This page has been written to give you information about what happens when social care receives a contact or referral with regard to your child.
A contact is when someone calls or writes for advice about a child, or asks for social work help to be given to a child. It is usually made by other professionals, such as teachers, doctors or health visitors, but can also be made by family members, members of the public or by children themselves. If a member of the public or family member make the contact and want to remain anonymous then this will be respected.
Contacts are made to the Children, Education and Families Service Initial Response Team. This team will consider the issue of concern and the Team Manager will make a decision within 24 hours (sooner if there is concern about immediate risk to a child) as to whether advice and guidance, or signposting the child and family to another service is more appropriate. If this decision is made the contact will not proceed to any further action or involvement by the IRT and will remain recorded as a contact.
Where the Team Manager decides further information is required to inform on what the need is, and what services might meet the need, the contact will become a referral. All referrals are followed up.
In general we will need to visit you and see your child to assess the situation. This process is called making an assessment of your child's needs and it is done by listening to what you have to say, as well as your child and those professionals already involved with your family.
The social worker will:
On some occasions, particularly with anonymous referrals the social worker may make checks with agencies known to you and/or your child to see whether they have any concerns. Where they have none and they have seen your child a decision may be made not to visit you, or see the child; or a visit may be made to you but your child not seen by the social worker because they are viewed as safe and well. When this happens a record will be made of the decision making and you will be notified as will key agencies involved.
There are four different kinds of assessment used to find out what kind of services children and families need.
A common assessment framework was introduced in April 2008, which for some families will be the first kind of assessment of needs that you experience. A common assessment is aimed at picking up needs early and as a means of preventing those needs escalating. These assessments will be undertaken by professionals outside of social care and undertaken by those who know the child and family best. In most cases the child's needs will be identified and services put in place to meet the needs.
When a referral is made to social care this means the level of need has gone beyond that of a common assessment and requires an initial assessment or child protection investigation (see below). If your child has already had a common assessment this will help inform any more in-depth assessments and hopefully reduce the need for you to have to repeat information.
This is the assessment that is done when a social worker first visits you. It should be completed within 7 working days and it helps us to decide what kind of action, if any, we need to take as well as identify any additional services to help you as a result of the initial assessment. Sometimes we will need more information, which requires a core assessment.
The core assessment is the way that we get more information about your situation. This assessment is longer and more detailed. It involves talking to your child and more people who are involved with you and your family. It will take into account the views of all those involved and will take up to 35 working days to complete. Once it is finished a plan is drawn up with you, explaining what help is needed and who will provide it. The child protection process is only initiated if it is felt that your child is at risk of serious harm and requires a Child Protection Plan.
Where there is cause for concern that your child may be at risk of significant harm, we will carry out what is known as a 'Section 47' assessment. 'Section 47' refers to part of the Children Act 1989, which introduced the idea of significant harm, and places a duty on local authorities, with the help of other relevant agencies, to undertake enquiries (see our leaflet 'The Child Protection Process' for more information). 'Section 47' enquiries lead to a core assessment being completed to better inform on the level of need or risk.
Everybody has a right to see their own file. If you wish to do so, please ask the social worker for information.
All the information you give to a social worker is confidential. However, most often it is necessary for other professionals to become involved in assessing your needs and in providing services so we will need to share some information with them and we will generally ask your permission to do so. However, Information will always be shared if we feel your child is at risk of serious harm, and permission in these circumstances is not necessary.
The council has a complaints procedure. You can either pick up a leaflet from any of the Customer Services Centres or ask the social worker to provide you with one.