Where a referral is received by social work services or the police, they will carry out an assessment of the information received. If this assessment indicates a very low level of concern, the social worker or police officer may ask another agency to help the family. If the information suggests that the child may be at risk of harm social work services or the police will follow these child protection procedures.
- treat every referral seriously
- keep the referrer informed about progress
- work together and decide how best to progress the matter
- gather together all of the information available
- jointly assess and analyse this information
- make decisions based upon such information
Except in urgent situations, social work services or the police will not independently enter into any course of action without due consideration with partner agencies.
How to do it
In deciding what course of action to take, the social worker and their team leader should consider:
- whether the child is at risk of significant harm
- what, or who, is posing a danger
- how serious the situation is
- how urgent it is
- whether the parents/carers are requesting help
- whether it is possible to work with the parents/carers. If so, what will need to be done to achieve this?
- what are the views of the child or young person
- whether there are others who may also be at risk.
Any agency accepting a referral must keep children and their parents involved and informed throughout the assessment, planning and implementation stages, unless this would place the child at further risk.
All workers who continue to have a role should keep themselves and other professionals involved and informed throughout, but the social worker taking the referral carries the responsibility to feedback to the referrer promptly.
Lessons from research
Research by Eileen Munro points out that people tend to make a judgment about other people, or a situation, very quickly. Once they have done this, they tend to focus on information that confirms their view while ignoring information that contradicts it. Because of this, when discussing a case the manager should ask the worker to consider other points of view.
Workers in the Victoria Climbié case began to mirror the distorted belief system of her great aunt, Marie-Therese Kouao, that somehow Victoria was herself responsible for all their problems. Workers failed to act, because what they saw was too painful to acknowledge. We often fail to acknowledge the emotional impact on workers; supervisors and practitioners should take this into account. See Cooper A: Surface and Depth in the Victoria Climbié Report, in Child and Family Social Work, Vol 10, Issue 1 (2005).
Assumptions and pre-judgments about families may lead to observations being ignored or misinterpreted. Workers should ask, what were my assumptions about this family? What, if any, is the hard evidence that supports, or refutes, these assumptions?
See Cleaver H, Wattam C and Cawson P: Assessing Risk in Child Protection, London, NSPCC (1998).