Immediate Referrals to North Yorkshire Children and Families Service
Where there are significant immediate concerns about the safety of a child or children, professionals should contact the Customer Contact Centre on (01609) 780780 and make a referral, or contact the police on 999.
North Yorkshire County Council Customer Contact Centre
All contacts to the North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) Customer Contact Centre relating to children are initially passed to the Customer Contact Centre Screening Team by the Specialist Advisors. This team screen all of these contacts.
The Customer Contact Centre Screening Team is made of a Team Manager, Assistant Team Manager and Social Workers. There is also a Prevention Service worker attached to this team and a Police representative. This team will decide the most appropriate outcome for the management of the contact that has been received. The contact may be passed to the appropriate prevention service, children’s social care team, the disabled children’s service or be redirected to another alternative and appropriate service. Relevant advice and information will be given to the referrer as required.
Coordinated Early Intervention
Children and their families who receive early support are less likely to develop difficulties that require intervention through a statutory assessment under the Children Act 1989. A common assessment (CAF) is completed with the agreement of parents so that prevention services can work with the family to identify what help the child and family might need to reduce an escalation of needs.
Upon receipt of the referral to the Children and Families Service, the Prevention Service in the local team, the relevant Area Prevention Manager will allocate the assessment to a Family Outreach Worker.
The Family Outreach Worker should clarify with the referrer, the nature of the concerns and how and why they have arisen.
The child and family must be informed of the action to be taken.
The Family Outreach Worker should contact the family within three working days.
The Common Assessment Framework (CAF)
Children, young people and families experience a range of needs at different times in their lives. The common assessment framework is a way of working out what extra support a child may need and how best to provide it. This assessment will be concluded within a maximum of 20 working days. At the conclusion of the assessment if the outcome is for Prevention Services to be provided, a plan will be produced which is reviewed on a six weekly cycle.
The framework means that children, young people and families only have to tell their story once and have one main point of contact.
The framework is used when:
- A professional is worried about how well a child or young person is progressing. For example, they may have concerns about their health, development, welfare, behaviour or progress in learning;
- A child or young person, or their parent or carer, raises a concern with a professional; or
- A child's or young person's needs are unclear, or are broader than an individual service can address.
The framework assessment is a voluntary process and a professional must get consent from the child or young person and/or their parent or carer before completing the assessment. The assessment form records:
- What is going well for the child and their family
- What are the difficulties faced by the child and their family and
- What interventions may be needed to enable the child and their family to overcome their difficulties
Protocols and guidance are in place in North Yorkshire in relation to criteria for referral. Common Assessments are focussed on 'Level Two: Coordinated Early Intervention' on the spectrum of need as defined by the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children’s Board (NYSCB). More information may be found in the Vulnerability Checklist, which can be found on the NYSCB website.
Completing a common assessment should:
- Enable the professional to identify the child's needs;
- Potentially provide a structure for systematic gathering and recording of information;
- Record evidence of concerns and a base line for measuring progress in addressing them;
Potentially provide a framework for a referral discussion to Children's and Families Service for an assessment or to another service for a specialist assessment.
Where the plan involves other agencies a multi-agency meeting may be required to co-ordinate these actions.
The lead worker responsible for the co-ordination of the plan is able, where required to co-ordinate multi-agency meetings involving the family and relevant agencies.
- A multi-agency meeting (often referred to as a Team Around the Child or TAC meeting) to coordinate intervention services for the child and their family.
- Families, including children and young people, will be invited to attend and supported to participate fully in the meetings.
- Prior to the meeting, all agencies and partnerships will consider the Common Assessment Framework areas in order to provide any relevant information they hold on the named child/ children.
- The multi-agency action plan will be completed for each child at the meeting. A lead professional will be identified for the implementation of each action plan, taking into account any views from the child, young person or family.
- A review date will be set for the action plan.
- If as a result of the assessment or action planning meeting, it is identified that the child requires a specific specialist service, e.g. specialist health service, the common assessment information will be passed to that service as part of the referral.
