is an essential aspect of good practice when working to protect children:

Where Urgent medical attention is needed:

  • Medical attention must be sought immediately from Accident & Emergency, (dialling 999 where appropriate);
  • In any other circumstances, Children's Care and the Police are responsible for ensuring that any medical examinations required as part of enquiries are initiated.

Where Immediate safety action is needed – see above.

Where the Child is admitted to hospital:

Where abuse is alleged or suspected and the child has been taken to hospital, contact must be made with Careline to make a referral and a MARF must be submitted within one working day. The child must not be discharged until an Assessment is completed by Children Social Care.


4. The Welfare of Unborn Children - Referral

Where agencies or individuals anticipate that prospective parents may need support services to care for their baby or that the baby may be at risk of Significant Harm, a referral to Children's Care must be made. As decision will be made whether a pre-birth assessment is required. This is usually conducted after 22 weeks gestation unless there are exacerbating factors. 


5. Referrals by Members of the Public

When members of the public are concerned about the welfare of a child or an unborn baby, they should contact Careline on 0151 233 3700. Members of the public do not need to complete the online MARF.

The NSPCC helpline offers an alternative means of reporting concerns.

Individuals may prefer not to give their name when referring a concern. Alternatively, they may disclose their identity but not wish for it to be revealed to the parents/carers of the child concerned. Wherever possible, staff will respect the referrer's request for anonymity. However, staff cannot give referrers any guarantees of confidentiality, as there are certain limited circumstances in which the identity of a referrer may have to be given, for example in court proceedings or criminal investigations.

Feedback to members of the public will be given where possible within the rights to confidentiality of the child and her/his family. 


6. Referrals to Careline

Referrals should generally be made to Careline for a child living within the City. Any referrer should have the opportunity to discuss concerns with a qualified social worker. Careline will advise, re-direct or take a referral. All new referrals are screened and, if deemed of moderate or serious concern, passed to the appropriate Safeguarding Team Manager.

Any professional or member of the public concerned that a child may be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, should make a referral to Liverpool Children's Social Care without delay. This referral must be followed up with a MARF within 24 Hours.

Referrals to Careline by professionals will only be accepted where they are written and submitted via the on-line Multi-Agency Referral Form (MARF) or a completed Early Help Assessment Tool (EHAT). It is important to obtain consent prior to the MARF being submitted.

The only exception to this arrangement is Section 47 Child Protection referrals, where there is reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm. In such instances, professionals should continue to make an immediate telephone referral to Careline 0151 233 3700, followed by an online MARF which must be submitted within one working day.

The MARF once completed this will be submitted electronically direct to the Careline secure inbox. The referrer will receive an automatic receipt from Careline.

Where the child concerned already has an allocated social worker, referrals to Children's Social Care should be made to the child's social worker, the Team Manager or a team colleague.

Where the child does not have an allocated social worker, or where the referrer is not aware of the involvement or identity of the allocated social worker, referrals should be made to Careline, (see Local Contacts, Children's Services Careline). Referrals are taken initially by Customer Advisors who process a wide range of referrals to Children's Social Care, however, anyone making a referral can ask to speak to a qualified social worker.

When a telephone referral is made to Careline, it is the responsibility of the Social Worker or Customer Advisor to clarify with the referrer whether the concerns meet the threshold for an urgent Child Protection concern. If it does meet this threshold the details, a MARF will be required to progress the concerns. If there are urgent safeguarding concerns the details will be recorded by the Customer Service Advisor within Careline and a completed MARF will need to follow within one working day.

If the referral does not relate to an urgent Child Protection concern, then the referral will not be progressed until the MARF has been received by Careline. The following information is required:

  • The nature of concerns, including whether there are concerns about abuse or neglect and whether there may be a need to take urgent action to safeguard a child;
  • How and why the concerns have arisen;
  • The apparent needs of the child and family;
  • All relevant information about the child and family known by the referrer in as much detail as possible;
  • Referrers 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;
  • Whether the family are aware of the referral and the concerns have been discussed with the family. It is good practice to make families aware of a referral to children's social care unless to do otherwise would place someone at significant risk. Advice can be sought from Careline as to whether the concerns should be discussed with the family and consent sought.


7. What is Done in Careline

At the point a decision has been taken this will be recorded and added to the information system by a CSA. If further work is to be completed, the referral will be allocated to a social worker in Careline to undertake background checks. Clearly all these pieces of work have to be prioritised dependent on risk and urgency.

The social worker will collate a Chronology from the information system which will reflect the nature of any previous concerns. The Chronology will include information such as previous referrals, previous assessment whether the child or young person has been subject to a child protection plan or looked after by the local authority. The Chronology will also include when the case was closed and any recommendation s at the point of closure.

