Referral and Assessment
- 2.1 Introduction
- 2.2 Referral criteria
- 2.3 Children's Social Care - Thresholds for referrals
- 2.4 Making and receiving a referral
- 2.5 Assessment of children in need or in need of protection
- 2.6 Pre-birth referral and assessment
2.1.1 BFSWS will receive approaches from professionals, agencies and the public which usually fall in to three categories:
- Requests for information from BFSWS.
- Provision of information such as notifications about a child.
- Requests, for services for a child, which will be in the form of a referral.
Anyone who has concerns about a child's welfare can make a referral to BFSWS. Referrals can come from the child themselves, professionals such as teachers, the service police, GPs and health visitors as well as family members and members of the public. BFSWS has the responsibility to clarify with the referrer the nature of the concerns and how and why they have arisen.
2.1.2 When professionals refer to BFSWS, they should state if there are any pre-existing early help assessments in respect of the child. Any information they have about the child's developmental needs and the capacity of their parents and carers to meet these within the context of their wider family and environment should be provided as a part of the referral information. Such early help assessments should identify what services the child needs and why the child and family require further support to prevent the concerns from escalating to the child needing statutory services (e.g. BFSWS). The interagency early help assessments should be undertaken by a Lead professional acting as a coordinator of support services and as an advocate for the child. Local arrangements should be in place to promote effective early help assessments and services.
2.1.3 The referrer must always have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with a social worker from the CRT which offers an advice and consultation service.
2.1.4 Within one working dayof a referral being received, the BFSWS social worker and their line manager must make a decision about the course of action to be taken. The BFSWS social worker will need to make a professional judgment as to what type and level of help and support is needed record this and feed back in writing to the referrer and the child and their family.
2.1.5 Where an early help assessment has been undertaken by the referring agency, it should inform the assessment to be undertaken by the social worker. All good assessments should be based on the common principles, which are set out in the three domains represented by the assessment triangle. This provides a systematic approach, which addresses the interactions between the three domains when considering the impact on the child and assessing their needs. The three domains are:
- The child’s developmental needs, including whether they are suffering or likely to suffer significant harm.
- The parents’ or carers’ capacity to respond to those needs.
- The impact and influence on the child of wider family, community and environmental circumstances
2.1.6 BFG publishes its own local framework for assessment, which is based on good analysis, timeliness, and transparency and is proportionate to the needs of the child and their family. The principles for an assessment should include that it is:
- Child centred and focussed on the child’s best interests
- Rooted in child development and informed by evidence
- Focussed on action and outcomes for children
- Holistic in approach and involves all relevant agencies
- Timely to meet the child’s needs
- Involved with children and their families; including the child’s views and wishes
- Builds on strengths as well as identifies difficulties
- Monitored and reviewed regularly as a continuing process
- Transparent and open to challenge
2.1.7 In all assessment processes, the safety of the child should remain paramount at all times and in all circumstances. The child must be seen by a BFSWS social worker as soon as possible following a referral. Professionals involved with the child and family must make a decision on the timing of this meeting, based on their assessment of the child's needs. The child's wishes and feelings must be taken into account when deciding what services to provide.
2.1.8 Early help, assessment and intervention are important because incidents of neglect and abuse within families are on a continuum and situations where abuse is developing can, at times, be resolved by multi-agency preventative services outside the child protection procedures.
2.1.9 At all stages of referral and assessment, consideration must be given to issues of diversity, taking into account:
- The impact of cultural expectations and obligations on the family;
- The family's knowledge and understanding of the law and local procedures in relation to parenting and child welfare;
- The impact on the family if recently arrived in BFG;
- The need to use interpreters for discussions about parenting and child welfare, even though the family's day-to-day English may appear / be adequate
- The analysis of the child’s and family's cultural needs must not result in a lowering of expectations in applying standards of good practice to safeguarding the child.
2.1.10 Assessments should, as far as possible, build on rather than repeat recent assessments and specialist assessments and have a clear purpose.
2.1.11 All assessments should be updated and reviewed regularly for example when new information comes to light or prior to consideration of case closures.
2.2 Referral criteria
Professionals in all agencies have a responsibility to refer a child to BFSWS when it is believed or suspected that the child:
- Has suffered significant harm (see Part A, chapter 1, Responding to Concerns of Abuse and Neglect);
- Is likely to suffer significant harm (see Part A, chapter 1, Responding to Concerns of Abuse and Neglect);
- Has a disability, developmental and welfare needs which are likely only to be met through provision of social work led family support services (with agreement of the child's parent) under the Children Act 1989;
- Is a Child in Need whose development would be likely to be impaired without provision of services.
