The social worker coordinating the initial enquiries will approach other agencies with requests for information e.g. police, education, health etc. The worker should make clear the nature and purpose of the request, and record the request and the response in writing. However the social worker should contact the police early in the process to discuss whether a joint or single agency response is appropriate.
The safety of the child takes precedence over the need to maintain professional confidentiality. It is the responsibility of each agency or individual worker to contribute all the relevant information when requested and not just edited highlights.
The focus at the initial enquiry stage is about whether abuse has taken place or the child is at risk of abuse. Consideration will also be given to the immediate risk or danger to the child. Where there is immediate risk to the child there may be need for police to take immediate action to protect the child. There should be ongoing assessment of the risk to the child and appropriate consideration given to the use of emergency protection measures as necessary. No single definition of the degree of concern or level of risk can be given. It will remain a complex matter, subject to professional judgment based on an assessment. In assessing significant harm, a number of factors should be considered:
- the duration and severity of the abuse;
- the actual, or potential, impact on the child’s health/development/welfare;
- the context of any alleged incident: age of the child, level of understanding;
- parental attitude and willingness to co-operate;
- the presence or absence of any protective factors;
- the child’s reactions and/or view.
Once the initial enquiries have been completed social work services in partnership with other agencies will have the following options:
- Child protection procedures are invoked
- Single agency assessment/support
- Multi-agency assessment (IAF)
- No further action required
Initial enquiries will be made by social work to establish whether a child is in need of protection. Decisions about how child protection concerns will be responded to should be made promptly and not later than 24 hours from the initial contact. These initial enquiries should commence immediately and be completed as soon as possible following the referral being received. The focus of the initial enquiries should be the safety and welfare of the child. Even if the reason for a referral was a concern about abuse or neglect which is not subsequently substantiated, a family may still benefit from support and practical help to promote a child’s health and development.
Information may already be available if a referral is received about a child already known to social work or another agency. Decisions made following the new referral must take account of all the known information and the work currently being undertaken and of any assessment already made including the possibility of using South Ayrshire’s GiRFEC framework.
The initial enquiries will consider and record information available from other agencies known about the children and family, including:
- Adding to what information is already known about the child and their family
- All names, alternative names and dates of birth of adults and children in the family and in the household
- Details of those holding parental responsibilities
- Other significant information including legal status of the children
- Checks of social work records in respect of family members, including the child protection register, to identify any previous contact and concerns
- Contact with the police to determine whether any information about adults in the household may heighten concerns, and whether a criminal offence may have been committed or is likely to be committed and that the police would wish to pursue through a joint investigation
- Contact with staff from relevant agencies who are already involved with the child and family, including health and education to establish their present involvement and views of the current concerns.
Following the initial enquiries there will be four possible outcomes:
- No further action
- Referral for support services if preliminary enquiries have revealed significant unmet needs for support and services and the consideration of a reporters referral.
- A child protection investigation is required to protect the child.
- A further assessment
If it becomes clear during the initial enquiry process that a child is in need of immediate protection and formal child protection action is required then social work services will initiate a child protection investigation.