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BexleyChildren's Services Procedures Manual

Contacts and Referrals

RELATED PROCEDURES AND GUIDANCE

This Chapter should be read in conjunction with:

The Bexley Threshold: Bexley Safeguarding Partnership - Effective Support for Children, Young People and Families in Bexley

Bexley Safeguarding Partnership guidance; ‘Effective Support for Children, Young People and Families in Bexley’

Management Actions Note

Bexley Local Safeguarding Children Board (BSCB) website

AMENDMENT

This chapter was fully revised throughout in October 2017 to reflect the Bexley contacts and referrals procedures and the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) processes and additionally to add further clarity in respect of consent and information sharing – particularly to note a record of the rationale for over-riding consent must be made on the child’s record, (see Section 4, Consent & Information Sharing).

A link to Bexley Safeguarding Partnership guidance; ‘Effective Support for Children, Young People and Families in Bexley’ has also been added together with a ‘Management Actions Note’.

Contents

  1. Initial Contacts & Referrals
  2. Screening Checks
  3. MASH Checks
  4. Consent & Information Sharing

1. Initial Contacts & Referrals

The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) is the single point of contact for members of the public and professionals seeking advice and/or services, to support and protect vulnerable children, young people and their families who need, ‘intensive’ or ‘specialist’ help, according to the Bexley Safeguarding Partnership guidance;  ‘Effective Support for Children, Young People and Families in Bexley’. It is the referral gateway for the Family Wellbeing Service or Children’s Social Care (including services for children with disabilities).

The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) is a team of professionals from a range of agencies who in certain circumstances, carry out enhanced information sharing [1] at the point of contact, to enable informed decisions to be made about presenting need and risk, to refer the child and family to the right service.

Professionals requesting a Family Wellbeing or Children’s Social Care service will need to complete the referral form, which can be found at Early Help: Family Wellbeing Service Procedure, Appendix Two: Early Help & Family Wellbeing & Children's Social Care Referral Form and sent to the MASH. Consent from the family should always be obtained before making contact with the CRS unless in specific circumstances. For more information about consent see the ‘Information Sharing’ which includes a ‘Consent’ section.

[1] London Borough of Bexley, MASH Information Sharing Protocol

2. Screening Checks

All contacts within MASH are initially recorded and screened by a contact officer. If the person making contact with MASH requires information e.g. how to access a service, the contact officer will signpost the person to the service and no further action will be taken.

Upon receipt of a request for a Family Wellbeing or Social Care service, the contact officer will conduct basic screening checks to confirm if the child has received and/or is currently receiving either service. Screening checks are to confirm identifying details for the child and prevent duplication of services. If screening checks show the child is already receiving a service, the information will be immediately forwarded to the allocated social worker, or key worker.

If the child is not currently receiving a service, the contact information will be forwarded to a senior social worker in MASH to review the presenting level of need and risk, to make a threshold decision about which service can best help the child and family. The MASH social worker will need to establish the following information as far 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 agreement to referral.
  • If it is clear from the contact information:
    1. The child requires a preventative ‘additional’ service;
    2. Consent is obtained; and
    3. The situation meets at least one of the following Family Wellbeing service criteria:
      1. Parental domestic violence;
      2. Parental mental ill-health;
      3. Parental substance misuse; and/or
      4. A child at risk of exclusion or excluded from school.
  • The CRS social worker will make a referral to the Family Wellbeing service, (within 24 hours).

If it is clear from the contact information (a) the child requires a preventative ‘additional’ service, (b) consent is obtained and (c) the situation meets at least one of the following Family Wellbeing service criteria: Parental domestic violence, parental mental ill-health, parental substance misuse and/or a child at risk of exclusion or excluded from school. The MASH social worker will make a referral to the Family Wellbeing service (within 24 hours).

If it is clear from the contact information the threshold is met for an ‘intensive’ service. The MASH social worker will make a referral to the Children’s Social Care Assessment service or if the child has a disability that meets the eligibility criteria, a referral will be made to the Children with Disability service, (within 24 hours).