- If the case transfers to another service lead, relevant information and case management responsibility will be passed to the appropriate service.
Children’s Social Care Locality Allocation Meetings
Children’s Social Care Locality Allocation Meetings provide an opportunity to bring together professionals from the Children and Families Service (Children’s Social Care and Prevention) to discuss cases that are being considered to step up and down between services. These discussions may lead to:
- Advice being given
- A case being escalated to or de-escalated from children’s social care or the arranging of a multi-agency meeting (see below), or a case being transferred to another agency.
Sharing information, confidentiality and consent
Common assessments cannot be undertaken without consent. Consent should be written, informed and explicit, clearly explaining the process, the information that will be shared and with whom and options to refuse, limit or withdraw consent and any implication that may have on service delivery.
Information held on a common assessment, action plan and correspondence will be held for six years after the completion of the intervention, and then securely destroyed. The date of destruction will be recorded. Where the lead professional's agency's retention periods are longer than six years records will be held in line with statutory guidance (e.g. where a child that becomes looked after, information held by Children's Social Care relating to this child will be retained for 75 years after case closure in line with statutory guidance).
Information to be shared with another agency will usually require explicit consent but where there are concerns for the welfare or safety of the child, the need for consent changes where it is believed that a child has or is likely to suffer:
- Significant harm and/or;
- Has developmental and welfare needs which are likely only to be met through provision of family support services (with agreement of the child's parent).
The Lead Professional
The lead worker performs three core functions:
- To act as a single point of contact for the child or family;
- To co-ordinate the delivery of the actions agreed;
- To reduce overlap and inconsistency in the services received.
Many professionals working with children already undertake these functions as part of their role. A lead worker is accountable to their agency for their delivery of their actions within the plan. They are not responsible or accountable for the actions of other agencies within the plan.
Referrals to Children’s Social Care and the Disabled Children’s Service
All individuals working with children have a duty and responsibility to report any child protection allegations and concerns which come to their attention.
The Children Act 1989 identifies the Local Authority requirement to provide services for children in need for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting their welfare. Local Authorities undertake assessments of the needs of individual children to determine what services to provide and action to take.
A ‘child in need’ is defined under the Children Act 1989 as a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development, or their health and development will be significantly impaired, without the provision of services; or a child who is disabled. In these cases, assessments by a social worker are carried out under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Children in need may be assessed under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 in relation to their special educational needs, disabilities, as a carer, or because they have committed a crime.
Concerns about maltreatment may be the reason for a referral to Children's and Families Service/Disabled Children’s Service or concerns may arise during the course of providing services to the child and family. In these circumstances, the Children and Families Service/Disabled Children’s Service must initiate enquiries to find out what is happening to the child and whether protective action is required. The Local Authority, with the help of other organisations as appropriate, also have a duty to make enquiries under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard and promote the child's welfare. There may be a need for immediate protection whilst the assessment is carried out.
Some children in need may require accommodation because there is no one who has parental responsibility for them, or because they are alone or abandoned. Under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, the Local Authority has a duty to accommodate such children in need in their area. Following an application under Section 31A, where a child is the subject of a care order, North Yorkshire County Council, as a corporate parent, must assess the child's needs and draw up a care plan which sets out the services which will be provided to meet the child's identified needs.
If it is unclear whether a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, discussions should be held with your agency’s child protection advisor and or with the North Yorkshire County Council Customer Service Centre.
Responsibilities of the Referrer to the Children and Families Service/Disabled Children’s Service
If a child is suffering from an apparent serious injury or medical condition, attention must be sought immediately from Accident and Emergency (dialing 999 where appropriate).
Where abuse is alleged or suspected, the initial response to the child should be limited to listening carefully to what the child says in order to:
- Clarify the concerns;
- Offer reassurance about how s/he will be kept safe and;
- Explain what action will be taken.
