Skip to main content


View LCP Procedures View LCP Procedures

1.2.1 Thresholds for Children’s Social Care Safeguarding Services


Southwark Safeguarding Children Partnership Multi-agency Threshold Guide


Joint Service Protocol to meet the Needs of Children and Unborn Children whose Parents or Carers have Mental Health Problems

This document has been drawn up in accordance with Working Together to Safeguard Children.


This chapter was updated in April 2020, to reflect current the terminology and structure of the Department.


  1. Introduction
  2. Who is this Document for?
  3. Referral Pathways and Services
  4. Southwark MASH
  5. Family Early Help
  6. Child in Need / Section 17
  7. Child Protection / Section 47 
  8. Thresholds for Looked After Children
  9. Children's Social Care - Duties and Responsibilities
  10. The Role of the Child Protection Leads within Agencies
  11. How to Decide whether to Make a Referral to Early Help or Children’s Social Care
  12. Good Quality Referrals
  13. Southwark MASH Contact Details

    Appendix 1: MASH Interagency Referral Form

    Appendix 2: Early Help Referral Form

    Appendix 3: Contact Numbers for SSCP Agency Child Protection Leads, Children's Services

1. Introduction

1.1 The majority of children and young people and their families in Southwark can be supported through a range of universal services. These services include education, early years, health, housing, youth services, leisure facilities and services provided by voluntary organisations. However, some children have more complex needs and they may require access to specialist and/or targeted services to support them.
1.2 This document sets out the thresholds for the early help service and for Children’s Social care. It gives an outline of how the Southwark MASH will process referrals. It also sets out what a good quality referral must contain and the expected role and use of designated Child Protection leads in respective agencies in regard to safeguarding concerns and referral.
1.3 The Southwark Safeguarding Partnership Multi Agency Threshold Guide sets out the different levels of need and detailed guidance about how concerns within these different levels should be responded to by Southwark agencies. (See also London Child Protection procedures, Threshold Document: Continuum of Help and Support).

2. Who is this Document for?

2.1 This document has been prepared to illustrate the thresholds that Early Help and social care staff apply to referrals made to the service. The document also sets out the circumstances in which Early help and Children's Social Care are likely to provide services.
2.2 This document is primarily targeted at professionals and services who are in regular/daily contact with children or families, and may have a concern about a child or young person.
2.3 This document includes the SSCP multi-agency threshold guide agreed in 2015 by the Southwark Safeguarding Children Partnership.

3. Referral Pathways and Services


Referrals to services regarding concerns about a child or family typically fall into three categories:

  • Early Help Services;
  • Child in need - Section 17 (Children Act 1989) referrals;
  • Child protection - Section 47 (Children Act 1989) referrals.
3.2 All referrals will be processed through the Southwark MASH (see Section 4, Southwark MASH).
3.3 Referrals requesting early help - including YOS early help and targeted interventions will be referred via Appendix 2: Early Help Referral Form and sent to the Early Help in box They will be subject to screening by the Early Help Duty manager and directed to the appropriate service or agency.
3.4 The Early help Service will consider all referrals which fall within level 2 of the SSCP Multi Agency Threshold Guide.
3.5 Children's Social Care will only consider those referrals which relate to Section 17 (Children in Need) or Section 47 (children in need of protection) of the Children Act 1989. Examples of these are given in the SSCP Multi-agency Threshold Guide.
3.6 Safeguarding and child protection work should always be underpinned by principles of working in partnership with families. In principle, parents or carers must be informed that a service is making a referral to social care safeguarding services. This should only not occur where there is a specific risk of harm to a child and sharing the information with the parent or carer would place the child at further risk. Examples of this might be child sexual abuse, Honour Based Violence, fabricated or induced illness.
3.7 Prior to the Appendix 1: MASH Interagency Referral Form being sent as a referral to social care, practitioners should consult with their Child Protection Leads and/or verbally with the MASH social worker or manager to ensure that making a referral is an appropriate action.
3.8 All referrals to Southwark MASH should be made via the Appendix 1: MASH Interagency Referral Form.

