Click on the below links to access the Multi-Agency Referral Form for:
There is also Multi-Agency Referral Form (MARF) Guidance for each area see:
For additional guidance, please also see What to do if you're worried that a child is being abused (March 2015).
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in March 2021 to reflect changes from the revised Working Together to Safeguard Children.
1. Duty to Refer
Anyone who has concerns about a child's welfare should make a referral to Children's Social Care Services. For example, referrals may come from: children themselves, practitioners such as teachers, Early Years providers, the Police, Probation Service, a GP, health visitors, helpers, carers and volunteers in all agencies, family members and members of the public.
When there are concerns about Significant Harm, the referral must be made immediately. The greater the level of perceived risk, the more urgent the action should be. The suspicion or allegation may be based on information which comes from different sources. It may arise in the context of the Early Help Assessment Procedure. It may come from a member of the public, the child concerned, another child, a family member or professional staff. It may relate to a single incident or an accumulation of lower level concerns.
The information may also relate to harm caused by another child, in which case both children, i.e. the suspected perpetrator and victim, must be referred - see also Harmful Sexual Behaviour Procedure.
The suspicion or allegation may relate to a parent, professional, volunteer or anyone caring for or working with the child - if so, see also Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children Procedure.
Contact from practitioners must be made even if it is known that Children's Social Care Services are already involved with the child/family.
Each agency must have its own initial process for responding to reported concerns about children. This should include quickly identifying:
- What the concern is: - what indicates that the child/family is in need of support or protection;
- Evidence of the concern and its possible impact on the child;
- What the agency has done about the concern;
- The impact of actions taken already;
- Other relevant knowledge of the child and family.
In relation to the above, concerns about a child or young person's welfare must always be recorded whether or not further action is taken.
Practitioners in most agencies should have internal procedures, which identify Designated Senior Persons or Named Practitioners - managers or staff, who are able to offer advice on child protection matters and decide upon the necessity for a referral. Consultation may also be required directly with the local Children's Social Care Services Team or the allocated social worker in Children's Social Care Services.
Referrers should have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified social worker; advice and consultation may be sought about the appropriateness of the referral from the local Children's Social Care Services or, if the case is open, from the allocated social worker. At the end of the conversation between the social worker and the professional an agreement will be reached about whether this enquiry will proceed to a referral. If it appears that the concern is not one of child protection, but may require the provision of other children's social care services, the referring agency has to seek the consent of the parents for assessment by Children's Social Care Services to proceed. See also Child in Need Assessment and Plan Procedure.
Where consultation is sought and Children's Social Care Services then conclude that a referral is required; the information provided so far must be regarded and responded to as a referral, and the referrer must be advised accordingly and must confirm their referral in writing.
When practitioners refer a child, they should include any information they have on the child's developmental needs and the capacity of the child's parents or carers to meet those needs. This information may be included in any assessment, including the Early Help Assessment, which may have been carried out prior to a referral into Children's Social Care Services. Where an Early Help Assessment has already been undertaken it should be used to support a referral to Children's Social Care Services, however this is not a prerequisite for making a referral.
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.
Within one working day of a referral being received, a local authority social worker should make a decision about the type of response that is required and acknowledge receipt to the referrer.WHEN IN DOUBT, CONCERNS MUST BE SHARED.
2. Urgent Medical Treatment
If the child requires emergency medical treatment, appropriate action should be taken. The medical staff treating the child should be made aware of the nature of concerns. A referral should be made by the person with the concerns in accordance with this procedure, as soon as practicably possible.
Where there is no urgent medical need, but medical advice is sought, the child should be referred for a community medical, in normal working hours.
3. Ensuring Immediate Safety
The safety of children is paramount in all decisions relating to their welfare. Any action taken by staff should ensure that no child is left in immediate danger.
When considering whether immediate action is required to protect a child, all agencies should also consider whether action is required to safeguard and protect the welfare of any other children in the same household or related to the household or the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere e.g. a work environment such as a school.
The law empowers anyone who has care of a child to do all that is reasonable in the circumstances to safeguard her/his welfare.
A teacher, foster carer, child minder or any practitioner should, for example, take all reasonable steps to offer a child immediate protection from an abusive parent.
Where abuse is alleged, suspected or confirmed in children admitted to hospital, they must not be discharged until a referral has been made to the relevant Children's Social Care Services team in accordance with this procedure and a decision made as to the need for immediate protective action.
A referral should be made to Children Social Care where a child presents in the hospital and their presentation gives reasonable cause to suspect that their child is or is likely to suffer significant harm so that a strategy discussion can be convened.
