Referral to Children's Social Care

The mechanism of referrals to Children's Social Care may vary depending on locality. In some areas, referrals can be made by telephone in the first instance but should be followed up in writing within 24 hours. In other areas, referrals may be made by email or via the Local Authority website. In some areas, Children’s Social Care, police, health and other services are working together to provide a 'front door' for referrals that may be known as a multi-agency safeguarding hub or MASH or MAST (multi-agency safeguarding hub/team). Local authorities may have a proforma for inter-agency referrals, this can act as an aide memoire and help to ensure that the referral is comprehensive and complete.

Practice protocols and procedures (see Section 3 of the toolkit) should set out understandable guidance for all staff on how to handle concerns about possible maltreatment or disclosure of abuse by a child, parent or carer.

Consent to the referral should normally be sought, unless to do so would place the child at risk of further harm, but it can be over-ridden if abuse and neglect are suspected.

Child Protection System in the UK

Each of the four nations in the UK have their own child protection system and laws to protect children from abuse and neglect. The NSPCC provide up to date information on each nation's laws, guidance, frameworks and practice.

10 Top Tips for Making a Child Safeguarding Referral

Each area will have their own multi-agency referral form which should be used. These tips are designed to help you make a clear and effective Child Safeguarding Referral once you have made the decision to do so. These tips can also be applied to writing a safeguarding conference report.

  1. Make clear who you are, what your role and relationship is to the child you are making the referral about. Include where the child is now and what actions have been taken to ensure the safety of that child. If a child is in immediate danger, an emergency response should be initiated contacting the Police on 999.
  2. State the source of your concern and be clear what is fact and what is opinion. Reports should distinguish clearly between facts, such as investigation and examination findings, observations, such as those relating to demeanour or personal hygiene, and opinion such as those about relationships.
  3. If possible, try to include the child's thoughts and feelings about what is happening to them and what they would like to change. Use as much of the child's language as possible.
  4. Explain medical terminology and what this means for the child as the reader of the referral may not have any medical background.
  5. Describe and explain your concerns in as much detail as possible. Give a clear outline of why you are concerned, for example what is happening, or not happening, that is causing concern or impacting on the health and/or safety of the child or young person; this may include a short chronology of significant events. Be clear about what type of abuse you think may be happening. Include what is going well for the child/family and who is currently supporting them.
  6. State how the referral meets the local threshold for referral; include contextual issues. For example concerns about parental mental illness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, a chaotic lifestyle or missed appointments. State whether or not an EHA (Early Health Assessment) has been undertaken (although this is not a prerequisite for a child protection referral).
  7. State who lives in the household and the relationship of these individuals to the child and to each other (a genogram* can be useful). Consider whether there is anyone else at risk for example, other children or vulnerable adults, and state this and who they are. Consider whether you need to make an Adult Safeguarding Referral also.
  8. State whether the situation/referral has been discussed with the child and/or parents (which is expected practice, unless it is thought that to do so would place the child at additional risk). State whether consent has been obtained.
  9. State what actions have been taken by the referrer, including discussions with other relevant health professionals, practice leads or named professionals.
  10. Document clearly in the notes what action has been taken and code appropriately (see section on Processing and Storing of Safeguarding Information in Primary Care).

*A genogram is a picture of a person's family relationships and history. It goes beyond a traditional family tree allowing the creators to visualize patterns and psychological factors that affect relationships.

The Common Assessment Framework triangle (below) can be a useful reference for practitioners to use when completing referral forms for a child safeguarding referral.

triangle assessment framework for child safeguard and promoting welfare