Any telephone referrals should be made to the MASH. The Team's numbers are set out in Section 13, Southwark MASH Contact Details. All referrals should be made using Appendix 1: MASH Interagency Referral Form.

Children's Social care should acknowledge referrals within one working day of receipt. If this does not occur within 3 working days, the referrer should contact Social Care again.

4. Southwark MASH

Southwark MASH includes a wide range of statutory and non-statutory agencies including:

  • Children’s Social Care;
  • Health agencies;
  • Police;
  • Probation;
  • Youth Offending Service;
  • Housing;
  • Early Help services;
  • Mental Health services;
  • Domestic Violence and Abuse service providers;
  • Adult Social Care;
  • Substance misuse services.

The purpose of the MASH is to enhance information sharing across all organisations involved in safeguarding the welfare of children in Southwark - encompassing statutory, non-statutory and third sector sources.

Core agencies will ensure that their representatives either sit in the MASH office on specific days or have ‘virtual’ contact.

When referrals come in, the Hub will analyse information that is already known within separate organisations in a coherent format to inform decisions.

All partners will work together to provide the highest level of knowledge and analysis to make sure that all safeguarding activity and intervention is timely, proportionate and necessary.

See also Southwark MASH website.

5. Family Early Help

In Southwark, we want to ensure that children, young people and families receive the best possible support at times of need in order to address and resolve issues rapidly and effectively. Sometimes a child, young person or family faces a number of different problems at the same time and requires more support to resolve them. Where needs are beyond the level that universal services can address, a range of targeted services are provided in partnership with others (e.g. early years’ settings, children’s centres, health professionals and the voluntary sector) to continue to assist a family to prevent problems from escalating.

Making a referral

All referrals to Southwark early Help should be via the Appendix 2: Early Help Referral Form. This should be sent to

The Early Help service is based on a team around the child approach with designated lead professionals responsible for co-ordination of case work.

See also Making a Referral to Family Early Help.

6. Child in Need / Section 17

6.1 Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 places a general duty on every local authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in need within their area. Children's Social Care must, so far as is consistent with this duty, promote the upbringing of Children in Need by their families, through provision of a range and level of services appropriate to the child's needs.

The Children Act 1989 states that a child shall be considered "in need" if:

  • S/he is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by a local authority;
  • Their health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision of such services; and/or
  • S/he is disabled.
6.3 Before referring a child to Children's Social Care under Section 17, professionals should in most cases, ensure that Appendix 1: MASH Interagency Referral Form has been completed and consultation has taken place with any relevant agencies, including where appropriate Early Help Services. A Section 17 referral to Children's Social Care should be made via the MASH if these initial attempts to improve the situation have been unsuccessful, and must be accompanied by evidence of the actions taken to date. As with Section 47 referrals, prior to a Section 17 referral, there may be consultation with the MASH social worker as regard to its appropriateness.

7. Child Protection / Section 47

7.1 Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 requires the local authority to make enquiries to enable it to decide whether action is required to safeguard and promote the well-being of the child. Children's Social Care will carry out an assessment as a means of conducting the Section 47 Enquiries.
7.2 The purpose of the Assessment is to determine whether the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm and to assess whether action is required to safeguard and promote the child's welfare. Health, education and other services have a statutory duty to help Children's Social Care to carry out the Section 47 Enquiry. Social workers will work with the police in the case of a criminal investigation.

All professionals in agencies with contact with children and members of their families must make a referral to Children's Social Care MASH if there are signs that a child or an unborn baby:

  • Is suffering Significant Harm through abuse or neglect;
  • Is likely to suffer significant harm in the future.
7.4 The timing of such referrals should reflect the level of perceived risk of harm, not longer than within one working day of identification or disclosure of harm or risk of harm.

In urgent situations, out of office hours, the referral could be made to Children's Social Care Emergency Out of Hours Service (EOOHS).

Further advice about recognition of abuse and neglect can be found London Child Protection Procedures:

8. Thresholds for Looked After Children

8.1 Child provided with accommodation by the local authority under s.20 Children Act 1989

(This can be on the initiative of the local authority with the agreement of the parents, or at the request of the parents. Any person with parental responsibility can at any time remove the child from the accommodation.)

