Initial Contacts and Referrals
RELEVANT PROCEDURES AND GUIDANCE
This chapter should be read in conjunction with:
AMENDMENTIn January 2022, guidance contained in this chapter was reviewed and updated as required to reflect guidance from the refreshed Working Together to Safeguard Children.
1. Initial Contacts
The Central Referral Unit is the primary access point for new contacts and referrals to Specialist Children's Services. They provide multi-agency screening and decide on whether thresholds for service eligibility have been met.
The decision may be to provide information and advice, no further action, forward to the Early Help Co-ordination Team or that a Child and Family Assessment is required. Only referrals requiring a Child and Family Assessment will be forwarded to the responsible Children's Social Work Team.
The multi-agency Central Referral Unit based at Kroner House, Ashford will deal with all joint decision making in respect of referrals of a Child Protection concern, domestic abuse, missing children and adult protection.
The Central Duty Team is a team of experienced social work staff, contact assessment officers and administrators who provide information and advice, gate keeping, sign posting and initial Duty Senior decision making with regard to the progression of the referral. The decision may be to provide information and advice, NFA, forward to the Early Help Co-ordination Team or that a Child and Family Assessment is required. Only referrals requiring a Child and Family Assessment will be forwarded to the responsible Initial Assessment Team (AIT).
In considering the progression of a new referral where there is more than one sibling in the family, the Team Manager will decide using their professional judgement which children in the family should be opened at the initial stage. (This can be reviewed at any point by the assessing team). For example an allegation by a young person against a member of staff in a school does not necessitate a referral being opened on all siblings. Where a referral is about a particular child in a family the referral should be opened on that child, where the concerns are across the sibling group the Duty Senior should use their professional judgement to consider whether all or one of the children needs to be opened.
Sharing information in cases of concern about children’s welfare will enable professionals to consider jointly how to proceed in the best interests of children. It is always better to seek parents’ permission before sharing information or discussing the referral with other agencies unless to do so were to place the child at increased risk of harm. However what is in the child’s best interest will ultimately be the overriding consideration and there will be circumstances where practitioners will be justified in sharing information in order to make timely and informed decisions about the most appropriate course of action to be taken. Any decision about whether or not to share information must be properly documented.
Electronic information sharing must be undertaken securely through the gcsx mailbox (or EGRESS when available) to other secure mail boxes such as nhs.net, ppn and cjsm. It is not necessary to use a gcsx account within KCC as the internal mail accounts are secure within the organisation. Wherever a secure mailbox option is not available, alternative methods of information sharing will need to be considered in order to comply with data protection requirements.After initial decision making one of the following outcomes will apply, NFA, Child and Family Assessment or progress to Section 47 Enquiry.
Referrers should have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified social worker. 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.
The social worker will arrange to visit or contact the referrer and obtain as much of the following information as possible:
- Full names, dates of birth and gender of children;
- Family address and, where relevant, school/nursery attended;
- 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 including the means in which they communicate;
- 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;
- Referrer's relationship with and knowledge of the child and his or her family;
- Known involvement of other agencies;
- Information regarding parents' knowledge and agreement to referral.
The Central Duty Team will decide how they will respond to a referral and record next steps for action within 1 working day of the referral being received (Note: This should be as soon as possible where it is evident the child is seen as requiring immediate protection/urgent action). This decision should follow discussion with the referring professional/service, as well as consideration of information held in any existing records and involve discussion with other professionals and services as necessary (including the police where a criminal offence may have taken place). Information gained from other professionals should be recorded on the Agency Check Exemplar within Liberi.
4. Screening Process
The following process applies both to children who are already known to the authority and those who were not previously known.
The process of Referrals must include screening against the Threshold Criteria for Children in Need and/or KFSF and must include internal electronic database and agency checks to establish whether the family is previously known, and whether there is a Child Protection Plan in relation to the child and/or whether the child is in care.
The screening process should establish:
- The nature of the concern;
- How and why it has arisen;
- What the child's needs appear to be;
- Whether the concern involves Significant Harm;
- Whether there is any need for urgent action to protect the child or any children in the household.
This process will involve:
- Discussion with the referrer;
- Consideration of any existing records, including whether the child is the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
- The parent or carer should normally be informed that a Referral is being made unless to do so would place a child or vulnerable adult at increased risk of harm;
- The Information shared should always be necessary, proportionate, relevant, accurate, timely and secure;
- Involving other agencies as appropriate and in accordance with Information sharing advice for safeguarding practitioners (DfE) and Working Together to Safeguard Children.
If there are indications that a child may be at risk of Significant Harm, the manager may 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. There should be consideration of a Strategy Discussion and of a multi-agency response (see Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Procedures, Strategy Discussion/Meetings).
If there is suspicion that a crime may have been committed including sexual or physical assault or neglect of the child, the Police within the CRU must be notified immediately.
Personal information about non-professional referrers should not be disclosed to the parents or other agencies without the referrer's consent.
The parents/carers should usually be informed before discussing a referral with other agencies unless this may place the child at risk of Significant Harm, in which case the manager should authorise the discussion of the referral with other agencies without parental knowledge. The authorisation should be recorded with reasons.
5. Initial Disposal of Referrals
The initial disposal of a Referral, which must be authorised by the manager, may be:
- That the child does not appear to be a Child In Need, which will result in one of the following: the provision of information, advice, sign-posting to another agency and/or no further action;
- That the child appears to be a Child in Need with a moderate level of need, in which case, the manager may authorise a Child and Family Assessment;
- That it is suspected that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer from Significant Harm, which will result in a Strategy Discussion, prior to a Section 47 Enquiry and Child and Family Assessment commencing.
If there are indications that a child may be at risk of Significant Harm, the manager may 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. There should be consideration of a Strategy Discussion and of a multi-agency response. (See Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Procedures, Child Protection (Section 47) Enquiries)
Professional referrers should be advised of the disposal of the referral.
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 of Referrals
All Initial Contacts and Referrals should be recorded on the electronic database.