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Blackpool Social Work and Safeguarding ServiceProcedures Manual

Requests for Support, Contacts and Referrals

RELEVANT PROCEDURES AND GUIDANCE

This chapter should be read in conjunction with:

Working Well with Children and Families in Lancashire (Thresholds Guidance)

DfE, Information sharing advice for safeguarding practitioners

AMENDMENT

This guidance was extensively updated throughout in July 2020 to reflect the work of the Request for Support Hub.

Contents

  1. What is The Request for Support Hub
  2. Who is in The Request for Support Hub
  3. Advice Line
  4. Initial Contacts
  5. Referrals
  6. Timescales
  7. Screening Process
  8. Deciding the Next Steps of a Contact/Referral
  9. Recording of Contacts/Referrals
  10. Appendix 1: Screening Template

1. What is the Request for Support Hub

The 'Blackpool Families Rock' Request for Support Hub (formerly known as MASH), is our Multi Agency Hub and is central to triaging work through to the right teams. The primary task of the Request for Support Hub is to provide advice, support and triage/screen referrals and phone calls to Children's Social Care. It is our "one front door" to Children's Social Care and is designed to ensure that referrals are signposted to the appropriate service in line with the Levels of Need outlined within the Working Well with Children and Families in Lancashire, which sets out the Pan Lancashire agreement for how we offer Support for children and families.

The 'Blackpool Families Rock' Request for Support Hub brings together agencies from services that have contact with children at risk to make the best possible use of their combined knowledge to keep them safe from harm.

It enables those agencies in the Request for Support Hub to lawfully and securely share relevant and appropriate information with others so that a true and balanced risk assessment can be made and appropriate intervention agreed. 

The Request for Support Hub provides a 'first point of contact' for Children's Social Care enabling members of the public and professionals to raise concerns about the welfare of children. This may include children identified as potentially being in need of support or at risk of suffering abuse.

The Request for Support Hub  operates between 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Thursday and 9:00am – 4:30am Friday. At all other times the Emergency Duty Team (EDT) acts as the 'first point of contact'. EDT will only respond to Emergencies that cannot wait until the next working day. 

2. Who is in the Request for Support Hub

The agencies listed below work together to help identify need, vulnerability, risk and harm in respect of all contacts to the Request for Support Hub  which raise concerns in respect of a child. Once the level of need or risk is identified, the teams decide the initial multi-agency actions required to protect and support the child. 

Staff from some partner agencies are co-located at Blackpool Council's South King Street Offices to enhance the assessment and decision making processes. Co-location of staff increases mutual understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the different partner agencies. There are still Multi Agency Safeguarding Teams that sit within the 'Blackpool Families Rock' Request for Support Hub such as Police Safeguarding and Health partners.

  • Police Safeguarding (Vulnerable Persons Unit) - Manages all police internal safeguarding referrals and arranges notifications to other agencies e.g. CSC, ASC, Health, Housing, Education. Risk assesses domestic violence incidents and services the MARAC process. Facilitates the police attendance at meeting structures around children and vulnerable adults;
  • Children's Social Care (CSC) – Provides 'front door' service for CSC. Determines thresholds. Facilitates information gathering/initial strategy meeting in respect of Section 47 cases that are referred during office hours;
  • Health (Blackpool Fylde and Wyre NHS):

Health Practitioner for Safeguarding Children: The aim of the Health Practitioner within the Request for Support Hub is to work collaboratively, to enhance timely and relevant information sharing with partners in the Request for Support Hub and across the health economy conducive to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, young people and adults.

The Health Practitioner will utilise their knowledge and insight into the Request for Support Hub to influence decision making, analyse and manage risk, lead and develop pathways, make links across the health economy and contribute to the on-going development of the health role within the Request for Support Hub. Health practitioners in the Request for Support Hub will have access to electronic files within Mosaic.

The Health Practitioner based within the Request for Support Hub attends strategy meetings which are convened by the Assessment and Support Team (AST).

Health Admin Support Officers: Provide effective administrative support to the Health Practitioner for safeguarding children within the Request for Support Hub, assisting them to access appropriate information systems. Providing administrative support to the Children's Safeguarding Team to enable them to carry out their duties as outlined above. This may include contacting partner agencies to source intelligence. Inputting information within their electronic systems and updating spread sheets.

IDVA and CIDVA: Are forwarded all standard, medium and high PVP's regarding domestic abuse. IDVA are the first point of contact with all reported victims on High and Medium PVPs.

