5.5 Contacts and Referrals
- 1. Duty to Refer
- 2. Ensuring the Immediate Safety of the Child
- 3. Confidentiality
- 4. Making a Referral
- 5. Parental Consultation
- 6. Listening to the Child
- 7. Cross Boundary Referrals
1. Duty to Refer
Staff in any agency must make a referral to Surrey Children's Services if it is believed or suspected that:
- A child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm; or
- A child's health or development may be impaired without the provision of services; or
- With the agreement of the person with Parental Responsibility, a child would be likely to benefit from family support services.
Surrey Effective Family Resilience (Multi-Agency Levels of Need) guidance provides further guidance on identifying need and appropriate referral pathways and eligibility criteria.
A referral must be made as soon as possible when any concern of Significant Harm becomes known - the greater the level of perceived risk, the more urgent the action should be.
The suspicion or allegation may be based on information, which comes from different sources. It may arise in the context of the Early Help Assessment (EHA). It may come from a member of the public, the child concerned, another child, a family member/relative or professional staff.
The information may also relate to harm caused by another child, in which case both children, i.e. the suspected perpetrator and victim, must be referred.
The suspicion or allegation may relate to a parent or professional or volunteer caring for or working with the child. If this is the case the referrer should consult with the Local Authority Designated Officer following the Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure
If a case is open and allocated then the referrer must contact the allocated Social Worker, manager or Service Manager either in writing, or by telephone followed by confirmation in writing within 2 days.
If the case is closed, then a new referral will need to be made via Surrey Children's Services, and followed up in writing within 2 days.
Advice may be sought about the appropriateness of the referral from Surrey Children's Services. Alternatively advice may be sought from the Police Public Protection Investigation Unit or the designated professionals within the agency. See Contact Details
If consultation is sought and Surrey Children's Services concludes that a referral is required, the information provided must be regarded as a referral, responded to as such and the referrer advised accordingly.
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 Surrey Children's Services or the Police in order to protect the child or other children from suffering Significant Harm.
The Police, in consultation with Surrey Children's Services and any other agencies involved with the child, must consider whether there should be a criminal investigation and/or a Surrey Children's Services led intervention under Section 47.
If the child is suffering from a serious injury, medical attention must be sought immediately by calling an ambulance or taking the child to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department of the local hospital. The duty consultant paediatrician must be informed of the nature of the concerns and a referral made as soon as practicably possible.
Occasionally situations may arise when workers within one agency feel that the decisions made by a worker from another agency, on a child protection case is not a safe decision. Disagreements could arise in a number of areas, but are most likely to arise around:
- Level of need / Risk assessment;
- Role and responsibilities;
- Information sharing.
Problem resolution is an integral part of professional co-operation and joint working to safeguard children. All agencies must work together in the interest of the child and it is recognised that at times there are differences of opinion on how to progress a case. There is an Escalation policy (see Inter-Agency Escalation Policy and Procedure) which seeks to identify how resolution can be sought where there are differences of opinion, and it should be used to ensure that all matters are resolved.
2. Ensuring the Immediate Safety of the Child
The safety of children is paramount in all decisions relating to their welfare. Any action taken by members of staff from a Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership member agency must ensure that no child is left in immediate danger.
When considering whether immediate action is required to protect a child, any agency must also consider whether action is required to safeguard and protect the welfare of any other children in the same household, the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere.
It should be noted that the law (s.3 (5) Children Act 1989) empowers anyone who does not have Parental Responsibility for a child but does have care of her/him to do 'what is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the child's welfare'.
A teacher, foster carer, child minder or any professional should, for example, take all reasonable steps to offer a child immediate protection from an aggressive parent.
If abuse is alleged, suspected or confirmed in children admitted to hospital or seen within a hospital setting, they must not be discharged until a referral has been made to Surrey Children's Services in accordance with this procedure and a decision made as to the need for immediate protective action.
If there is a risk to the life of a child or the possibility of immediate harm, the Police Officer or Social Worker must act with urgency to secure the safety of the child.
Emergency action might be necessary as soon as a referral is received or at any point in involvement with children and families. The need for emergency action may become apparent only over time as more is learned about the circumstances of a child.
Neglect as well as abuse can pose such a risk of Significant Harm to a child that urgent protective action is needed.
Immediate protection may be achieved by:
- An alleged abuser agreeing to leave the home;
- The removal of the alleged abuser;
- A voluntary agreement for the child to move to a safer place;
- Application for an Emergency Protection Order;
- Removal of the child to Police Protection.
The safety and welfare of the child overrides all other considerations, including the following:
- Gathering of evidence;
- Commitment or loyalty to relatives, friends or colleagues.
In deciding whether there is a need to share information, professionals need to consider their legal obligations, including whether they have a legal duty of confidentiality towards the child. Where there is such a duty, the professional may lawfully share information if the child consents or if there is a public interest of sufficient force, for example the public interest in protecting the child from harm. This must be judged by the professional on the facts of each case. Where there is clear risk of Significant Harm to a child, or serious harm to adults, the public interest test will almost certainly be satisfied. However, there will be other cases where it is not so clear and professionals will be justified in sharing some confidential information in order to make a decision about whether to make a referral and share fuller information - in these circumstances, the information shared should be proportionate.
Whenever possible, staff should respect a referrer's request for anonymity. However staff should not give a referrer any guarantee of confidentiality, as there are certain limited circumstances in which the identity of a referrer may have to be given e.g. the Court proceedings.