The safety and welfare of the child overrides all other considerations, including the following:
- The gathering of evidence;
- Commitment or loyalty to relatives, friends or colleagues.
For further details, see Information Sharing Procedure and Appendix 1: Information Sharing Agreement for the Purposes of Safeguarding Children.
The overriding consideration must be the protection of the child - for this reason, absolute confidentiality cannot and should not be promised to anyone.
For guidance in relation to making a referral relating to under-age sexual activity, see Underage Sexual Activity Procedure and Safeguarding Children and Young People from Child Sexual Exploitation Procedure.
For guidance in relation to making a referral relating to Forced Marriage, see Forced Marriage Procedure. Practitioners may have only 'one chance' to save a life by speaking to a potential victim. If a victim is allowed to walk out of the door without support being offered, that chance is wasted.
If suspicions or allegations are about relatives, friends or colleagues, practitioners or otherwise, the concerns must not be discussed with them before making the referral.
Individual members of the public who make a referral may prefer not to give their name or alternatively they may disclose their identity, but not wish for it to be revealed to the parents/carers of the child concerned.
Wherever possible, Children's Social Care Services workers receiving referrals from members of the public should respect the referrer's request for anonymity. However, referrers should not be given any guarantees of confidentiality, as there are certain limited circumstances in which the identity of a referrer may have to be given e.g. the Criminal or Family Court arena. The referrer's request for anonymity must be recorded.
N.B. Referrals made by practitioners can never be anonymous.
5. Listening to the Child
If the child makes an allegation or discloses information which raises concern about Significant Harm, the initial response should be limited to listening carefully to what the child says so as to:
- Clarify the concerns;
- Offer reassurance about how s/he will be kept safe; and
- Explain that the information will be passed to Children's Social Care Services and/or the Police.
If a child is freely recalling events, the response should be to listen, rather than stop the child; however, it is important that the child should not be asked to repeat the information to a colleague or asked to write the information down.
If the child has an injury but no explanation is volunteered, it is acceptable to enquire how the injury was sustained. In cases of sexual abuse it is also acceptable to clarify when the abuse took place as this will allow police to assess actions around forensic timescales.
However, the child must not be pressed for information, led or cross-examined or given false assurances of absolute confidentiality. Such well-intentioned actions could prejudice Police investigations, especially in cases of Sexual Abuse.
A record of all conversations, (including the timings, the setting, those present, as well as what was said by all parties) and actions must be kept. Sighting of any physical injuries should also be recorded, including shape, size, and colour. The site of the injury/ies should be noted on a body map. See Body Maps for more information. Photographs should only be taken by Police or social workers who are investigating suspected significant harm.
If the child can understand the significance and consequences of making a referral, he/she should be asked her/his views by the referring professional.
Whilst the child's views should be considered, it remains the responsibility of the professional to take whatever action is required to ensure the safety of that child and any other children.
6. Parental Consultation
Practitioners should seek, in general, to discuss concerns with the family and, where possible seek the family's agreement to making a referral unless this may, either by delay or the behavioural response it prompts or for any other reason, place the child at increased likelihood of suffering Significant Harm and/or could lead to the loss of evidence. See Information sharing: advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services.
A decision by any professional not to seek parental permission before making a referral to Children's Social Care Services must be approved by their manager, recorded and the reasons given.
Where a parent has agreed to a referral, this must be recorded and confirmed on the relevant Referral Form.
Where the parent is consulted and refuses to give permission for the referral, further advice and approval should be sought from a manager or the Designated Senior Person or Named Professional, unless to do so would cause undue delay. The outcome of the consultation and any further advice should be fully recorded.
If, having taken full account of the parent's wishes, it is still considered that there is a need for a referral:
- The reason for proceeding without parental agreement must be recorded;
- The Children's Social Care Services team should be told that the parent has withheld her/his permission;
- The parent should be contacted by the referring professional to inform her/him that after considering their wishes, a referral has been made.
7. Making a Referral
Referrals must be made in one of the following ways:
It is expected that any practitioner wanting to make a referral to Leicester, will in the first instance call their 'One Front Door' on 0116 454 1004 and discuss the details of the referral. This should then be followed up by the referrer by submitting an online referral.
See also: Leicester MARF Guidance.
Following the conversation with 'One Front Door' please ensure you tick the box on the final page of the form as to whether you are seeking Early Help support or referring to Children's Social Care. If you are requesting Early Help support, please ensure you complete the box regarding seeking engagement and cooperation below. Please complete all the questions on pages 2 – 5.