If it is clear from the contact information that the child may be at risk of significant harm and threshold is met for a ‘specialist’ service. The MASH social worker will immediately make a referral to the Assessment Service for a Child Protection Strategy Meeting (s47) [2] to consider the need for a child protection enquiry. 

Where families do not meet the threshold and eligibility criteria for either a Family Wellbeing or Children’s Social Care service, the person making contact with MASH will be signposted to other services. E.g. Children’s Centres’ and Targeted Youth Support.

If the person making contact with the MASH is worried about the wellbeing and/or welfare of a child, they can call the MASH to discuss the situation with a MASH social worker, or another professional in the MASH, who can provide a consultation and advise whether or not the child should be referred for a service.

The MASH social work decision and outcome will be shared in writing, with the person making contact with theMASH, within 48 hours. If there is disagreement regarding the decision and outcome in the MASH, the person making contact should contact the manager of the MASH in the first instance.

[2] Children Act 1989, Section 47. Child at risk of significant harm

3. MASH Checks

If the level of need and risk of harm is unclear the MASH will need to gather more information before making a decision. In these circumstances a manager will decide enhanced MASH information checks will be initiated, MASH checking is a process of enhanced information sharing between the agencies in the MASH. Not all contacts coming into the will be subject to enhanced MASH checks, only those where there is insufficient information to make a clear decision at the point of contact. NOTE: MASH checks are only intended to make the initial contact decision, they do not replace the need for agency checks to be undertaken as part of any child and family assessment/child protection enquiry.

When MASH checks are initiated, the contact record will be assigned to a Social Worker in MASH to conduct and co-ordinate the MASH checks with the relevant designated professionals. The assigned social worker responsible for co-ordinating the MASH checks will immediately request information from the other designated MASH professionals. Each designated professional will conduct checks within their own agency return the information to the co-ordinating social worker. This information provided by the designated professional needs to be clear, relevant and include some analysis to provide meaning to the information in the context of the enquiry. It is the responsibility of the agency providing the information to keep a record of the information they have shared.

  R = RED A = AMBER
Risk level Child / young person appears to be at risk of immediate and/or serious harm.

Child / young person appears to be at risk of harm, but not imminent and possibly less serious.

OR

Child appears to be a Child in Need

MASH response time Checks to be completed within 4 hours. As soon as possible, but within 1 working day.

The co-ordinating social worker will collate and analyse all the information from the incoming MASH checks, make a judgement on the level of presenting risk or need and make a decision on the next step. Where there remains uncertainty about the best course of action the MASH team will hold a Signs of Safety rapid case mapping discussion and to assist in coming to a decision.

It is not an expectation that members of the public will have gained consent from the child/parent, or at least one person with parental responsibility, to make contact with the MASH.

Best practice dictates that when professionals request a service, they will have gained the explicit consent of the child/parent, or at least one person with parental responsibility.

If a professional is requesting a Family Wellbeing service, there must always be consent. If a professional is requesting a Children’s Social Care ‘Child in Need’ assessment and they do not have consent, MASH may ask the professional to discuss the matter with the child/family, before they will take further action. However, if it has not been possible to get consent and/or there are potential safeguarding concerns, it is expected the professional will have at minimum informed the child/parent they are making contact with the MASH. For further guidance on when these circumstances apply, refer to the London Child Protection Procedures, Sharing Information Procedure.

There are some circumstances; when there is evidence or reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering, or is at risk of suffering, significant harm; where sharing information without consent will be justified in the public interest.  When there is justifiable public interest, there are some circumstances where consent can be overridden, furthermore there may also be times when it is also NOT appropriate to inform the child/parent or person with parental responsibility that the information will be shared. If doing so would:

  1. Place a person at increased risk of significant harm; or
  2. Prejudice the prevention, detection or prosecution of a serious crime; or
  3. Lead to an unjustified delay in making enquiries about allegations of significant harm to a child. [3]

In these circumstances a manager in the MASH will record a clear rationale for overriding consent on the child’s record on L.C.S.

[3] Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners and managers. DCSF, p21.