Although it is appropriate to ask a child how an injury occurred, the child must not be pressed for information, led or cross-examined or given false assurances of absolute confidentiality. Such well-intentioned actions could destroy the trust of the child and prejudice police investigations, especially in cases of sexual abuse.
Children and young people need to understand how they will be involved in decision making and the planning processes. They should be helped to understand what key processes are, how they work and that they can contribute to decisions about their future in accordance with their age and understanding. However, they should understand that whilst their wishes and feelings will be taken into account, ultimately, decisions will be taken in the light of all available information contributed by themselves, professionals, their parents and other family members and significant adults. Children of sufficient age and understanding often have a clear perception of what needs to happen to ensure their safety and welfare.
Informing parents of the need to make a referral
It is good practice to be open and honest at the outset with the parents/carers about concerns, the need for a referral, information sharing between agencies and the accompanying need for making an enquiry in respect of whether a child is subject to a Child Protection Plan.
All reasonable efforts should be made to inform parents/carers prior to making the referral; however, a referral should not be delayed if you are unable to discuss the concerns with the parents.
Where the child expresses a wish for his or her parents not to be informed, their views should be taken seriously and a judgement made based on the child’s age and understanding, as to whether the child’s wishes should be followed.
Concerns must not be discussed with parents/carers before making a referral where:
- Discussion would put a child at risk of significant harm
- Discussion would impede a Police investigation or social work enquiry
- Sexual abuse is suspected
- Organised or multiple abuse is suspected
- Fictitious illness or induced illness is suspected
- Contact with the parents/carers would place you or others at risk
- It is not possible to contact parents/carers without causing undue delay in making the referral
In such cases advice should be sought from Children’s & Families Service/Disabled Children’s Service and/or the Police.
Making a Referral
If you are worried about a child or a young person under the age of 18, you should contact the Children and Families Service through the Customer Contact Centre. Anyone can make a referral if you are worried about any child and think they may need support or are a victim of neglect or abuse, whether as a member of the public or as a professional.
Professionals in all agencies have a responsibility to refer a child to Children's Social Care (part of the Children and Families Service)/Disabled Children’s Service when it is believed or suspected that a child:
- Has suffered significant harm and /or;
- Is likely to suffer significant harm and/or;
- Has developmental and welfare needs which are likely only to be met through provision of family support services (with agreement of the child's parent).
If your concern is outside of normal office hours, you should contact the emergency duty team.
During Office Hours
By Phone: 01609 780780
Outside Office Hours
Emergency Duty Team (for evenings, weekends and bank holidays): 01609 780780
Further details can be found at the following address:
A written confirmation of the referral must be completed and submitted within 24 hours. Where possible, North Yorkshire Children and Young People’s Service request that you use their ”Universal Referral Form” to ensure that all relevant information is provided to ensure that the referral can be progressed as effectively as possible.
When contacting the Customer Contact Centre the referrer should:
- Clearly identify themselves, their agency/relationship with the child(ren) and family,
- Give details of where they can be contacted.
- Provide as much relevant family information as possible and, clearly stating the name of the child, the parents/carers and any other children known to be in the household, the dates of birth and addresses, any previous addresses known, ethnicity and religious status (if known)
- Provide details of any special needs or communication needs of either the child or any family member
- State why they feel the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.
- Share their knowledge and involvement of the child(ren) and family
- Share their knowledge of any other agency involved
- Indicate the child’s, parent’s/carer’s knowledge of the referral and their expectations
- Ensure they record within their agency files the concerns and action taken
Where referrals from members of the public are concerned, the advisor in the Customer Service Centre who is taking the referral information is responsible for ensuring that consent is sought from the referrer to disclose his/her name.
If consent is refused, the name of the referrer is not to be disclosed to the family or to other professionals.
The position is to be made clear and recorded by the person taking the referral.