Virtual Partners:

  • National Probation Service: Provides relevant information in relation to offending behaviour, community and court disposals and when required risk assessments;
  • Horizon: Provides drug and alcohol help, advice and treatment for people living in Blackpool. Provides relevant information regarding adult substance misuse use, treatment programmes and engagement. Shares concerns regarding the risk this may present to a child/children;
  • Lancashire Fire and Rescue: Will provide information to CSC and relevant partner agencies when requested.  This may include situations where there are concerns about young people involved in fire play/arson or vulnerable adults who present a fire risk;
  • Education: The education welfare officer and Education Safeguarding lead are closely linked to the Request for Support Hub to enable information sharing with schools.  There is an agreement in place that all Police PVP's coming into the Request for Support Hub regarding domestic abuse will be shared with a child's school under operation Encompass. An Education Safeguarding Lead along with education welfare officers provide a school's safeguarding;
  • Youth Offending Team: Police will share all PVP's with YOT where there are concerns that a child has been or may be at risk of becoming involved in criminal activity.  YOT is not physically represented in the Request for Support Hub however virtually they will share information when requested;
  • Adult Safeguarding Services: To support timely information sharing and decision making in relation to vulnerable adults including those where there is a concern about a child.

Co-located Teams:

  • Awaken - Child Exploitation Team (CE): Provides a pro-active investigation and support capability in respect of CE. Manages the MACSE process and enquiries into missing persons.

3. Advice Line

The Request for Support Hub operate an Advice Line which has been developed in response to feedback from partner agencies that it would be a welcome tool to support effective safeguarding practice. 

The Children's Services and Early Help Hub Advice line: Advice Line open from: 9am to 5pm, Monday to Thursday and 9am to 4.30pm Friday Tel: 01253 478959

The line gives professionals working in services that come in to contact with children and families direct access to a Social Worker for advice and guidance without sharing identifiable information. The Advice Line is open to all schools in the town, including Independent Schools, Early Years Settings, Pupil Welfare and all Health Services such as Midwives, Health visitors, School Nurses and CAMHS, probation, Youth Offending, Prison's, Police, Children's Centres, fire Services, Drug Services, Housing, etc.

The Advice line provides advice and support to partner agencies to ensure we are able to support agencies in identifying the most appropriate service that can meet the child and family's needs.  During consultation, agencies will not need to share the personal details of children and their families as the advice line is for advice and support only.

The advice line is NOT the direct route to make a referral in to Children's Social Care. Partner agencies are reminded that if they would like to make a referral to Children's Social Care they should read Blackpool's multi-agency Thresholds document (see Working Well with Children and Families in Lancashire (Thresholds Guidance)) and discuss their concerns with the safeguarding lead in their organisation. If partners are still unsure whether a referral should be made, then the practitioner and/or their safeguarding representative may find it helpful to then use the advice line and the Request for Support Hub Social Worker can advise whether the agency needs to complete a referral to Children's Social Care and support agencies in sharing all relevant information to support good decision making when the referral is received.

It is made clear to all partners that the advice line is not the route to making a referral and if professionals suspect or believe that a child is currently suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm or any form of mistreatment or abuse, they should report their concerns immediately by making a referral to the Request for Support Hub) Tel: 01253 477299, or use the contact link provided on the Council Website

Should safeguarding concerns be raised during the advice line consultation the Social Worker will immediately transfer the call to the Referral information Coordinators (RiCs)  to take details of the child/ren and their family, and input the information within a contact on the child's file.  The Social Worker will immediately alert the the Request for Support Hub Team Manager of the transfer of the call due to safeguarding concerns, the Team Manager will allocate any subsequent tasks through to the the Request for Support Hub Social Worker for action. 

4. Initial Contacts

All initial Contacts such as Multi Agency Referral Forms (MARFs) and Police notifications are received in the Request for Support Hub secure e-mail Account (duty.assessment@blackpool.gov.uk) All Referral information Coordinators (RiCs) staff and the Request for Support Hub Team Managers have access to this e-mail account. The Inbox is monitored throughout the day. Some initial contacts are made by telephone, some professionals want to speak with a Social Worker/screening officer in the first instance. RiCs take telephone and/or anonymous referrals, to collate family details and create contacts and this is then tasked to Social Workers by Team Manager to undertake screening.

Definitions – Contact/Referral/Consultation

A contact is either a:

  • Notification or request for information; or
  • Request to Children's Social Care for a service or advice that requires further screening to determine threshold.