2.3 BFSWS - Thresholds for referrals
2.3.1 BFG has agreements in place for early help assessments. These are all based on an agreed set of principles and values and reflect the statutory guidance in Working Together 2018. The aim is to facilitate the access to appropriate services across the different agencies.
2.3.2 The BFG Needs and Responses document aims to provide guidance to explain how BFSWS apply thresholds when making decisions about how to receive and respond to referrals made to them.
2.3.3 Referrals to services about a child where there may be concerns typically fall in to four categories and pathways:
- No further action, which may include information to signpost to other agencies.
- Early help - referrals for intervention and prevention services within the Common Assessment Framework and Early Help services range of provision.
- Child in Need services - assessment to be undertaken by BFSWS (Section 17 CA 1989).
- Child Protection services – assessment and child protection enquiries to be undertaken by BFSWS (Section 47 CA 1989) with active involvement of other agencies such as the police.
2.3.4 The route for a referral in BFG should be assessed by a BFSWS social worker and a decision should be made by the relevant line manager within the time scale of one working dayabout what should happen next.
2.4 Making and receiving a referral
2.4.1 New referrals and referrals on open or closed cases should be made to the BFSWS via the CRT. The referrer should discuss their concerns with the CRT social worker.
The referrer should outline their concerns and will be asked to provide information to explain what they are concerned about and why, particularly in relation to the welfare and immediate safety of the child. See 2.4.4 for details of the information that might be requested. If you are a professional making the referrals you will be asked to complete a Multi Agency Referral Form (MARF). The referrer should not refrain from making a referral because they lack some of the information, as the welfare of the child is the priority.
2.4.2 For all referrals to BFSWS, the child should be regarded as potentially a child in need, and the referral should be evaluated on the day of receipt. A decision must be made within one working day regarding the type of response that is required.
2.4.3 BFSWS will ensure that the social work professionals who are responding to referrals are supported by experienced line managers competent in making sound evidence based decisions about what to do next.
Checks and information gathering
2.4.4 When taking a referral, BFSWS must establish as much of the following information as possible:
- Full names (including aliases and spelling variations), date of birth and gender of all child/ren in the household;
- Family address and (where relevant) school / nursery attended;
- Identity of those with parental responsibility; MARF
- Names and date of birth of all household members;
- Ethnicity, first language and religion of children and parents;
- Any special needs of children or parents;
- Any significant / important recent or historical events / incidents in child or family's life;
- Cause for concern including details of any allegations, their sources, timing and location;
- Child's current location and emotional and physical condition;
- Whether the child needs immediate protection;
- Details of alleged perpetrator, if relevant;
- Referrer's relationship and knowledge of child and parents;
- Known involvement of other agencies / professionals (e.g. GP);
- Information regarding parental knowledge of, and agreement to, the referral;
- The child’s views and wishes, if known
2.4.5 At the end of the referral discussion the referrer and BFSWS should be clear about proposed action, timescales and who will be taking it, or that no further action will be taken. This will also be provided in writing to the professional referrer.
2.4.6 The social worker leading on the assessment should complete it within the locally agreed time scale by:
- Discussion with the referrer;
- Consideration of any existing records for the child and for any other members of the household;
- Involving other agencies as appropriate (including the police if an offence has been or is suspected to have been committed and probation, if the child is at risk of harm from an offender).
2.4.7 This assessment should establish:
- The nature of the concern;
- How and why it has arisen;
- What the child's and the family's needs appear to be;
- Whether the concern involves abuse or neglect; and
- Whether there is any need for any urgent action to protect the child or any other children in the household or community.
2.4.8 Personal information about non-professional referrers should not be disclosed to third parties (including subject families and other agencies) without consent.
2.4.9 All referrals from professionals should be confirmed in writing, by the referrer, within 48 hours.
2.4.10 If the referrer has not received an acknowledgement within three working days, they should contact BFSWS again.
2.4.11 The parents' permission should be sought before discussing a referral about them with other agencies, unless permission seeking may itself place a child at risk of significant harm. See Part B Information Sharing Protocol, about whose consent to share information should be sought.
2.4.12 Interviews with family members and, if appropriate, with the child should also be undertaken in their preferred language and where appropriate for some people by using non-verbal communication methods.
2.4.13 A decision to discuss the referral with other agencies without parental knowledge or permission should be authorised by a BFSWS manager, and the reasons recorded.
2.4.14 BFSWS should make it clear to families (where appropriate) and other agencies that the information provided for this assessment may be shared with other agencies.
2.4.15 This checking and information gathering stage must involve an immediate assessment of any concerns about either the child's health and development, or actual and/or potential harm, which justify further enquiries, assessments and / or interventions.