The Chronology is key information in completing an assessment of the history. The referrer will be contacted by the social worker to gain clarification on their information. Parents will be contacted unless it is felt that by doing so this would increase the risk to the child or young person. Parents will also be asked for their consent to contact agencies who may know the child or young person, i.e. school, health visitor. However, if it is felt to be in the best interest of the child or young permission a social worker can contact agencies without consent.

On completion of gathering all the information from relevant agencies, the social worker will summarise the information make an analysis of the risk and/or need and make a recommendation as to whether further social work intervention is required, or whether the case can be signposted to another service or the matter can be closed in Careline.

The recommendation will be overseen by a social work Team Manager who will make a decision as to whether to allocate the case to an area team for assessment, whether the case can be signposted to universal services, Early Help or closed in Careline, alternatively if felt necessary the Team Manager can return the referral to the social worker for further work. The decision will be based on analysis of risk and or need and the current and historical information.


8. Safeguarding Referrals

All concerns about a child under the age of 18 years, who is experiencing or may already have experienced abuse or Neglect or is suffering, or likely to suffer 'significant harm' in the future will be dealt with under Section 47 of the Children Act. These Section 47 referrals should be made by phone and then followed up in writing; these referrals will be brought to the attention of the social work Team Manager. Dependent on the urgency of the situation it maybe that full information is not gained from agencies in order for an assessment to be initiated as soon as possible. However, a Child Protection Plan check should be completed. Consideration will be given as to whether the social work Team Manager completes a Strategy Discussion with the police, or whether this is completed by the manager of the receiving team. If the referral is outside normal working hours, this will be completed by the Out of Hours social work Team Manager.

  • Referrals should be specific to an individual child and not on sibling groups, unless the referrer believes each one requires an assessment;
  • They will need as much of the following information as possible to complete the referral, e.g.:
    • Referrer's details, including name, contact number, professional status;
    • Child's name, date of birth, address, telephone number, gender, ethnicity, religion and family composition dates of birth of parents/carers if known and any siblings and any known alias or preceding surnames;
    • A concise outline of the current situation;
    • Relevant history;
    • Any known/potential risks to staff.

When making a referral to children services sufficient information will be required; this will include all of the points above. This will minimise any potential delay in completing the referral for the child or young person and aim to ensure that the child or young person receives a service at an appropriate level. If the concerns being referred have been on-going then it will be required to have a chronology of these concerns and how these have been responded to i.e. was a EHAT initiated or referral made to another service and could the concern be addressed by universal services. If action has been taken previously information will be required as to how effective was this course of action and whether the family were keen to engage in the offer of assistance. For concerns that are not assessed as a child being at risk of significant harm, an early help offer should be considered. Safeguarding, if the child is considered a child in need discussion needs to have taken place with the child or young person's carers for consent to a referral. If this has not taken place then clear reasons need to be given as to the reason for this.

  • Referrers should receive acknowledgement from Children's Social Care in writing within one working day of receipt. 

Except in cases of emergency where immediate action is required in respect of protection or medical examination and/or treatment, referrals will require that initial checks are undertaken with relevant professionals and the referrer. The Duty Social Worker should discuss the need for immediate protection, medical examination and/or treatment with the Duty Team Manager, or if the Duty Social Worker is a Team Manager with the Access to Services Manager.

The initial checks undertaken by Children's Safeguarding should include:

  • Child Protection Plan Enquiry to find out if the child, or any other child in the household, is already the subject of a Child Protection Plan, or has been the subject of any previous Child Protection Plan Enquiries; and to ask for checks to be made with the Safeguarding Unit for Child Protection Plans from other local authorities if appropriate;
  • A check of the Children's Safeguarding Information Database records to ascertain if the child and/or family is receiving, or has received services;
  • Contacting the following to ascertain if they have any relevant information about the child and/or family:
    • Health Visitor and/or School Nurse/Midwife/Mental Health;
    • GP;
    • School and/or nursery;
    • National Probation Servicer;
    • NSPCC;
    • Health, Housing and Adults Services;
    • Children's Centres.
  • Any other professionals and carers known to be involved.


9. Escalation Process for Contested Decisions

  • It is the responsibility of the referrer to contact Children's Social Care if a response to the referral has not been received. If the referrer is not satisfied with the response they should contact the Careline Team Manager or the Safeguarding Team Manager to discuss their concerns.

    If an agency is concerned about the decision made in Careline, or in the area team, a discussion should be held with the manager making the decision which is in dispute. If resolution is not found, this should be escalated to the relevant service manager to review the decision, make a decision with a rationale and communicate this decision and rationale with the relevant parties and record the outcome;
  • 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, or is likely to be, suffering significant harm then a decision should be made about whether a strategy discussion should be held in order to consider whether to initiate Section 47 enquiries. It may, also, be appropriate to consider undertaking Single Assessment or to update a previous one in order to understand the child's current needs and circumstances and inform future decision making.

(See also LSCP Escalation Procedure).

End