For further information, see Information Sharing
4. Making a Referral
Referrals by professionals should be made in one of the following ways:
- For multi-agency partners referrals should be made to the Children's Single Point of Access (C-SPA) using the Request for Support Form which replaces the MARF. Referrals should include a body map when appropriate;
- In an emergency outside office hours, by contacting the Emergency Duty Team or the Police.
See Contact Details for addresses and telephone numbers.
Referrals out of hours should be made in the first instance to the Surrey Children's Services Emergency Duty Team. However, in an emergency, Police may need to act independently without first consulting Surrey Children's Services.
There should always be the opportunity to discuss child welfare concerns with, and seek advice from, colleagues, managers, a designated or named professional, or other agencies; these include a named nurse or designated paediatrician but:
- Never delay emergency action to protect a child from harm;
- Always record in writing discussions about a child's welfare. At the close of a discussion, always reach a clear and explicit recorded agreement about who will be taking what action, or that no further action will be taken.
The person making the referral should provide as much of the information listed below as (s)he can and should be asked specifically if they hold any information about difficulties experienced by the family/household due to domestic abuse, mental illness, substance misuse, and or learning difficulties, although absence of information must not delay a referral:
- Full name, date of birth and gender of child(ren);
- Full family address and any known previous addresses;
- Identity of those with parental responsibility;
- Names, date of birth and information about all household members, including any other children in the family, and significant people who live outside the child's household;
- Ethnicity, first language and religion of children and parents / carers;
- Any need for an interpreter, signer or other communication aid;
- Any special needs of child(ren);
- Any significant / important recent or historical events / incidents in the child or family's life;
- Cause for concern including details of any allegations, their sources, timing and location;
- Identity and current whereabouts of the suspected / alleged perpetrator;
- Child's current location and emotional and physical condition;
- Whether the child is currently safe or is in need of immediate protection because of any approaching deadlines (e.g. child about to be collected by alleged abuser);
- Child's account and the parent's' response to the concerns if known;
- Referrers relationship and knowledge of the child and parents / carers;
- Known current or previous involvement of other agencies / professionals;
- Information about parental knowledge of, and agreement to, the referral.
While professionals should seek, in general, to discuss any concerns with the child and family and, where possible, and should seek seek their agreement to making referrals to Surrey Children’s Services, this should only be done where such discussion and agreement-seeking will not place a child at increased risk of suffering significant harm.
Receipt of a referral to Surrey Children’s Services will be acknowledged within 24 hours.
5. Parental Consultation
A decision by any professional not to seek parental permission before making a referral to Surrey Children's Services must be recorded and the reasons given. If the parent is consulted and refuses to give permission for the referral, further advice should be sought from a manager or Designated or Named Nurse, Doctor, other Designated or Named Health Professional, or the Child Protection Liaison Officer unless to do so would cause undue delay and the outcome must be fully recorded (see Contact Details)
If, having taken full account of the parent's wishes, it is still considered that there is a need for a referral:
- Reason(s) for proceeding without parental agreement must be recorded;
- Surrey Children's Services must be told that the parent has withheld her/his permission;
- The parent must be contacted by the referring professional to inform her/him that after considering their wishes a referral has been made, unless to do so would place the child(ren) at increased risk of Significant Harm.
6. Listening to the Child
If the child makes an allegation or discloses information which raises concern about Significant Harm, the initial response should be listening carefully to what the child says so as to:
- Clarify the concerns;
- Offer reassurance about how (s)he will be kept safe; and
- Explain that the information will be passed to Surrey Children's Services and/or the Police.
The child must not be pressed for information, led or cross-examined or given false assurances of absolute confidentiality. Such well-intentioned actions could prejudice Police investigations, especially in cases of sexual abuse.
Consideration must always be given to issues of diversity, so that the impact of cultural expectations and obligations are taken into consideration. It is vital that if there are any communication difficulties, an interpreter is used.
A record of all conversations and actions must be kept.
If the child can understand the significance and consequences of making a referral to Surrey Children's Services, (s)he should be asked her/his view by the referring professional.
Whilst the child's view should be considered, it remains the responsibility of the professional to take whatever action is required to ensure the safety of that child and any other children.
7. Cross Boundary Referrals
If the referral relates to a child whose home is in Surrey, but who is temporarily visiting or placed in the area of another Local Authority or in a hospital in the area of another authority, or if the referral relates to an allegation against an adult who works in Surrey but lives in the area of another Local Authority or vice versa, the Local Authority / Police for the area where abuse is alleged to have occurred have prime responsibility for acting upon the referral.
The referral must be passed to that authority immediately for them to follow the necessary procedures and to undertake Section 47 Enquiries and/or take any immediate protective action that is necessary. They will be responsible for liaising with Surrey Children's Services as necessary.
Similarly, it is the responsibility of Surrey Children's Services / Police to make initial enquiries where a referral relates to a child temporarily in Surrey but normally resident elsewhere.
Before undertaking such enquiries, the child's home authority must be consulted and agreement sought on who is best placed to undertake the enquiries. If this is consistent with the child's immediate protection needs, it may be agreed that her/his home authority will respond to the referral.
However, in all circumstances the host authority retains responsibility until this has been explicitly accepted by the home authority.
For those children from other Local Authority areas, who are subject of Child Protection Plans in that area or Looked After by that authority, there must be consultation with the responsible Lead Social Worker.