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3.1 Referral to Social Services


Contents

1. Concerns about the Welfare of a Child
2. The Referral Process for Children in Need of Protection
  2.1 Where the Child is not an Open Case with Social Services
  2.2 Where the Child is an Open Case with Social Services
3. Making a Referral
4. Taking a Referral - Procedures to be Followed by Social Services
5. Recognising and Responding to Concerns about a Child who May be in Need of Protection
  5.1 Members of the Public
  5.2 Deciding when to Refer to Social Services
  5.3 Recognising and Responding to Concerns about a Child - Do’s and Don’ts
  Appendix 1: Table - Deciding When to Refer to Social Services
  Appendix 2: Table – Child in Need of Additional Services


1. Concerns about the Welfare of a Child

1.1

Concerns about the welfare of a child may occur:

  • In situations where there have been no previous concerns and the child has not previously received any services, other than those universal services accessed by all children;
  • Where an assessment has taken place by agencies other than Social Services under the Common Assessment Framework and a plan has been put in place in order to improve the wellbeing of the child;
  • Where the child is already allocated to a worker in Social Services;
  • Where there is no current involvement by Social Services but there have been previous referrals;
  • Where it has come to the attention of an agency that there has been concern in another jurisdiction about a child now living on the island.
1.2 The SCB guidance in Appendix 1: Table - Deciding When to Refer to Social Services, may help clarify a professional’s views about referring the matter to Social Services.
1.3

Concerns should be discussed with a senior member of staff in order to clarify the seriousness and urgency of the situation and decide the next course of action. The senior member of staff may be:

1.4 If it is not possible to hold a discussion, or if following this discussion there are still concerns about the welfare of the child, consideration should be given to contacting the Initial Response Team at the Social Services office for advice – see Local Contacts
1.5 The discussion should be recorded by both parties in a retrievable form.  It is the responsibility of Social Services to ensure appropriate systems are in place to log referrals and decisions. In all cases the referrer is expected to give the name of the child the concerns relate to. Only then can proper and thorough checks be made to make an informed decision about the safety of the child.
1.6 There may be occasions when a professional wishes to seek more general, hypothetical advice from Social Services about the handling of particular sorts of situations. In no circumstances should such a general discussion be interpreted as Social Services providing advice in relation to a particular child. In the event that such a discussion leads to a professional deciding to make a referral about a specific child, then the professional must follow the relevant procedures, including following up their referral in writing using the SCB Referral Form to Children and Families
1.7 If the practitioner with the concerns believes that a child or young person is suffering, or is likely to be suffering, Significant Harm they should always refer their concerns to Social Services immediately.
1.8 If a practitioner in any agency receives information that a child resident on the Island has previously been subject to a Child Protection Enquiry when living in another jurisdiction they should always consider bringing the matter to the attention of Social Services. The practitioner should not assume that Social Services will know about the matter. The information should always be shared if Social Services is seeking information to make an assessment of risk to the child. 
1.9 If the practitioner with the concerns believes that a child’s health or development is being impaired without the provision of services by Social Services (i.e. the child is a Child in Need), consideration should be given to making a referral to Social Services - Appendix 2: Table – Child in Need of Additional Services.
1.10 The parent(s) and the child (where appropriate) should be consulted prior to a referral being made. In most situations, concerns should be discussed with the child (as appropriate to their age and understanding), and with their parents, and their agreement sought to a referral being made. However, agreement should not be sought if doing so would place the child at risk of Significant Harm. Where it does not place the child at increased risk of Significant Harm parents should be informed that a referral is being made. 
1.11 The guidance on information sharing (see the Isle of Man SCB website - Information Sharing documents) Information Sharing: Guidance for Managers and Practitioners (2009) must be used to inform the decision about what information should be shared at the point of referral. 
1.12 NB: It is always appropriate to share information if there is a concern that a child is at risk of harm.


