Referrals to Children’s and Adults’ Services
There are several ways to support families, even if you are inexperienced in dealing with some of the Think Family issues.
In the first instance, speak to your supervisor, line manager and/or designated safeguarding officer for advice; identify and record:
- The names and ages of any children and young people in the family and their relationship to the adults in their family, whether they live with them or not;
- The names and relationship of any vulnerable adults in the family;
- Parenting and caring responsibilities (whether an Adult or a Young Carer);
- Which other services for children and adults are currently involved with the family.
Discuss any concerns with the family and make a judgement about whether other services need to become involved. You will need the family’s consent to make referrals to other services for children or vulnerable adults unless this places a child or vulnerable adult at increased risk of significant harm. The best interests of the child and/or vulnerable adult must be the overriding concern.
There is a list of local and national agencies on the Resources page.
When any referral is accepted by Children’s Social Care an assessment will be undertaken which should be planned jointly with other involved professionals, unless the concerns are so urgent that immediate action needs to be taken to ensure the child’s safety.
Where information gathered indicates the potential risk of significant harm to the child; child protection procedures must be initiated and the assessment conducted in accordance with these procedures
Where Children’s Social Care are involved with a family where the parent or person with significant caring responsibility for children appears to have complex needs which may affect their parenting, the practitioner should discuss with the parent whether they are receiving any support from any other service and whether they will consent to have information shared with other practitioners. The benefits to the family of sharing information should be explained.
If there are concerns relating to the parent’s needs, and no other services are involved, the parent’s GP should be contacted by the social worker in the first instance for his/her view of the family situation. Whether a referral for primary or secondary services is required should be discussed. This is particularly important where there is an unborn or very young child. Where nursing, midwifery, school nurse, health visitors services are being used, they should also be involved.
If the parent is already receiving support from services, the children’s services practitioner should contact the practitioner involved, and use their expertise and experience to help assess and review the parent’s current and potential capacity to meet the child’s needs and develop a joint agreed plan which takes into account both the parent and child’s needs.
Consideration and review must also be given to new relationships forming for the parent where there are complex needs where this may present a new dynamic to home life.
Checklist for Children Services
Children’s Services will, throughout their involvement with children and their families:
- employ a policy of openness with families where information from other agencies impacts on planning for the child;
- seek consent from family members to share information with other agencies in the best interests of the child (but bear in mind this should only be done if the discussion and agreement-seeking will not place a child at increased risk of significant harm);
- be clear whether an assessment using the Single Assessment Framework (SAF) has been undertaken and, if so, its outcomes;
- use Signs of Safety Approach;
- assess the unborn child’s needs and identify desired outcomes for the child;
- assess the child’s needs and identify desired outcomes for the child;
- provide a child-focused service to families with whom they are involved;
- ensure that the wishes and feelings of child/ren are ascertained;
- ensure the child is given the opportunity to be seen/heard on their own, but be aware that the child’s view of what is acceptable may be influenced by exposure to drug or alcohol abuse, or other factors (e.g. domestic abuse);
- check with other teams where parents receive services for their complex needs and particularly where there is an unborn or very young child and make sure that the assessment includes both partners, not just the mother;
- consult with primary and secondary mental health services, learning disability and substance misuse teams for information to support assessment of parenting capacity, and for realistic assessment of any risk even where there are no apparent safeguarding issues, undertaking joint assessment where possible;
- invite representatives for example mental health, learning disability and substance misuse team practitioners to Child Protection Conferences where they are involved with the family;
- together with relevant agencies, identify roles and responsibilities for any ongoing work with the family: a meeting is preferable where decisions need to be made and owned.
Effective inter-agency communication and multi-agency co-operation is crucial to the management of on-going work with parents who have complex needs and their families. When practitioners receive new information that is likely to affect a previous assessment upon parenting, they must pass this information on to the other agencies involved, so that, if necessary, a reassessment of the situation can be triggered. There must also be clarity with regard to the different roles and responsibilities undertaken by different workers and a decision made regarding coordination, so that this is not left to the parent.
Child Protection Conferences
It is expected that representatives from the appropriate statutory and voluntary agencies will attend Conferences, and if they cannot, that they will provide the Conference with a written report. Representatives may also be required to attend Core Group meetings, where detailed plans to protect children are made, following the Conferences.
GPs have a particularly important role to play because they hold key information regarding the family. They are the single point for holding an individual’s health information and usually the first point of contact for a person with the health service.
Parents and where appropriate, children and young people, are encouraged to attend conferences however, they may be excluded if they are under the influence of substances at the time of the conference to such an extent that they are unable to participate effectively. Parents are invited to bring someone to support them or an advocate to the conference. Their key worker from the Drug/Alcohol, Mental Health or Adult Services should be invited to attend by the social worker where the needs of parents are seen to potentially impact on the child. The key worker will be part of the professional network and will be expected to contribute to the decision-making and be clear as to what their service can offer to the Child Protection Plan.