If you are from an agency where it has been agreed that you use an internal embedded form please email it securely to firstname.lastname@example.org for Early Help and email@example.com for Children's Social Care.
It is expected that any practitioner wanting to make a referral to Rutland County Council including Early Help and Social Care will in the first instance call their 'Single Front Door' on 01572 758407 and discuss the details of the referral. The expectation is that the referrer will then follow up this phone call with a written referral using this template and email it appropriately marked to firstname.lastname@example.org. Following this conversation please ensure you tick the box on the final page of the form as to whether you are seeking Early Help support or referring to Children's Social Care.
Any practitioner wanting to make a request for service to Leicestershire County Council including Early Help or Social Care should complete a (MARF) form online.
See also: Leicestershire County MARF Guidance.
If there are urgent concerns based on evidence that a child is suffering or at risk of significant harm which requires a Child Protection response this should be reported immediately by telephone on 0116 3050005. A written referral must be submitted to document the information shared within 24 hours. In any case where a professional is unclear if the threshold is met contact should be made with agency safeguarding leads for advice or in complex cases a call can be made to the consultation line on 0116 3055500 between 10:00am and 4:00pm. If there are immediate concerns about risk to the safety of a child, call the Police immediately.
If you are from an agency where it has been agreed with Leicestershire County Council that you use an internal embedded form please send it securely from your secure email account to email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org from cjsm.net addresses).
Leicestershire and Rutland operate an Out of Hours service outside office hours and at weekends and bank holidays service. The OOH team will take any immediate steps to respond to referrals where it is reasonable to suspect that they are suffering or likely to suffer significant harm so that the child/ren are safeguarded. Any work undertaken out of hours will be followed up by the regular office hours Children's Social Care Services:
- All practitioners must confirm verbal and telephone referrals in writing within 24 hours of being made.
In the event that an agency does not agree with the response and decisions about the referral by the Children's Social Care Services, the referring agency should discuss their concerns directly with the line manager of the social worker, in the first instance to seek resolution. See also: Resolving Practitioner Disagreements and Escalation of Concerns Procedure.
Referrals should be made to the Duty Team where the child is living or is found.
If the child is known to have an allocated social worker, referrals should be made directly to the allocated worker or, in their absence, the manager or a duty social worker in that team.
If a child is identified by an agency as being in imminent danger than they should contact the Police for an emergency response by calling 999
Arrangements within an agency may be that a Designated Senior Person or Named Professional makes the referral. However, if the Designated Senior Person or Named Professional is not available, the referral must still be made without delay.
A referral or any urgent medical treatment must not be delayed by the unavailability of designated or named practitioners.
The person making the referral should provide the following information if available - note - absence of information must not delay a referral:
- Full name, any aliases, date of birth and gender of child/children;
- Full family address and any known previous addresses;
- Identity of those with parental responsibility;
- Names, date of birth and information about all household members, including any other children in the family, and significant people who live outside the child's household;
- Ethnicity, first language and religion of children and parents/carers;
- Any need for an interpreter, signer or other communication aid;
- Any special needs of the child/ren;
- Is the child registered at a school or regularly attending a school? If so, identify the school;
- Any significant/important recent or historical events/incidents in the child or family's life;
- Has the child recently spent time abroad or recently arrived in the area?
- Cause for concern including details of any allegations, their sources, timing and location;
- The identity and current whereabouts of the suspected/alleged perpetrator;
- The child's current location and emotional and physical condition;
- Whether the child is currently safe or is in need of immediate protection because of any approaching deadlines (e.g. child about to be collected by alleged abuser);
- The child's account and the parents' response to the concerns if known;
- The referrer's relationship and knowledge of the child and parents/carers;
- Known current or previous involvement of other agencies/practitioners;
- Information regarding parental knowledge of, and agreement to, the referral;
- The social worker should clarify with the referrer, when known, the nature of the concerns and how and why they have arisen.
8. How Referrals will be Received
Children's Social Care Services will ensure that a duty worker is available to receive child protection referrals.
Referrers will have an opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified social worker.
The worker receiving a referral will establish:
- The nature of the concern;
- How and why it has arisen;
- What the child's and family's needs appear to be;
- Whether the concern involves any likelihood of suffering Significant Harm;
- Whether there is any need for any urgent action to protect the child, any other child in the same household or any child in contact with an alleged perpetrator.
