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3.1.5 Initial Contacts and Referrals to Social Care


This includes actions that will be undertaken both when contacts are received regarding a child who is and also in respect of a child who is not currently receiving a service from Specialist and Safeguarding Services.

‘Within one working day of a contact being received, a social worker should make a decision about the type of response that is required and acknowledge receipt to the referrer’. (Working Together to Safeguard Children, Chapter 1, Assessing Need and Providing Help - paragraph 58)


This chapter should be read in conjunction with:

Criteria and Threshold Guidance - Meeting the Needs of Children and Families

Initial Contacts and Referrals to Targeted Youth Support (TYS) Procedure

The Single Service Request Form can be accessed here


In March 2015, Section 2, Screening Process, has been revised to make clear the extent and reach of the family member checks which are required.

In June 2015, Section 2, Screening Process, was updated; new Section 9, Case Allocation Considerations was added.


  1. Initial Contacts
  2. Screening Process
  3. Referrals
  4. Timescales
  5. Risk of Significant Harm
  6. Initial Disposal of Referrals
  7. Acknowledgement and Feedback to Referrers
  8. Recording of Referrals
  9. Case Allocation Considerations

1. Initial Contacts

An Initial Contact is made with the Customer Service Centre (CSC) where requests for Children's Social Care involvement are received. The Customer Service Centre applies the threshold criteria taken from Criteria and Threshold Guidance - Meeting the Needs of Children and Families).

The Customer Service Centre gathers information from referrers, including:

  • 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;
  • 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.

Those contacts meeting threshold for Children's Social Care are sent directly to the relevant Children's Safeguarding and Specialist Services Team. Those contacts not meeting threshold, or where further enquiries are needed in order to establish threshold, are sent to the Targeted Advice Service; a multi-agency team based at Kings Court, which sits alongside the Customer Service Centre.

The Targeted Advice Service (TAS) makes contact with the 'referrer' to discuss the contact and to explore how the needs of the family could be addressed in other ways, including the Common Assessment Framework where appropriate. The Targeted Advice Service provides advice, guidance and signposting to other services and mobilises district support for those contacts where the provision of information or advice is appropriate.

Any significant information received about a child who is an open case is regarded as a Contact and passed to the child's allocated social worker and recorded on LCS.

The Families First and Early Help Module is not a referral form, although it may be used to support a referral or a specialist assessment. Click here for LCS Guidance (referrals contacts and assessments) and here for demographics.

2. Screening Process

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

The process of Referrals must include screening against the Criteria and Threshold Guidance - Meeting the Needs of Children and Families and must include internal (LCS) 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;
  • Whether the child is or has been known to children’s services. Whether the child has any siblings including half-siblings, or there are other children in the household, that are or have been known to children’s services. Whether adult members of the child’s family (including those closely connected to the child’s family, i.e. mother’s boyfriend) have themselves been known to children’s services and whether these adult members have other children who are or have been known to children’s services.

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 necessary.

3. Referrals

An Initial Contact received by Children's Social Care will be progressed to a Referral where the social worker or manager considers an assessment and/or services may be required.

All referrals to children's social care should be made using Single Service Requests (SSR), and where possible submitted electronically.

Electronic referrals and enquiries should be sent via

Faxes should be sent to: 01438 737402

Letters should be sent to:

Customer Services Centre
PO Box 153

Enquiries and referrals from children, young people, families and members of the public can be made via 0300 123 4043. Click here for LCS Guidance.

4. Timescales

Once received, all referrals must be written up and a decision made about their disposal within one working day (as set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children Chapter 1, Assessing Need and Providing Help - paragraph 58).

5. Risk of Significant Harm

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 of the child, the Police must be notified immediately.

If the child is subject to Police Protection the Police must transfer the child as soon as possible to local authority accommodation, though the responsibility for ongoing enquiries and any decision to release the child from police protection remains with the Police.

On receipt of notification that a child has been taken into Police Protection the Team Manager must allocate a Social Worker to undertake an assessment to determine the actions to be taken. Unless there is a specific reason, the assessment should be undertaken in conjunction with a Child Protection Enquiry (Section 47). Please also refer to the Applications for Emergency Protection Orders Procedure. Click here for LCS Guidance.

6. Initial Disposal of Referrals

The initial disposal of a Referral, which must be authorised by the manager, 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, sign-posting to another agency and /or no further action;
  2. That the child appears to be a Child in Need with a moderate level of need, which could be addressed via a Common Assessment and Team Around the Family approach. In which case, the manager may instruct that contact is made with the referrer to discuss a Families First and Early Help Module approach, or may instruct discussion with the Targeted Advice Service to mobilise support services;
  3. That the child appears to be a Child in Need with a high level of need, which must result in a Child and Family Assessment;
  4. That it is suspected that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer from Significant Harm, which will result in a Child and Family Assessment, with a view to conducting a Strategy Discussion, prior to a Section 47 Enquiry and Child and Family Assessment commencing.

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, 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. Information Sharing Consent Form should be used as appropriate.

7. Acknowledgement and Feedback to Referrers

Regardless of whether the child is, or is not, already open to Specialist and Safeguarding Teams. a Team Manager will ensure that the referrer is contacted, in one working day:

  • To acknowledge his/her referral;
  • To confirm the actions to be taken following his/her contact/referral. This will usually by phone. Where contact by telephone is not possible, s/he will do this in writing.

Exact details on the next steps to be taken should be shared, or not, depending on who the referrer is and in line with data protection/information sharing arrangements. If the referrer is referring on behalf of someone else or has made the decision to refer on information s/he have received, s/he will be reminded that it is his/her responsibility to feed back to the person s/he received the information from. (Again, in line with data protection/information sharing arrangements; these may need to be clarified or discussed with the referrer).

If the receiving Team Manager feels the contact/referral that has been sent to him/her is inappropriate for that team and that re-direction of the contact/referral can be achieved within the same working day, the new receiving team will be responsible for acknowledging the contact. If the Team Manager does not feel re-direction can be achieved within the same working day, that Team Manager is responsible for keeping the referrer updated until team responsibility is achieved. (Followed by acknowledgement from the team who assume case responsibility).

The holding team must actively respond to identification of risk or harm first, and satisfy themselves that there are protective factors in place, then look at transferring the case between teams.

This will be recorded on LCS. Click here for LCS Guidance.

8. Recording of Referrals

Contacts and Referrals meeting the threshold for social care, or where close to meeting the threshold, should be recorded on LCS. Click here for LCS Guidance.

9. Case Allocation Considerations

Should an action following a referral include the provision of support from one of the social work teams, the allocation of each child who is a full-time or part-time member of a household to the same caseworker should always be considered. When household members are allocated to different caseworkers the respective social workers must  keep themselves aware of the care plans for each child so that these are consistent and the work is well coordinated.