2.4.16 The BFSWS manager should be informed by the social worker of any referrals where there is reasonable cause to consider s47 enquiries and authorise the decision to initiate action. In most cases this will first involve an assessment, which may be brief when the threshold for child protection enquiries is met (see Part A, chapter 3, Child Protection Enquiries).If the child and / or family are well known to professional agencies or the facts clearly indicate that a s47 enquiry is required, BFSWS should initiate a strategy meeting / discussion immediately, and together with other agencies determine how to proceed.
2.4.17 The threshold may be met for a s47 enquiry at the time of referral, following checks and information gathering or at any point of BFSWS involvement.
2.4.18 The service police must be informed at the earliest opportunity if a crime may have been committed. The service police must decide whether to commence a criminal investigation and a discussion should take place to plan how parents are to be informed of concerns without jeopardising police investigations.
2.4.19 The service Police should assist other agencies to carry out their responsibilities, where there are concerns about the child's welfare, whether or not a crime has been committed.
Outcomes of Referrals
2.4.20 The immediate response to referrals may be:
- No further action at this stage;
- Signposting to other agencies and services;
- Provision of services;
- An assessment of needs with a stated timescale and plan including regular reviews;
- Emergency action to protect a child;
- A s47 strategy meeting / discussion.
2.4.21 A BFSWS manager must approve the decision about the type of response that is required and ensure that a record of the outcome of the referral has been commenced and/or updated.
2.4.22 BFSWS must acknowledge all referrals within one working day. It is the responsibility of BFSWS to make clear to the referrer when they can expect a decision on next steps.
2.4.23 The social worker should inform, in writing, all the relevant agencies and the family of their decisions and, if the child is a Child in Need, about how the assessment will be carried out or of a plan for providing support.
No further action
2.4.24 Where there is to be no further BFSWS action, feedback should be provided to the child, the family and referrers about the outcome of this stage of the referral. This should include the reasons why a case may not meet the statutory threshold to be considered by BFSWS for assessment and suggestions for other sources of more suitable support.
2.4.25 In the case of referrals from members of the public, feedback must be consistent with the rights to confidentiality of the child and their family.
2.5 Assessment of children in need or in need of protection
2.5.1 The assessment should be undertaken in accordance with the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need. Where an early help assessment has previously been completed, this information should be used to inform the assessment, although the information must be updated and the child must be seen.
2.5.2 The assessment must be completed in a timely manner as identified by the social worker and BFSWS manager but should not exceed 45 working days from the point of referral. Where it becomes apparent that this timescale will require extension, a BFSWS manager must review the file, record the reason for the extension and agree the new timescale. Any timescale should be regularly reviewed.
2.5.3 The assessment must be led by a BFSWS social worker who is supervised by an experienced social work manager. The social worker should, in consultation with their manager and the other agencies involved with the child and family, carefully plan the assessment actions and steps for who is doing what by when:
- When to interview the child/ren (within an appropriate timescale);
- Whether the child/ren should be seen and spoken to with or without their parents;
- When to interview parents and any other relevant family members;
- What the child and parents should be told of any concerns;
- What contributions (historical and contemporary information) to the assessment from other agencies should be and who will provide them;
- What background history, for whom, should be gathered including the community context;
- Whether information from abroad or UK authorities is required. If it is, then professionals from each agency will need to request information from their equivalent agencies in the countries in which the child has lived.
2.5.4 Personal information about non-professional referrers should not be disclosed to third parties (including subject families and other agencies) without consent.
2.5.5 The parents' permission should be sought before discussing a referral about them with other agencies. If the manager decides to proceed with checks without parental knowledge or permission, they must record the reasons, e.g. that doing so would:
- Prejudice the child's welfare;
- Aggravate seriously concerning behaviours of the adult;
- Increase the risk of further significant harm to the child;
- Prejudice a criminal investigation.
See Part B Information Sharing Protocol, about whose consent to share information should be sought.
2.5.6 The checks should be undertaken directly with the involved professionals and not through messages with intermediaries for example reception staff in medical centres.
2.5.7 The relevant agency should be informed of the reason for the enquiry, whether or not parental consent has been obtained and asked for their assessment of the child in the light of information presented.
2.5.8 All discussions and interviews with family members and the child should be undertaken in their preferred language and where appropriate for some people by using non-verbal communication methods.
2.5.9 BFSWS should make it clear to families (where appropriate) and other agencies that the information provided for this assessment may be shared with other agencies.
2.5.10 If during the course of the assessment it is discovered that a school age child is not attending school, SCE should be contacted to establish the reason for this. SCE must take responsibility for ensuring that the child receives education as soon as possible. Action must also be taken, if it is discovered that a child is not registered with a GP, to arrange registration. Depending on the age of the child the relevant community services named health professional should be contacted and action taken to arrange for the child to have access to all health services.