To do so, the worker receiving the referral will usually discuss the case with the referrer and in doing so, will:
- Give their name and designation;
- Help the referrer to give as much relevant information as possible and repeat back to the referrer the key points using the order indicated above (see Section 7, Making a Referral);
- Clarify information that the referrer is reporting directly and information that has been obtained from a third party;
- Discuss whether there are concerns about maltreatment and if so, what is their foundation;
- Clarify who has and who has not been told about the referral;
- Determine whether consent has been obtained to refer to Children's Social Care (where necessary);
- Clarify the whereabouts of the child;
- Discuss whether it may be necessary to consider taking urgent action to ensure the safety of the child or any other child in the same household or who is in contact with an alleged perpetrator;
- Agree how to re-contact the referrer if further clarification is required;
- Clarify the extent to which the non-professional referrer's anonymity can be maintained;
- Clarify expectations about how and when feedback is to be given.
Referrers 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.
Agencies investigating the allegation(s) should consider the need for a referral to Adult Social Care in respect of the alleged perpetrator, if there are fears that the allegation(s) may trigger mental health needs which may lead to the possibility of suicide or self-harm.
At the end of any discussion about a child, the referrer (whether a practitioner or a member of the public or family) and the Children's Social Care Services social worker should be clear about timescales and any proposed action and who will be taking it, or if no further action will be taken. The outcome should be recorded by the Children's Social Care Services and by the referrer (if a professional in another service) on the relevant forms including the Referral Form. See Section 10, The Outcome of a Referral and Feedback
Children's Social Care Services should acknowledge receipt of a written referral within ONE working day. If the referrer has not received an acknowledgement within THREE working days they should make contact with the relevant manager in the Children's Social Care Services Team.
The worker receiving the referral must consider whether there are other children in the same household, the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere, who should be considered as the subject of a referral.
The worker receiving the referral will also:
- Check whether the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan and/or whether there has been any previous involvement with the Children's Social Care Services in relation to the child or children concerned and any other members of the household;
- Identify other agencies or persons who may hold relevant information; Where requested to do so by Children's Social Care Services, practitioners 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;
- Consult other agencies as appropriate (including the Police if any offence has been or is suspected to have been committed - see Section 9, Where there is or may be a Crime Committed).
The child and family must be informed of the action to be taken. Parents should be informed of the referral and their permission sought to share information with other agencies unless to do so would:
- Prejudice any investigations or enquiries examples would include interference with witnesses or disposal of evidence such as digital devices or frustrate opportunities for obtaining forensic evidence;
- Be prejudicial to the child's welfare and/or safety;
- Cause concern that the child would be at risk of further Significant Harm.
See also: Information Sharing Procedure.
In these circumstances, a manager from the Children's Social Care Services may decide to consult other relevant agencies without seeking parental consent. Any such decision must be recorded with reasons.
Children's Social Care Services should see the child as soon as possible if the decision is taken that the referral requires further assessment in line with local practice standards.
9. Where there is or may be a Crime Committed
If the referral relates to a situation in which a crime has or may have been committed, including sexual or physical assault or physical injury caused by neglect, the worker receiving the referral must discuss the referral with the Police at the earliest opportunity. The Police, in consultation with Children's Social Care Services and any other agencies involved with the child, must consider whether there should be a criminal investigation and/or a Children's Social Care Services led intervention.
Whilst the responsibility to instigate criminal proceedings rests with the Police, they should consider the view expressed by other agencies. In some circumstances with less serious cases, it may be agreed that the best interests of the child would be served by a Children's Social Care Services led intervention rather than a full Police investigation.
This will need to be discussed carefully and a decision made at a Strategy Discussion.
See also: Underage Sexual Activity Procedure.
10. The Outcome of a Referral and Feedback
The Children's Social Care Services team will decide upon and record their next steps of action within one working day of receiving a referral.
The decision about future action will take account of the discussion with the referrer, consideration of information held in existing records and discussion with any other practitioners or services as necessary (including the Police where a crime against a child may have been committed - see Section 9, Where there is or may be a Crime Committed).
Within one working day of a referral being received the local authority 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;
- The child is in need, and should be assessed under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989;
- 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;
- Any services are required by the child and family and what type of services;
- Further specialist assessments are required in order to help the local authority to decide what further action to take; or
- To see the child as soon as possible if the decision is taken that the referrals requires further assessment in line with local practice standards.
Where the significant harm has been caused by a person who was not previously known to the child or by another child, the decision whether to take further action under these procedures will depend on the following:
- Is the alleged perpetrator likely to pose a likelihood of suffering significant harm to this or any other children?