The child is a child in need who requires accommodation as a result of:

  • Having no person with Parental Responsibility for him/her; or
  • Being lost or abandoned; or
  • The person who has been caring for him/her being prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing him/her with suitable accommodation or care; or
  • Having reached the age of 16, his/her welfare is likely to be seriously prejudiced if he/she is not provided with accommodation; or
  • Accommodating the child would safeguard or promote his/her welfare (even though a person who has parental responsibility for him is able to provide him with accommodation), provided that that person does not object.

Before providing Accommodation, so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child’s welfare:

  • Ascertain, and give due consideration to the child’s wishes and feelings (having regard to his/her age and understanding); and
  • Ascertain whether the parents/person(s) with parental responsibility have given a valid consent:
    • Does the parent have the mental capacity to consent?
    • Is the consent fully informed?
    • Is it fair and proportionate for the child to be accommodated?

(See also Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure).

8.2 Care Orders under s.31 Children Act 1989; initiation of care proceedings

  • The child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm; and
  • The harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to:
    • The care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or
    • The child’s being beyond parental control.
  • Harm’ means ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development including, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another;
  • Development’ means physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development;
  • Health’ means physical or mental health; and
  • Ill-treatment’ includes sexual abuse and forms of ill-treatment which are not physical.

Where the question of whether harm suffered by a child is significant turns on the child’s health or development, his/her health or development shall be compared with that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child.

(See also Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure.)

Note also: The Welfare Checklist to which courts will have regard when deciding whether to make an order in respect of a child (Section 1 Children Act 1989):

  1. The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his/her age and understanding);
  2. His/her physical, emotional and educational needs;
  3. The likely effect on him/her of any change in his/her circumstances;
  4. His/her age, sex, background and any characteristics which the court considers relevant;
  5. Any harm which s/he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  6. How capable each of his/her parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his/her needs;
  7. The range of powers available to the court under the Children Act 1989.

9. Children's Social Care - Duties and Responsibilities

9.1 Children's Social Care service operates under a strict legal framework, and it is this legal framework that dictates which cases must be accepted from referral and assessed, and what services can be offered or provided to children, young people and their families.
9.2 Children's Social Care determines the level of need for children by a process of assessment based on the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (2000). The assessment looks at the child's developmental needs, parenting capacity of their carers, and family and environmental factors.
9.3 Children's Social Care use thresholds to consider whether a referral will be accepted, whether an assessment will be undertaken, and what services will be offered or provided - see SSCP Multi Agency Threshold Guide. This way, they can ensure that help is targeted at those children who are most vulnerable, and that any decisions made about services are consistent.
9.4 Once a referral is accepted, staff will carry out an assessment to identify the child's level of need and risk, and decide on an appropriate plan of action and services to be offered depending on this assessment.
9.5 When a referral is below their threshold, Children's Social Care MASH may be able to provide referrers with information on more suitable resources and/or pass the referral to Early Help or other services where appropriate.

10. The Role of the Child Protection Leads within Agencies

10.1 Child protection leads are the first point of contact in each agency to support appropriate action in regard to practitioner concerns about child protection through advice and support. Child protection leads are responsible for advising practitioners that referrals are of the correct threshold, that there is sufficient information for social care to make a risk assessment, and that any other appropriate actions are undertaken.
10.2 Practitioners must take responsibility for ensuring that they use the child protection lead function in their agency. The child protection lead plays an important role and the practitioner must ensure that involvement of the child protection lead is a key part of the referral process.
10.3 See Appendix 3: Contact Numbers for SSCP Agency Child Protection Leads, Children's Services for a list of SSCP agency child protection leads.