Both RiCs and Team Managers review the duty and assessment referral in box continuously throughout the working day so they are able to prioritise initial contacts be alert to the most urgent to ensure timely response.

All contacts need to be considered alongside Working Well with Children and Families in Lancashire (Thresholds Guidance) and a decision made within one working day regarding the level of response required.

The Request for Support Hub team will record contacts and if the threshold for assessment and support is met at level three or above they will progress these through to become a referral to Children's Social Care and transferred to the relevant team where they will allocate the case to a Social Worker for a statutory Child and Family assessment (CAFA).

If the threshold for a statutory assessment is not met, but there is a need for coordinated support for the family in response to unmet need, the Request for Support Hub the MASH may, with the consent of the family, direct the referral through to Targeted Intervention Services (TIS).

At any time, an Initial Contact may become a Referral if it appears that services may be required for a Child in Need of support and/or protection. The contact is sent to the Assessment and Support team when threshold has been met for statutory intervention or assessment.

If a contact is about safeguarding concerns, a verbal referral can be accepted and inputted onto the child's electronic file. The agency must then follow up the referral in writing within 48 hours, as stipulated in Working Together to Safeguard Children. All other referrals to Children's Social Care must be made via the MARF.

Any significant information received about a child who is an open case should be regarded as an Initial Contact, passed to the child's allocated Social Worker and recorded on the electronic database.

The Getting it Right Framework should be used to support a referral or a specialist assessment.

In all other cases, at the point when an Initial Contact is made, the Request for Support Hub Social Worker should establish whether the enquiry can be dealt with by the provision of information and advice or re-direction to other agencies or services.

There are exceptional circumstances where the threshold is met and transfer would be made from the Request for Support Hub MASH straight to the Awaken team or Strengthening Families and Supporting, Supporting our Children teams. These are:

  • The Request for Support Hub may identify cases where vulnerability to and risk of exploitation is the primary and significant issue. Where this is the case, they will seek to transfer the case directly to AST with the wider exploitation team Awaken co-allocating a Social Worker to support the undertaking of a CAFA and any specialist assessment that is required. Vulnerability and risk of exploitation includes:
    • Suspected trafficking;
    • Unaccompanied asylum seeking child or young person;
    • County lines/criminal exploitation;
    • Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE);
    • Forced Marriage/Honour Based Violence (FM/HBV);
    • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM);
    • Harmful sexual behaviour.
  • Information is received in relation to a case already open to the children's teams, this will be redirected to the appropriate Team Manager via a case note record and directed to the appropriate team for the work;
  • A contact is received on a case that was open previously to the Strengthening and Supporting Families team and/or any other team within 6 months apart from AST. The referral will be directed to that team for a statutory assessment via the Team Manager;
  • A request from the Court for a Section 37 report will be directed to Strengthening and Supporting Families Team unless the child(ren) have been open to a previous team within the last 6 months;
  • In addition, the Request for Support Hub team will identify cases where complex health and/or needs associated with a disability meets the criteria for referral straight through to Supporting Children with Additional Needs team. In such cases, the Request for Support Hub will liaise the team for advice in relation to eligibility, if the case does not clearly meet the eligibility criteria the Request for Support Hub will progress the case through to AST to complete CAFA. The AST will be able to access support and advice within the assessment from the Supporting Children with Additional Needs team to inform outcomes for the child and their family;
  • Homeless 16/17 Year Olds. A young person may make contact with a number of different agencies or settings when faced with homelessness including Children's Social Care. If a young person, or a person acting on their behalf, contacts the Request for Support Hub and they are, or are at risk of becoming Homeless, the Homeless 16/17 year old protocol will be followed to facilitate a joint assessment. (See Prevention of Homelessness and Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 year olds who may be Homeless and/or require Accommodation; and Duty to Refer Procedure);
  • Requests from other Authorities to Transfer Cases to Blackpool's the Request for Support Hub will process Transfer in Conferences from the safeguarding administration team once permanent residence has been established. The Request for Support Hub will make enquiries with the local authority and agencies involved and undertake the initial work. In these cases, the transfer will be directly to the Strengthening and Supporting Families team from the Request for Support Hub;
  • Police Powers of Protection: If a child or young person not known to teams has been taken into care via Police Powers of Protection (PPP) out of hours, the Request for Support Hub team will direct this as a referral to the AST team to undertake the initial strategy discussion and section 47 to ascertain whether the child or young person is able to return home, stay with another family member or needs to remain in our care.

