Contacts and Referrals


This chapter should be read in conjunction with:

What is Early Help?

Wirral SCB: Multi-agency Thresholds

DfE, Information Sharing Advice for Safeguarding Practitioners

1. Introduction

Wirral Council's Integrated Front Door (IFD) has a responsibility to accurately identify the needs of children, young people and their parents and carers and to ensure that the appropriate services and support are provided at the right time allowing safeguarding outcomes to be achieved and sustained.

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is a joint responsibility with Wirral Council and Partner Agencies. The sharing of information between Professionals and local agencies is essential for effective identification, assessment and service provision.

Part of the IFD process is to determine whether a Single Assessment is required or whether requests for service into Children's Social Care could be appropriately dealt with by another single agency or through a multi-disciplinary Team Around the Family (TAF) approach using the Family Common Assessment Framework (Family CAF).

This document reflects the guidance issued in Working Together to Safeguard Children and details the procedure from the point of a request for service being received, providing advice and information, consulting with Professionals, progressing requests for service, that cannot be signposted elsewhere through the MASH screening process and to a referral which will be allocated to Social Workers in the Locality Teams for assessment.

This procedure should be read in conjunction with the Integrated Working Guide and the Wirral Safeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual.

2. Initial Contacts

An Initial Contact is made where Children's Social Care is contacted about a child, who may be a child in need, and where there is a request for general advice, information or a service.

All contacts need to be considered alongside thresholds for Children in Need and/or the CAF criteria and a decision made within 24 hours regarding the level of response required.

At any time, an Initial Contact may become a Referral if it appears that services may be required for a Child in Need.

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 data-base.

The common assessment framework (CAF) is not a referral form, although it may be used to support a referral or a specialist assessment.

In all other cases, at the point when an Initial Contact is made, the duty 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.

The duty worker should also check the electronic data-base records to see if the child or family is known and, if known, retrieve information on them. Any such information should be passed to the allocated social worker if there is one, and otherwise to the duty social worker. (See Section 5, Screening Process.)

If an Early Help Professional has concerns regarding a child's welfare they should request a consultation with the Locality Social Worker. The Locality Social Worker will then record the consultation on the child's file. If after consultation the Locality Social Worker believes that the needs of the child meet the Level 4 threshold for intervention a discussion will be held with the staff at the IFD to confirm threshold. (Please see Wirral Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual, Thresholds for Services to Children in Need Procedure).

If the IFD is in agreement that the child's needs meet the Level 4 threshold for intervention the Locality Social Worker will advise the Professional to complete a Request for Services Form, this is available on Wirral Intranet.

3. Referrals

An Initial Contact will be progressed to a Referral where the social worker or 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 abuse, mental illness, substance misuse and/or learning difficulties.

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

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

The social worker will arrange to visit or 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 agreement to referral.

4. Timescales

Once received, all Referrals 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, the social worker should make a decision about the type of response that is required. This will include determining whether:

  • The child requires immediate protection and urgent action is required;
  • There is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, and whether enquires must be made and the child assessed under section 47 of the Children Act 1989;
    (See Wirral Safeguarding Children Partnership, Contacts and Referrals Procedure.)
  • The child is in need, and should be assessed under section 17 of the Children Act 1989;
  • Any services are required by the child and family and what type of services; and
  • Further specialist assessments are required in order to help the local authority to decide what further action to take.

5. Screening Process

The Integrated Front Door operates between the hours of 9.00am and 5.00pm, with the Emergency Duty Team operating out of office hours, weekends and Bank Holidays. The Emergency Duty Team threshold is different to that of Integrated Front Door Team and should only be used to share information where there are immediate safeguarding concerns for a child.

(For Contact details see the Local Resources.)

5.1 Request for Service

A request for service form is required from professionals when they have concerns that a child's needs are not being met or they have safeguarding concerns. If professionals need advice they must follow the consultation process as above prior to submitting the request for service.

A request for service can only be accepted when IFD agree the threshold and consent has been obtained except for Level 4 or where further information needs to be gathered to consider whether a child is in need and therefore requires a service. This decision should be made within one working day.

5.2 Information Gathering

If a Professional or member of the public contacts the Integrated Front Door (IFD) the initial call or correspondence will be dealt with by a Call Advisor.

The Call Advisor will gather the minimum information required to help them to make a decision on where to direct the call or correspondence.

The Call Advisor will then do a check on Liquid Logic, in both the Early Help and LCS module. Liquid Logic is the database used by Wirral Council to record information on children who have been brought to their attention and then any subsequent referrals and actions, this database will also identify if the child is known to Specialist Services, is an open case or closed.

5.3 Open Cases

If it is an open case the Call Advisor will record the relevant information on Liquid Logic and transfer the caller or correspondence to the responsible Social Work Team.

If anyone other than a Professional, contacts the IFD, the Call Advisor will not give any information out about the case or its status.

5.4 New Cases

For all new cases the Call Advisor will consult the Social Workers at IFD for a threshold decision, in some circumstances they may need to transfer the call or correspondence directly.

The Social Worker will speak to the person to discuss their concerns for the welfare of the child.