Customer Contact Centre Screening Team
When taking a referral, the case will be passed to the designated Customer Contact Centre Screening Team Specialist Officer who will establish as much of the following information as possible:
- Full names ( including aliases and spelling variations), date of birth and gender of the child(ren);
- Family address and ( where relevant) school/ nursery attended;
- Identity of those with parental responsibility;
- Names and dates of birth of all household members;
- Ethnicity, first language and religion of the children and parents;
- Any special needs of children or parents;
- Any significant/important recent or historical events/incidents in the child or family's life;
- Cause of 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 the alleged perpetrator, if relevant;
- Referrer's relationship and knowledge of the child and parents;
- Known involvement of other agencies/ professionals; and
- Information regarding parental knowledge of, and agreement to, the referral.
The Customer Contact Centre Screening Team will carry out an initial screening of the referral and identify the most appropriate course of action. This may include (but not limited to):
- Transfer to the Prevention Service (within two working days of the referral)
- Referral to Children’s Social Care (within one working day of the referral)
- Link to an existing referral, (within one working day of the referral)
- Referral to another agency (within one working day of the referral)
- The provision of information or advice (within five working days of the referral)
- No further action
Depending on the initial screening of the case, the Customer Contact Centre Screening Team will record the information on the Children’s Social Care Case Management System as either a contact or a referral.
Where it is intended that Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service will take action in relation to the information forwarded to the Customer Contact Centre Screening Team a referral to the relevant team in Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service is raised.
In all cases the Customer Contact Centre Screening Team will record the decision making rationale on the Children’s Social Care Case Management System to ensure that a full record of decisions is maintained and the referrer will be informed of the outcome of that decision.
Referrals to the Emergency Duty Team (EDT)
The Emergency Duty Team accepts all referrals where concerns regarding significant harm of a child are raised outside of normal working hours.
Referrals to EDT are generally taken over the telephone. The referrer should supply as much detail as possible and EDT will input the information directly onto the Children’s Social Care Case Management System where a child or young person is known to Children's Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service. Where a child is not known to Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service, the EDT will make a direct referral to the Customer Service Centre Screening Team to be included on the system when staff return to duty.
Depending on the content of the referral and the information received, the action taken by EDT will vary.
Where there are child welfare concerns the EDT member receiving the referral will consult with the EDT Manager or Team Manager on duty, and then make all the enquiries of relevant agencies that are available, checking records wherever possible.
The EDT Manager/ Team Manager may make any necessary immediate child protection enquiries after initiating a strategy meeting/discussion.
Where there are child protection concerns, as a minimum the EDT Manager or Team Leader will convene a Strategy Discussion. This must involve the Police and Health where possible. It is recognised that in such emergency situations relevant information from agencies involved with the child may be obtained via verbal checks made with those agencies and may include any other agencies known to the family that are working at the time. Enquiries will be undertaken by EDT when circumstances suggest this is required immediately.
If concerns are raised about a child subject to a Child Protection Plan from another local authority or there are immediate child protection concerns for a child visiting North Yorkshire, the EDT will contact that local authority immediately. Responsibility for conducting any child protection enquiries will remain with the EDT until arrangements are made with the other relevant local authority for them to progress any further action. The North Yorkshire EDT will take immediate action to secure the safety of the child or young person.
Referrals received by Children’s Social Care
Upon receipt of the referral in the local team, the relevant Children’s Social Care Manager will allocate the assessment to a Social Worker.
Where the manager identifies that a strategy meeting is required the local Team Manager will take steps to convene a strategy meeting and record the decision and reasons on the Children’s Social Care Case Management system.
The social worker should clarify with the referrer, the nature of the concerns and how and why they have arisen.
The child and family must be informed of the action to be taken.
The Social Worker should see the child as soon as possible if the decision is taken that the referral requires further assessment.
Where requested to do so by Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service, professionals from partner agencies, such as housing, and those in health organisations have a duty to cooperate (under section 27 of the Children Act 1989) by assisting Children’s Social Care in carrying out its functions.
Flow Chart 1 - Action to be taken when a child is referred to Children's Social Care
Action to be taken when a child is referred
Where there is a risk to the life of a child or a likelihood of serious immediate harm, Social Workers or the police should use their statutory child protection powers to act immediately to secure the safety of the child.