Transfer points from the Request for Support Hub. In most cases, cases will transfer from the Request for Support Hub as soon as initial enquiries have established that the threshold for statutory support in Blackpool has been met, where the contact will be transferred as a Referral to the identified team.

4.1 Levels of Need

In this guide we have identified four broad levels of need:

  • Level 1 Needs - Universal:
    • Most families, children and young people will experience challenges in their lives that impact on their wellbeing. Most families will be able to weather these challenges (are resilient to them) either without help from services, or with advice, guidance and support from universal services, including empathy and understanding.
  • Level 2 Needs - Universal Plus:
    • Some families, children and young people will need support from people who know them well and have established relationships with them to meet some challenges where advice and guidance has not been enough to help the family achieve change or where a child or young person needs additional support to help them to thrive.
  • Level 3 Needs - Intensive:
    • A small number of families, children and young people will experience significant challenges and will need coordinated support from experts working with them to find sustainable solutions that reduce the impact of challenge on the wellbeing and development of children.
  • Level 4 Needs - Specialist:
    • In exceptional cases families need specialist, statutory support that is designed to maintain or repair relationships and keep families together wherever possible. In some very specific circumstances the needs are so great that children need to be.

Click here to view Levels of Need – At a Glance Diagram.

5. Referrals

An Initial Contact will be progressed to a Referral where the Social Worker and Team Manager considers an assessment and/or services may be required for a Child in Need.

Referrers should have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified Social Worker. The referrer 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.

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

The Request for Support Hub Social Worker will contact the referrer and obtain as much of the following information as possible:

  • Full names, dates of birth and gender of children;
  • Family address and, where relevant, school/nursery attended;
  • Identity of those with Parental Responsibility;
  • Names and dates of birth of all members of the household;
  • Ethnicity, first language and religion of children and parents;
  • Any special needs of the children including the means in which they communicate;
  • 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;
  • Known involvement of other agencies;
  • Information regarding parents' knowledge and explicit and informed consent to information being shared and referral for assessment and support being made.

CSE contacts/referrals and the interface with Awaken: the Request for Support Hub will manage the initial response to any contact made in respect of CSE.

The Request for Support Hub Social Workers will use the screening tool (see Appendix 1: Screening Template) within the Request for Support Hub process to ensure consistency of thresholds when screening potential Child Exploitation (CE) cases prior to consultation with the Awaken Team Manager.

The Request for Support Hub Team Manager will consult with the AST Team Manager and Awaken Team Manager when referrals have been received and concerns have been raised in relation to CE.

The Request for Support Hub will also consult with the AST Team Manager and Awaken Team Manager if during the screening of a contact indicators of CE are evident to ensure appropriate decision making regarding threshold for children to progress through to AST for statutory intervention with support from the Awaken Team. Where concerns highlighted are primarily identified as family issues with an element of CE the Awaken Team Manager will be notified to identify a Social Worker to support assessment undertaken by either Assessment and Support Team (AST) or Strengthening and Supporting Families (SSF).

The Awaken Team will be able to assist in the collection and analysis of information which leads to the decision making in the Request for Support Hub.

That information may include:-

  • Working with the National Definition of CSE which has also been accepted by Lancashire Police;
  • The CE 1 tool;
  • Information held by partner agencies;
  • The Risk Indicators as identified in the DfE Publication, Child sexual exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners;
  • Application and analysis of information in line with the Continuum of Need.

Where a contact has been received and the primary factor for the referral is CE and it is determined that the child may be at risk of significant harm then the strategy meeting will be chaired by the Awaken Team Manager.

Referrals in relation to extremism and radicalisation: These referrals are screened by the Request for Support Hub. For any contact where there is a concern that extremism and radicalisation may be a concern the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Service Manager must be informed. Additionally the Police Channel Team should also be consulted. Consideration will then be given regarding whether a Channel referral is required.

Once the referral has been accepted by local authority children's social care the lead professional role falls to the allocated Social Worker.

6. Timescales

Once received, the contact is screened and progressed to a referral and is received by the Assessment and Support Team (AST) or other identified team, the Initial Management Oversight for the outcome of a Referral must be written up and a decision made about their disposal within one working day of the initial contact. (Note: This should be as soon as possible where it is evident the child is seen as requiring immediate protection/urgent action.)

Within one working day of, the receiving Team Manager should make a decision about the type of response that is required. This will include determining whether:

7. Screening Process

The following process applies to new cases of children previously unknown to the authority, and to closed cases.