11. How to Decide whether to Make a Referral to Early Help or Children’s Social Care

11.1 It is important to be clear about the purpose and intended outcome of the referral. Use Section 3, Referral Pathways and Services and details regarding thresholds as set out in the SSCP Multi-Agency Threshold Guide to consider your concerns about a child or young person.
11.2 It is essential that where possible you consult other professionals in the child's network (such as health visitor, youth worker, teacher) if you have concerns to support a comprehensive and good quality Appendix 1: MASH Interagency Referral Form. When the concern is around risk of harm to a child, as highlighted above, speak to your own agency lead for child protection and safeguarding. Alternatively, you can speak with one of your local authority's child protection advisers or a MASH social worker about a potential referral and to help guide your next steps in regard to the child.

Professionals in all agencies have a responsibility to refer a child to Children's Social Care MASH when it is believed or suspected that the child:

  • Has suffered Significant Harm;
  • Is likely to suffer Significant Harm.

12. Good Quality Referrals


All referrals to Children's Social care should be made using a MASH Interagency Referral Form. The form should wherever possible be fully completed, containing the following information:

  • Basic information about child's name and date of birth;
  • Family details including dates of birth and family household composition;
  • Ethnicity and language of children and parents;
  • Identification of adults with Parental Responsibility and surnames if they are not the same as the parents;
  • Address and telephone number of the family and carers and any other significant adults and GP details;
  • Schools or early year settings attended;
  • Name of key professionals, such as Health Visitors, GP and any health professionals;
  • Nature of the concerns including any family history known or available to refer an agency.

The MASH Interagency Referral Form must also contain information based on the signs of safety model:

The reason for referral:

  • What are you worried about?
  • What risk if any is identified?
  • What is going well for the child and family?
  • What information do you have about the parents?

It is crucial that there is information on the form as to whether parents or carers have given consent for the referral to be made. If the parents/carers have not given consent or are unaware of the referral the reason for this must be clearly stated.

The reason might be that there is a specific risk of harm to a child and that sharing the information with the parent or carer would place the child at further risk. Examples of this might be child sexual abuse, Honour Based Violence, fabricated or induced illness.

13. Southwark MASH Contact Details

London Borough of Southwark
Children's Services
Assessment, Safeguarding and Family Support Services
Sumner House
Sumner Road
London SE15 5QS

MASH: 0207 525 1921
Fax: 0207 023 4804

The Early Help Duty Manager is based within MASH
Early Help Services
Sumner House
Sumner Road
SE14 5QS

Fax: 0207 525 7992

EH Duty Manager: 0207 525 3893
EH Duty Officer: 0207 525 2714

Appendix 1: MASH Interagency Referral Form

Click here to view Appendix 1: MASH Interagency Referral Form

Appendix 2: Early Help Referral Form

Click here to view Appendix 2: Early Help Referral Form

Appendix 3: Contact Numbers for SSCP Agency Child Protection Leads, Children's Services

Contact Numbers for SSCP Agency Child Protection Leads

For advice and information on Child Protection issues please contact:

Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group

Designated Nurse: 0207 525 2480

Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Trust Named Doctor: 0207 188 4693
Trust Named Nurse: 0207 188 2473

Community Paediatric Medical Advice: 0203 049 8010
Community Named Nurse for CP for Southwark: 0203 049 8136 / 0778 974 1518

Named Midwife: 0207 188 2316

King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Named Doctor: 0203 299 3984
Named Nurse: 0203 299 1185/1187
Named Midwife: 0203 299 3084

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Named Doctor: 0207 138 1591
Named Nurse: 0203 228 3483


Each school has its own Designated Person for Child Protection.
Strategic Lead Officer for Education Services: 0207 525 5867
Deputy: The Early help Duty Manager: 0207 525 3893
Schools Safeguarding Coordinator: 0207 525 2715


Metropolitan Police - Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT): 0207 232 6355

In an emergency dial 999 or out of usual office hours contact local police station

Contact Numbers for Children's Social Care

Children's Services and General

If your agency does not have its own specialist child protection advisor, contact Child Protection Coordinator (for all agencies) on 0207 525 3297.

To make a referral contact the MASH on 0207 525 1921.

Out of Hours: 0207 525 5000

Southwark Safeguarding Children Partnership

Tel: 0207 525 3306/4646