Principles for an assessment
2.5.11 The multi-agency assessment should be led and coordinated by a BFSWS social worker and must provide a rigorous analysis of the child's needs and the capacity of the child's parents to meet these needs within their family and environment. Based on this analysis the key questions to be answered are:
- What is likely to happen if nothing changes in the child's current situation?
- What are the likely consequences for the child?
The answers to these questions should inform decisions about what interventions are required to safeguard and promote the welfare of a child and where possible to support parents in achieving this aim.
2.5.12 An assessment should be planned in accordance with the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need, the aim of which is to understand the child's developmental or welfare needs and circumstances, and the parents' capacity to respond to those needs, including the parents' capacity to ensure that the child is safe from harm now and in the future.
2.5.13 The assessment must set out the timescales and the child must be seen within a timescale that is appropriate to the nature of the concerns expressed at referral.
2.5.14 A BFSWS manager must approve the assessment and ensure that:
- There has been direct communication with the child alone and their views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account when providing services;
- All the children in the household have been seen and their needs considered;
- The child's home address has been visited and the child's bedroom has been seen;
- The parent has been seen and their views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account;
- Background history of both mother and father, or other adult carer, and their parenting skills and capacity has been considered;
- The analysis has been completed;
- The assessment provides clear evidence for decisions on what types of services are needed to provide good outcomes for the child and family;
- The records and the child’s chronology within the records are up-to-date;
- The assessment will be reviewed regularly;
- The action points have been distributed to all participants.
Information from previous LAs / countries
2.5.15 If the child and their parents have moved into the BFSWS area, all practitioners should seek information from their respective agencies covering previous addresses in the UK and abroad. see Part B, chapter 6, Children and Families in Need who Move Across Boundaries.
2.5.17 It is never acceptable to delay immediate action required whilst information from foreign countries is accessed.
Notifying the police
2.5.18 It will not necessarily be clear whether a criminal offence has been committed, which means that even initial discussions with the child should be undertaken in a way that minimises distress to them and maximises the likelihood that they will provide accurate and complete information, avoiding leading or suggestive questions.
2.5.19 The service police must be informed at the earliest opportunity if a crime may have been committed. The service police will decide whether to commence a criminal investigation and should work jointly with BFSWS. The service police should assist agencies to carry out their responsibilities, where there are concerns about a child’s welfare, whether or not a crime has been committed.
Outcome of assessment
2.5.20 The focus of the multi-agency assessment is to gather important information about the child and family, to analyse their needs, and the level and nature of any risk and harm, and to provide support services in order to improve the outcomes for the child. In the course of the assessment, BFSWS should ascertain:
- Is this a child in need? (s17 Children Act 1989);if so, is there a need for further social work support or provision of support?
- Is there reasonable cause to suspect that this child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm? (s47 Children Act 1989).
- Is this a child in need of, or requesting, accommodation? (s20or s31 Children Act 1989)
2.5.21 Every assessment should be focussed on outcomes, deciding which services and support to provide in order to deliver improved welfare for the child.
The possible outcomes of the assessment are:
- No further action;
- The development of a multi-agency child in need plan for the provision of child in need services to promote the child's health and development;
- Specialist assessment for a more in-depth understanding of the child's needs and circumstances;
- Undertaking a strategy meeting / discussion, a s47 child protection enquiry;
- Emergency action to protect a child (see Part A, chapter 3, Child Protection Section 47 Enquiries).
2.5.22 The outcome of the assessment should be:
- Discussed with the child and family and provided to them in written form. Exceptions to this are where this might place a child at risk of harm or jeopardise an enquiry;
- Taking account of confidentiality, provided to professional referrers;
- Given in writing to agencies involved in providing services to the child.
2.5.23 A BFSWS manager must have approved the outcomes of an assessment and have recorded and authorised the reasons for decisions, future actions to be taken and also that:
- The child/ren have been seen or there has been a recorded management decision that this is not appropriate (e.g. a s47 enquiry and police investigation initiated which will plan method of contact with child);
- The needs of all children in the household have been considered;
- Records and a chronology have been completed and / or updated;
- Written feedback has been provided to the family, other agencies and referrers about the outcome of this stage of the referral in a manner consistent with respecting the confidentiality and welfare of the child.
2.5.24 If the criteria for initiating s47 enquiries are met at any stage during an assessment a Strategy meeting/discussion should take place.
2.5.25 If the assessment is that further support is required, a child in need plan should be agreed with the family and other agencies. This plan should be monitored and reviewed regularly in line with local standards but within a maximum of six months to ensure that the outcomes for the child are met.
2.6 Pre-birth referral and assessment
2.6.1 See Part B, Safeguarding the Unborn Guidance.