2. The Referral Process for Children in Need of Protection

2.1

Where the Child is not an Open Case with Social Services

  2.1.1 If there are immediate concerns about the safety of a child, a referral should be made by telephone to Social Services (see Local Contacts, Children and Families Initial Response Team). At the end of any discussion or dialogue about a child the referrer (if a professional from another service) and Social Services must record the decision taken in their records.
  2.1.2 If concerns are not immediate, but it is believed that a child is a Child in Need, who may also be in need of protection, a referral should be made in writing.  Where a Common Assessment (CAF) has been completed by the referring agency this will form the basis of the referral. Where necessary the assessment should be updated in order to ensure that the most recent information is being passed to Social Services. It is good practice to discuss the referral with the child (if appropriate) and parents/carers unless doing so would place the child at risk of Significant Harm or, where Police may become involved, be likely to prejudice a criminal investigation.

2.2

Where the Child is an Open Case with Social Services

  2.2.1 Practitioners from outside Social Services should contact the allocated worker to express their concerns, making it clear that they are drawing attention to child protection concerns and follow this up in writing within 24 hours. If the allocated worker is not available then their manager or supervisor should be contacted.
  2.2.2 In some cases practitioners referring in from other agencies will not know the case is already open and should make the referral in the usual manner. This information must be passed by the Initial Response Team to the allocated social worker or manager within 24 hours making it clear that they are passing on a child protection referral and it should be recorded as such.
  2.2.3 If concerns come to light from within Social Services in relation to an open case, a decision should be made as to whether or not a Strategy Discussion should be initiated (see Strategy Discussions/Meetings Procedure). In these circumstances it may not be necessary to undertake an Initial Assessment before deciding what to do next. It may, however, be appropriate to undertake a Core Assessment or update a previous one in order to understand the child’s current needs and circumstances and inform future decision making.
  2.2.4 All telephone referrals should be followed up in writing within 24 hours via the SCB Referral Form to Children and Families.


3. Making a Referral

3.1

It is important that those practitioners who make a referral to Social Services understand the importance of sharing their concerns fully and clearly. This means that referrers must share:

  • All known details of the child, including name, date of birth, family members and address;
  • Any known aliases of adults in family/household;
  • Previous addresses;
  • Any relevant history relating to child or adult family/household members;
  • Factual information about the concern, observation;
  • Professional judgement on the matter;
  • Why exactly the case is being referred, e.g. the child is in need of protection, the child may be at risk of Significant Harm.
3.2 Sharing concerns with Social Services does not necessarily mean that this is the end of the situation for the referrer. If they believe a child is still at risk they must take their concerns to their supervisor or a designated member of staff.


4. Taking a Referral - Procedures to be Followed by Social Services

4.1 It is vital that staff have access to immediate consultation and guidance from qualified and experienced workers in order to ensure that all necessary information is gathered and an appropriate response is made.
4.2 As soon as a referral is made about the welfare of a child, records should be checked in order to ascertain whether either the child or the child’s parents/carers are known to children’s or adults’ Social Services. This information must be recorded.
4.3

When a telephone referral is passed to the relevant social work team the Initial Response Team worker will:

  • Give their name and designation;
  • Help the referrer give as much information as possible;
  • Clarify the information that the referrer is reporting directly and information that has been obtained from a third party;
  • Clarify who knows about the referral;
  • Clarify the whereabouts of the child and immediate action to be taken;
  • Explain what is going to happen next;
  • When the referrer is a professional, confirm that a written referral will be received within 48 hours;
  • Agree how to re-contact the referrer if further clarification is required;
  • Clarify whether the referrer gives consent for their details to be revealed to the child/family concerned (refusing consent should only be an exception in the event of a referral from another professional);
  • Explain how feedback will be given.
4.4 Referrals from family members, neighbours or made anonymously must be taken seriously and should not be pre-judged as malicious or the result of a family dispute.
4.5

It may be appropriate to agree anonymity where:

  • The referrer is a member of the public;
  • There is evidence of intimidation or threats of violence towards the professional concerned.
4.6

All referrals should record details of where there is:

4.7 Where the Initial Response Team worker is not a qualified social worker experienced in dealing with child and family matters, the referral details should be passed immediately to a qualified worker for an assessment of the urgency of the situation.
4.8 Where a written referral is received by Social Services, the Initial Response Team manager should decide on next steps within 24 hours.


