Contacts and Referrals


This guidance was amended in March 2021, to reflect changes from the revised Working Together to Safeguard Children.

1. Introduction

Anyone who has concerns about a child's welfare can make a referral to the Children's Services Trust Referrals can come from the child themselves, practitioners such as teachers, early year's providers, the police, probation service, GPs and health visitors as well as family members and members of the public.

Contacts from practitioners to the Children's Services Trust services usually fall in to three categories:

  • Requests for information from the Children's Services Trust;
  • Provision of information such as notifications about a child or their family;
  • Requests, for services for a child, which will be in the form of a referral.

The Children's Services Trust will clarify with the referrer the nature of the concerns and how and why they have arisen.

The Multi-Agency Threshold Guidance provides guidance about the criteria for making and receiving referrals.

The child must be seen by a qualified social worker as soon as possible following a referral and the child's needs and safety remain paramount at all times.

For more information on how to make a referral, including a link to the online referral form, please see the Doncaster Safeguarding Children Partnership website.

2. The Duty to Refer

All practitioners have a responsibility to refer a child to the Children's Services Trust under section 11 of the Children Act 2004 if they believe or suspect that the child:

  • Has suffered significant harm;
  • Is likely to suffer significant harm;
  • Has a disability, developmental and welfare needs which are likely only to be met through provision of family support services (with agreement of the child's parent) under the Children Act 1989;
  • Is a Child in Need whose development would be likely to be impaired without provision of services.

When practitioners make a referral to the Children's Services Trust, they should include any pre-existing assessments such as an Early Help Assessment in respect of the child. Any information they have about the child's developmental needs, and the capacity of their parents and carers to meet these within the context of their wider family and environment should also be provided as a part of the referral information.

The referrer must always have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified social worker.

Where a child or young person is admitted to a mental health facility, practitioners should consider whether a referral to local authority children's social care is necessary.

3. Making a Referral

For all referrals to the Children's Services Trust, the child should be regarded as potentially a Child in Need, and the referral should be evaluated on the same day that it was received. A decision must be made by a qualified social worker supported by line manager within 1 working day about the type of response that is required.

New referrals and referrals on closed cases should be made to the Children's Services Trust duty social worker. Referrals on open cases should be made to the child's allocated social worker (or in their absence their manager or the duty social worker).

The referrer should provide information about their concerns and any information they may have gathered in an assessment that may have taken place prior to making the referral. The referrer will be asked for information about some of the following:

  • Full names (including aliases and spelling variations), date of birth and gender of all child/ren in the household;
  • Family address and (where relevant) school / nursery attended;
  • Identity of those with parental responsibility and any other significant adults who may be involved in caring for the child such as grandparents;
  • Names and date of birth of all household members, if available;
  • Where available, the child's NHS number and education UPN number;
  • Ethnicity, first language and religion of children and parents;
  • Any special needs of children or parents;
  • Any significant/important recent or historical events/incidents in child or family's life;
  • Cause for concern including details of any allegations, their sources, timing and location;
  • Child's current location and emotional and physical condition;
  • Whether the child needs immediate protection;
  • Details of alleged perpetrator, if relevant;
  • Referrer's relationship and knowledge of child and parents;
  • Known involvement of other agencies / practitioners (e.g. GP);
  • Information regarding parental knowledge of, and agreement to, the referral;
  • The child's views and wishes, if known.

Other information may be relevant and some information may not be available at the time of making the referral. However, there should not be a delay in order to collect information if the delay may place the child at risk of significant harm.

When sharing information about a child or family with Children's Social Care, it is good practice for practitioners to be transparent about their concerns and to seek to work cooperatively with parents or / carers. Practitioners should therefore usually inform parents or / carers (and the child depending on their age and level of understandings) that they are going to make a referral.

However, referrals can be made without first informing parents or/ carers where to do so would place a child at risk.

Where a practitioner makes a referral without informing the parents / carers this must be recorded in the child's file with reasons and confirmed in the referral.

All telephone referrals from practitioners should be confirmed in writing, by the referrer, within 48 hours. If the referrer has not received an acknowledgement within 3 working days, they should contact the Children's Services Trust again.

4. Receiving a Referral

The social worker will discuss the concerns with the referrer and considered any previous records in relation to the child and family in their agency. The social worker will establish:

  • The nature of the concerns;
  • How and why they have arisen;
  • The child's views, if known;
  • What the child's and the family's needs appear to be;
  • Whether the family are aware of the referral and whether they are in agreement with it or not;
  • Whether the concern involves abuse or neglect; and
  • Whether there is any need for any urgent action to protect the child or any other children in the household or community.

A decision to discuss the referral with other agencies without parental knowledge should be authorised by a manager from the Children's Services Trust, and the reasons recorded.

This checking and information gathering stage must involve an immediate assessment of any concerns about either the child's health and development, or actual and/or potential harm, which justify further enquiries, assessments and/or interventions.

Interviews with the child, if appropriate, should take place in a safe environment. All interviews with the child and family members should be undertaken in their preferred language and where appropriate for some people by using non-verbal communication methods.

A manager from the Childrens' Services Trust should be informed by a social worker of any referrals where there is reasonable cause to consider Section 47 Enquiries and authorise the decision to initiate action. If the child and / or family are known to other agencies or the facts clearly indicate that a Section 47 Enquiry is required, the Children's Services Trust should initiate a strategy meeting/discussion immediately, and together with other agencies determine how to proceed.

South Yorkshire Police must be informed at the earliest opportunity if a crime may have been committed. The police should assist other agencies to carry out their responsibilities, where there are concerns about the child's welfare, whether or not a crime has been committed.

5. Concluding a Referral

At the end of the referral discussion, the referrer and Children's Services Trust should be clear about the proposed action, who will be taking it, timescales and whether no further action will be taken.

Referral outcomes about a child, where there may be concerns, typically fall in to four categories and pathways:

  • No further action, which may include information to signpost to other agencies;
  • Early Help - referrals for intervention and prevention services within the Early Help services range of provision;
  • Child in Need services - assessment to be undertaken by the Children's Services Trust (Section 17 CA 1989);
  • Child Protection services – assessment and child protection enquiries to be undertaken by the Children's Services Trust (Section 47 CA 1989) with active involvement of other agencies such as the police.

Whatever the outcome of a referral, it should have been assessed by a qualified social worker and a decision should have been made by the relevant line manager within the time scale of 1 working day about what should happen next. The manager from the Children's Services Trust must approve the outcome of the referral and ensure that a record has been commenced and/or updated.

The social worker should inform, in writing, all the relevant agencies and the child, if appropriate, and family of their decisions and, if the child is a Child in Need, of the plan for providing support.

In the case of referrals from members of the public, feedback must be consistent with the rights to confidentiality of the child and their family.

If the referrer disagrees with the decisions made by the Children's Services Trust about the outcome of the referral, they may consider making a complaint under the local Complaint Procedure or raise the matter under the Resolving Professional Differences Protocol.

The child and parents should be routinely informed about local procedures for raising complaints, if they wish to, and local advocacy services.