The Social Worker will accurately record the information which had been discussed on Liquid Logic and gather as much information as possible to enable a decision about the level of need

The Social Worker will take the following actions according to the level of identified need:

Level 4

If the Social Worker has received a call or correspondence from a Professional which they have identified as meeting the threshold for Level 4 intervention, they will ask the professional to complete a Request for Services form within 24 hours.

If a child is subject to a Team around the Family (TAF) or Family Common Assessment Framework (Family CAF) the Social Worker must ask the Professional to attach the Family CAF document to the Request for Services Form

The Social Worker must ensure that all the details on the Liquid Logic system are correct and that all the relevant information has been recorded.

When a request for service is received by the IFD, and recorded onto the child's file, the IFD will review the information to determine if it meets the threshold for Specialist Services under Section 17 or Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

When a decision is reached regarding Level 4 Threshold, risk of Significant Harm or likelihood of significant harm, the request for service will be RAG rated accordingly, will be progressed through the MASH module, proceeding to a referral in Liquid Logic; before being sent out to the Locality Teams for assessment. Under S17 Children Act 89. If the concerns are of a safeguarding nature the First Response Team, based in the IFD will manage all new S47 investigations.

If the Level 4 safeguarding has been identified the IFD and MASH screening process have a timescale of up to 4 hours to gather information from Multi Agency Partners. While MASH is being processed, the request for service is assigned to the First Response Team or Locality Teams if it's an open case for a Strategy Meeting to be undertaken, therefore preventing delay for the referred child/children.

If a request for services is Level 4 Child in Need, with clear evidence within the contact, that the threshold is met for Specialist Services, this will be processed from the request for service through the MASH module with a RED Rating, where MASH has up to 4 hours to gather information from Multi Agency Partners. The MASH Manager/ASWP will direct a timescale in which MASH information will need to be gathered. MASH Social Worker will send out the request for information sharing under MASH, informing of when the information will be required to be returned and by use of the Threshold document make a recommendation on whether Threshold for Specialist Services is met, and if so, why it is met.

When a request for service is received, where concerns are raised that sit between Level 3 and Level 4 Threshold, and further information is required from multi agency partners to inform threshold decision, the request for service will be progressed through the MASH screening process with an AMBER Rating, where MASH has 7 hours to gather multi agency information. The MASH Manager/ASWP will direct a timescale in which this information will need to be gathered. MASH Social Worker will send out the request for information sharing under MASH, informing of when the information will be required to be returned and by use of the Threshold document make a recommendation on whether Threshold for Specialist Services is met, and if so, why it is met.

The information gathered within the MASH may raise the MASH rating to RED as multi agency information may highlight immediate safeguarding concerns – therefore the MASH Manager/ASWP will discuss with appropriate Locality Team Manager on open cases and First response team on all new cases and will recommend a Strategy meeting. If the threshold is not met, the Social Worker will recommend whether the request for service should be stepped down to Early Help and CAF team.

On occasions it is necessary to screen using the MASH module under a GREEN rating to assist in the threshold making decision, these requests for service do not meet Level 4 Threshold, but by the gathering of information from Multi Agency Partners, alongside holding a MASH Meeting, appropriate support services can be identified, Lead Professional agreed and agreement for CAF/TAF to be implemented. MASH GREEN can be completed in up to 24 hours.

It is not possible for MASH to be undertaken on every request for service reviewed by the IFD

The MASH Manager/ASWP will place a rationale onto Liquid Logic explaining the reasons why the threshold for Level 4 intervention has been met.

The Social Worker will complete a feedback form to the Professional within 24 hours of a decision being made In respect of threshold and recommended action and wherever possible inform the child and family of the action to be taken.

Where a request for service was made by a member of the public the Social Worker will provide feedback in a way which will respect the confidentiality of the child.

Level 3 or Level 2

If the Social Worker at IFD establishes that the information received does not meet Level 4 intervention but does meet the need for Level 3 or Level 2 intervention the Professional will be asked to complete a request for services form and send it to Early Help and CAF Team.

The Social Worker will record the outcome on Liquid Logic as 'referred to Early Help'.

The Social Worker will notify Early help that they have asked a Professional to complete a Request for Services Form.

The MASH Manager/ASWP will review every Social Worker decision to pass the case on to Early Help and record and sign off their rationale and decision making.

Where a request for service was made by a member of the public the Social Worker will provide feedback in a way which will respect the confidentiality of the child.

Level 1

If the Social Worker at the IFD decides that the child's needs can be met by universal services they will offer advice to the 'referrer' and record the outcome on Liquid Logic.

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, in which case, the manager may authorise an assessment;
  3. That the child appears to be a Child in Need with a high level of need, which must result in an Assessment;
  4. That 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 Child Protection Enquiries (Section 47) Procedure.)

Professional referrers should be advised of the disposal of the referral.

Feedback on the outcome of the 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.

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.

7. Recording of Referrals

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

8. Incoming Contacts to the EDT (Out of Hours)

During the out of office hour's period an EDT Social Worker will prioritise all the calls received. The Social Worker will make a decision to whether the caller can be safely advised to contact the IFD or the responsible District Social Work Team the following day. All calls must be recorded in Liquid Logic.

Those Contacts that require urgent assessment and response will be recorded on Liquid Logic and will be dealt with by EDT.

For open cases the request for service will be transferred on Liquid Logic to the responsible social work team to deal with during office hours.

See Referral to Emergency Duty Team Procedure.