5. Recognising and Responding to Concerns about a Child who may be in Need of Protection

5.1

Members of the Public

  5.1.1 The SCB knows that the abuse of children often comes to light due to members of the public being vigilant and reporting concerns to the statutory agencies. This is an important aspect of protecting children from harm and any referral from a member of the public should be responded to in line with these procedures.
  5.1.2 Similarly, anonymous phone calls and phone calls from extended family members must always be taken seriously and given full consideration. It is potentially dangerous to assume that they are malicious.
  5.1.3 The guidance “What to do if you are worried a child is being abused, or is at risk of abuse: Guidance for all Practitioners” sets out what should happen when anyone is concerned about the welfare of a child and will help members of the public in making a referral.

5.2

Deciding when to Refer to Social Services

  5.2.1 Information about Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Neglect and Sexual Abuse should be used to assist decision making about when a child is at risk of Significant Harm. See Recognition of Significant Harm for more information.
  5.2.2 The tables Appendix 1: Table - Deciding When to Refer to Social Services and Appendix 2: Table – Child in Need of Additional Services, set out the criteria that should be used when deciding whether or not to refer to Social Services. Professionals are reminded that they need to use their professional judgment in using these criteria and, if in doubt, to consult with a designated senior to decide what action to take.
  5.2.3 The tables distinguish between children who are clearly in need of protection, those children who may be at risk of Significant Harm, and those who may need some support to achieve the five outcomes. The tables cannot provide an exhaustive list of indicators. The aim is to assist decision making and to help develop a more consistent approach across agencies.
  5.2.4 There is information in some chapters with more detailed information about when referrals should be made in respect of children in specific circumstances. Practitioners are advised to make themselves familiar with these details and use them when making and/or responding to referrals.

5.3

Recognising and Responding to Concerns about a Child - Do’s and Don’ts

 

(Taken from “What to do if you are worried a child is being abused, or is at risk of abuse: Guidance for all Practitioners”, 2009).

  • Do record full information about the child(ren) or young person(s) at first point of contact, including name(s), address(es), gender, date of birth, name(s) of person(s) with parental responsibility (for consent purposes) and primary carer(s), if different, and keep this information up to date;
  • Do ensure that the child(ren)’s records includes an up-to-date chronology, and details of the lead worker in the relevant agency – for example, a social worker, GP, health visitor or teacher;
  • Do know who to contact within your own organisation to express concerns about a child’s welfare;
  • Do know who to contact in Police, Health Services, Education and Social Services to express concerns about a child’s welfare;
  • Do talk to your manager and other professionals: always share your concerns, and discuss any differences of opinion;
  • Do listen to what the child or young person has to say and record in their own words what has been said. Sign and date all records;
  • Do note visible marks or injuries on a body map and document details in your records;
  • Do NOT attempt to physically examine a child(ren);
  • Do record any conversation with parents or carers fully and accurately;
  • Do NOT ask leading questions or attempt to investigate allegations;
  • Do ensure that you have all the information held by your agency relating to the child(ren) or young person(s), their family and the details of your concern to hand when making a referral;
  • Do record all concerns, discussions about the child(ren) or young person(s), decisions made, and the reasons for those decisions;
  • Do follow up your concerns. Always follow up oral communications to other professionals in writing and ensure your message is clear;
  • Do keep careful and detailed notes;
  • Do record any unusual events and make a distinction between events reported by the carer and those actually witnessed by others including professionals.  Notes should be timed, dated and signed.


Appendix 1: Table - Deciding When to Refer to Social Services

Click here to view 'Deciding When to Refer to Social Services' table.


Appendix 2: Table - When to Refer a Child in Need

Click here to view 'Child in Need of Additional Services' table.

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