The process of Initial Contacts must include screening against the Threshold Criteria for Children in Need and must include internal electronic database and agency checks to establish whether the family is previously known, and whether there is a Child Protection Plan in relation to the child and/or whether the child is Looked After.

The screening process should 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.

This process will involve:

  • Discussion with the referrer;
  • Consideration of any existing records, including whether the child is the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  • Involving other agencies as appropriate and in accordance with Information sharing advice for safeguarding practitioners:

    • Consent from the parent or carer should normally be sought; by the referrer unless doing so places the child at direct risk of harm; by doing this everyone is working together in an open and transparent way with families and their children to identify strengths and needs, to find practical and achievable solutions, and to provide the right amount of information, advice and support;
    • 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;
    • 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 (see Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool and Lancashire Children's Safeguarding Assurance Partnership (CSAP) Procedures Manual, Strategy Discussions Procedure).

If there is suspicion that a crime may have been committed including sexual or physical assault or neglect of the child, the Police must be notified immediately.

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

The parent's consent should usually be sought before discussing a referral with other agencies unless this may place the child at risk of Significant Harm. Where it is believed that obtaining consent may place a child at risk of significant harm in which case the manager should authorise the discussion of the referral with other agencies without parental knowledge or consent. The authorisation should be recorded with reasons for overriding parental consent.

8. Deciding the Next Steps of a Contact/Referral

The outcome of decisions relating to the next step of a contact/referral must be authorised by the manager within the receiving team, and may be for the following reasons:

  1. The child does not appear to be a Child in Need, which will result in one of the following: the provision of information, advice, sign-posting to another agency and/or no further action;
  2. The child appears to be a Child in Need with a moderate level of need, in which case, the manager may authorise an Assessment;
  3. The child appears to be a Child in Need with a high level of need, which must result in an Assessment;
  4. It is suspected that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer from Significant Harm, which will result in an Assessment, with a view to conducting a Strategy Discussion, prior to a Section 47 Enquiry commencing.

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. There should be consideration of a Strategy Discussion and of a multi-agency response. (See Section 47 Enquiries - Practice Guidance).

Professional referrers should be advised of the next steps.

Feedback on the outcome of the Contact/Referral 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. The receiving Team Manager will record the timescale and frequency for the child to be seen within the IMO.

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.

9. Recording of Contacts/Referrals

All Initial Contacts and Referrals should be recorded on the electronic database.

Appendix 1: Screening Template

The following screening template will be used as a tool to record screening undertaken by The Request for Support Hub workers:

Screening template

OVERVIEW – brief summary of the reason for referral

Is the child / family already known – (Chronology to be provided by the Request for Support Hub Social Worker) – Social Worker to provide a brief summary of previous history/involvement.

Analysis - Provide a hypothesis of unmet need and/or risk:

  • Summary of case history. Case histories needed to be succinct and capture the key events in the child's life. For example, dates and types of plans the child had been subject to; themes and patterns; numbers of referrals received in a period since case closure (where a case has been open at threshold level 2-4) with key referrals relating to the current concerns highlighted;
  • Information from partner agencies – this is a brief summary of the information from partner agencies (recorded by the Social Worker within external agency information request section)
  • Relevant information from discussion with parents:
    • Recording of consent and what further work has been completed to gain consent to be recorded by the the Request for Support Hub MASH SW
    • Overview of the parent's views and conversation with parents/carers in a level of detail necessary to evidence why the threshold decision was taken to be recorded;
    • Childs voice to be recorded providing an overview of the child / young person's lived experience and their wishes and feelings.
  • What are we worried about?
  • What is working well?
  • What are the things that make it harder for the family/carers to look after their children?

Anticipated impact without intervention - If nothing changes for this child and services do not intervene, what is the anticipated outcome for this child? What impact has the current incident likely had on the child?

Interim Safeguarding Measures (ISMs) – Clear statement of any ISMs put in place (if required).

NEXT STEPS/WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN?
  • Decision – E.g. referral to AST/Early Help; recommendation for a FIN/BYPS and Early Help Assessment; recommendation for no further action;
  • Rationale – The Social Worker's rationale for the threshold decision;
  • Actions – Not required for referrals to Children's Services (as the receiving manager records the action plan within the IMO), but where a referral is being made for Early Help, or Early Help Assessment is being advised, specific action plans for the lead professional/professional network can be recorded.

MANAGEMENT DECISION (recorded by the Request for Support Hub the MASH Team manager in 'Management Oversight and outcome) – providing clear rationale for decision making and threshold level.