For children who are in need of immediate protection, action must be taken by the social worker or the police if removal is required, as soon as possible after the referral has been made to Local Authority children’s social care (sections 44 and 46 of the Children Act 1989).An Emergency Protection Order, made by the court, gives authority to remove a child and places them under the protection of the applicant.
When considering whether emergency action is necessary an agency should always consider the needs of other children in the same household or in the household of an alleged perpetrator.
The local authority in whose area a child is found in circumstances that require emergency action (the first authority) is responsible for taking emergency action.
If the child is looked after by, or the subject of a child protection plan in another authority, the first authority must consult the authority responsible for the child. Only when the second local authority explicitly accepts responsibility (to be followed up in writing) is the first authority relieved of its responsibility to take emergency action.
Planned emergency action will normally take place following an immediate strategy discussion. Social workers or the police should:
- Initiate a strategy discussion to discuss planned emergency action. Where a single agency has to act immediately, a strategy discussion should take place as soon as possible after action has been taken
- See the child (this should be done by a practitioner from the agency taking the emergency action) to decide how best to protect them, and
- Before initiating legal action advice must be taken from the Local Authority’s Legal Advisor.
Flow Chart 2- Immediate Protection
Assessment of a Child Under the Children Act 1989
Assessments should determine whether the child is in need, the nature of any services required and whether any specialist assessments should be undertaken to assist Children’s Social Care in its decision making.
Following acceptance of a referral by the relevant Social Work team, a social worker will be allocated by the relevant local team manager who will lead a multi-agency assessment under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. The Local Authority has a duty to ascertain the child's wishes and feelings and take account of them when planning the provision of services. Assessments should be carried out in a timely manner reflecting the needs of the individual child, but must be completed within a maximum of 45 working days from the point of referral. The relevant social work manager will conduct a formal review of the assessment at 10 working days from the point of referral.
Where the relevant social work team decides to provide services, a multi-agency child in need plan should be developed which sets out which agencies will provide which services to the child and family. The plan should set clear measurable outcomes for the child and expectations for the parents. The plan should reflect the positive aspects of the family situation as well as the weaknesses.
Where information gathered during an assessment results in the social worker suspecting that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, the local authority should hold a strategy discussion to enable it to decide, with other agencies, whether to initiate enquiries under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989. Please see the NYSCB Strategy Discussion Procedures.
Role of the Social Worker
It is the role of the Social Worker to:
- Lead on an assessment and complete it in line with the locally agreed protocol according to the child's needs and within a maximum of 45 working days from the point of referral Into Children's Social Care;
- See the child within a timescale that is appropriate to the nature of the concerns expressed at referral, according to an agreed plan;
- Conduct interviews with the child and family members, separately and together as appropriate. Initial discussions with the child should be conducted 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;
- Record the assessment findings and decisions and next steps following the assessment;
- Inform, in writing, all the relevant agencies and the family of their decisions and of the plan for providing support, if the child is identified as a child in need; and
- Inform the referrer of what action has been or will be taken.
Role of the Social Work Manager
It is the role of the Social Work Manager to:
- Conduct a formal review of the progress of the assessment no later than 10 working days from the point of referral;
- Agree with the Social Worker the provision of any services and an interim plan as required;
- Agree with the Social Worker the assessment findings, decisions and next steps following the assessment and authorise the outcome of the referral and any other actions to be taken
- Record the decision and reasons for the decision on the Children’s Social Care Case Management System
Role of the Police
It is the role of the Police to 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. If a crime has been committed, the police should be informed by the local authority children's social care.
Role of all involved professionals
It is the role of all involved professionals to:
- Be involved in the assessment and provide further information about the child and family; and
- Agree further action including what services would help the child and family and inform local authority children's social care if any immediate action is required.
Flow Chart 3- Action taken for an assessment of a child under the Children Act 1989