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1.2.3 Contacts and Referrals


Thresholds for Children’s Social Care Safeguarding Services (agreed by Southwark Safeguarding Children Partnership)


This chapter was updated in March 2018 to reflect that when seeking to share information with other agencies, due consideration should be given to the statutory guidance in Information sharing advice for safeguarding practitioners, (see Section 3, Management Action).

The update also includes updated MASH and Early Help referral forms, (see Section 1, Contacts and Referrals).


  1. Contacts and Referrals 
  2. Timescales 
  3. Management Action 
  4. Initial Disposal of Referrals 
  5. Recording of Referrals 

1. Contacts and Referrals

Contacts and referrals are dealt with in Southwark by the Assessment and Intervention Service which includes Southwark Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).

Any information sent to the Assessment and Intervention Service is recorded as a Contact on Mosaic. Contacts may be made in various ways:

This may include contacts made by external agencies where they are unclear whether a referral should be made and require advice as to the appropriate action to be taken.

Whenever contact is made with Children’s Social Care about a child, the MASH information officer in MASH will check on Mosaic to establish whether the child is already an open case.

Where the child is an open case, the information officer will send the information to the allocated social worker or his or her manager - see New Information about Open Cases Procedure.

Where the child concerned is not an open case, if straightforward advice or information is required, this will be provided by the MASH Manager and the contact closed. Otherwise, the information officer will pass the contact information to the MASH in order to determine the action required.

Where Mosaic indicates the child was previously known although not still an open case, the records on the child will be retrieved and passed to the MASH Manager to assist the decision-making.

A contact is progressed to a referral where action is required to be taken other than the straightforward provision of advice or information, for example 'Refer to Other Agency'.

Once the referral has been accepted by Children's Social Care the lead professional role falls to a social worker.

The social worker should clarify with the referrer, when known, the nature of the concerns and how and why they have arisen.

The MASH will establish as much of the following information as is necessary to determine the level of risk or need and to enable the screening process to take place, taking account of Thresholds for Children's Social Care Safeguarding Services - see Section 3, Management Action:

  • Full names, dates of birth and gender of children;
  • Family address and telephone number for the family;
  • Where relevant, school/early years setting attended;
  • Identity of those with Parental Responsibility and their surnames if they are different from the child's and parents' names;
  • Names and dates of birth of all members of the household;
  • Names, address and telephone numbers of any other significant adults;
  • Ethnicity, first language and religion of children and parents;
  • Any special needs of the children;
  • Any significant recent or past events;
  • Cause for concern including details of allegations, their sources, timing and location*;
  • The child's current location and emotional and physical condition;
  • Whether the child needs immediate protection;
  • Details of any alleged perpetrator;
  • Referrer's relationship with and knowledge of the child and his or her family;
  • Name of key professionals involved with the child and family, including health visitor, GO and any other health professionals;
  • Information regarding parents' knowledge and agreement to referral.

*Referrers should be asked specifically if they hold any information about difficulties being experienced by the family/household due to domestic violence and abuse, mental illness, substance misuse, and/or learning difficulties.

Referrers should have an opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified social worker.

Referrers from other agencies and other professionals should be asked to confirm the information given in writing using the MASH Inter Agency Referral Form within 48 hours and this should then be acknowledged in writing by the Referral and Assessment Service within one working day of its receipt.

2. Timescales

Any contact made with any member of staff within Children’s Social Care, which involves information about a child who may be a Child in Need, must be redirected to the Assessment and Intervention team immediately and within one hour at the very longest.

Once received by the Assessment and Intervention Service, all Referrals must be written up, redirected where appropriate and, where they are not redirected, a decision made about their disposal within 24 hours.

Within one working day of a Referral being received, the social worker should make a decision about the type of response that is required. This will include determining whether:

  • The child requires immediate protection and urgent action is required;
  • The child is in need, and should be assessed under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989;
  • There is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm, and whether enquires must be made and the child assessed under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989;
  • Any services are required by the child and family and what type of services; and
  • Further specialist assessments are required in order to help the local authority to decide what further action to take.

3. Management Action

The management action process should have regard to Thresholds for Children's Social Care Safeguarding Services and establish:

  • The nature of the concern;
  • How and why it has arisen;
  • What the child's needs appear to be;
  • Whether the concern involves Significant Harm;
  • Whether there is any need for urgent action to protect the child or any children in the household.

The management action will involve consideration by the duty manager in the Assessment and Intervention Service of the information provided when the Referral was received. Where further action is required to enable the duty manager to carry out the management action process, the duty manager will request this to be carried out by the duty information officer or the duty social worker, as appropriate. Such action should entail:

  • Discussion with the referrer;
  • Consideration of any existing records, particularly in relation to closed cases);
  • Involving other agencies as necessary and in accordance with Information sharing advice for safeguarding practitioners:
    • Consent from the parent or carer should normally be sought;
    • However, the Data Protection Act should never be a barrier to ‘sharing information where the failure to do so would result in a child or vulnerable adult being placed at risk of harm’ or indeed on those occasions where seeking consent might increase the risk of harm.
    • Where this is the case, there should be a discussion with the manager to authorise the discussion of the referral with other agencies without parental knowledge or consent. The authorisation should be recorded with reasons;
    • Information should always be ‘necessary and proportionate’.

If there are indications that a child may be at risk of Significant Harm, the manager may authorise whatever actions are necessary to protect the child or others in the household from Significant Harm, which may result in the immediate provision of services. 

If there is suspicion that a crime may have been committed including sexual or physical assault or Neglect, the duty social worker should notify the Police immediately. This will usually be the Child Abuse Investigation Team.

Personal information about non-professional referrers should not be disclosed to the parents or other agencies without the referrer's consent.

4. Initial Disposal of Referrals

The initial disposal of a Referral, which must be authorised by the manager having regard to Thresholds for Children's Social Care Safeguarding Services, may be:

  1. That the child does not appear to be a Child in Need which will result in one of the following: the provision of information, advice, step down to Early Help, another agency and/or no further action;
  2. That the child appears to have a low level of needs or risks which are unlikely to escalate. In these circumstances the manager may authorise a Single Assessment;
  3. That the child appears to have moderate to high needs, which must initiate a Single Assessment;
  4. That it is suspected that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer from Significant Harm. In these circumstances, the Manager must arrange an Assessment, with a view to conducting a Strategy Discussion, prior to Child Protection Enquiry and Single Assessment commencing.

Professional referrers should be advised of the disposal of the referral. 

Feedback on the outcome should also be provided to non-professional referrers in a manner consistent with respecting the confidentiality of the child.

The child and family must be informed of the action to be taken.

The child should be seen as soon as possible if the decision is taken that the Referral requires further assessment.

Where requested to do so by local authority Children's Social Care, professionals from other parts of the local authority such as housing and those in health organisations have a duty to cooperate under Section 27 of the Children Act 1989 by assisting the local authority in carrying out its children's social care functions.

5. Recording of Referrals

Mosaic must be updated in relation to all Referrals, including the disposal of the referral and confirmation that this has been authorised by the Duty Manager.

A manager must sign and approve the outcome of a referral and ensure a Chronology is started or updated.