- Did the parent or carer by omission or commission contribute to the abuse?
Feedback should be given by Children's Social Care Services to the referrer on the decisions taken. Where appropriate, this feedback should include the reasons why a case may not meet the statutory threshold to be considered by Children's Social Care Services for assessment and suggestions for other sources of more suitable support.
In the case of a referral by a member of the public, feedback should be provided in a way which will respect the confidentiality of the child.
11. Emergency Protective Action
Also see: Flowchart: Immediate Protection.
Where there is a risk to the life of a child or the possibility of immediate harm, the Police officer or social worker must use their statutory child protection powers (sections 44 and 46 of the Children Act 1989) to act immediately to secure the safety of the child.
Immediate protection may be achieved by:
- An alleged abuser agreeing to leave the home;
- The removal of the alleged abuser;
- A voluntary agreement for the child to move to a safer place;
- Application for an Emergency Protection Order;
- Removal of the child under powers of Police Protection;
- Gaining entry to the household under Police powers.
The agency taking protective action must always consider whether action is also required to safeguard other children in the same household or in the household of/in contact with an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere.
Children's Social Care Services should only seek the assistance of the Police to use their powers of Police Protection in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) or other reasons relating to the child's immediate safety. An EPO, made by the court, gives authority to remove a child and places them under the protection of the applicant.
Planned immediate protection will normally take place following a Strategy Discussion. For more information, see Strategy Discussion Procedure.
Where a child/ is or children are afforded immediate protection by an Emergency Protection Order or Police Protection the local authority has a duty to initiate Section 47 Enquiry. For more information see Strategy Discussion Procedure.
When considering whether emergency action is necessary an agency should always consider the needs of other children in the same household or in the household of an alleged perpetrator.
The local authority in whose area a child is found in circumstances that require emergency action (the first authority) is responsible for taking emergency action. See Section 12, Cross Boundary Referrals.
If the child is looked after by, or the subject of a Child Protection Plan in another authority, the first authority must consult the authority responsible for the child. Only when the second local authority explicitly accepts responsibility (to be followed up in writing) is the first authority relieved of its responsibility to take emergency action.
Planned emergency action will normally take place following an immediate strategy discussion. Social workers, the Police should:
- Initiate a strategy discussion (including key relevant agencies such as those providing health services, education, etc.) to discuss planned emergency action. Where a single agency has to act immediately, a strategy discussion should take place as soon as possible after action has been taken;
- See the child (this should be done by a practitioner from the agency taking the emergency action) to decide how best to protect them and whether to seek an EPO; and
- Wherever possible, obtain legal advice before initiating legal action, in particular when an EPO is being sought.
12. Cross Boundary Referrals
- Defines the term 'originating authority' as the local authority (LA) where the family or child previously lived or still usually resides;
- Defines the term "host authority" host as the LA to which the child or family has recently moved or where the child or young person actually is at the time the incident occurred;
If the referral relates to a child who is temporarily visiting the area from another local authority, or is in a hospital or is Looked After outside of the Local Authority area, the local authority/Police/ Health services in the area where the child actually is at the time or where the incident occurred have prime responsibility for an initial response to the referral.
It is the host authority's responsibility to undertake any section 47 investigation. However this can be negotiated with the originating authority on a case-by-case basis. Any agreed arrangement must be confirmed in writing.
For those children from other local authority areas, who are the subject of Child Protection Plans, there must be consultation with the responsible allocated Social Worker.
Any relevant personnel from another local authority or agency should be consulted and invited to attend the Strategy Meeting or invited to contribute to the Strategy Discussion. See Strategy Discussions Procedure.
Comprehensive enquiries must be undertaken with the host local authority and any agencies to which the child is known. This must include checking whether the child has a Child Protection Plan.
All enquiries should be confirmed in writing.
The Strategy Discussion/Meeting, clarifying roles, responsibilities and timescales for actions, must be recorded on the relevant Forms and copies of the record distributed within ONE working day, to all relevant parties.For more information, see Children and Families Moving Across Local Authority Boundaries Procedure.
13. Pre-Birth Referrals
Where agencies or individuals anticipate that prospective parents may need support services to care for their baby or that the baby may be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, a referral to Children's Social Care Services must be made as soon as the concerns are recognised.
Where the concerns centre around an aspect of parenting behaviour, for example substance misuse, the referrer must make clear how this is likely to impact on the baby and what risks are predicted.
The referrer should keep a written record of:
- The child's account;
- Discussions with the parent;
- Discussions with managers;
- Information provided to the duty social worker;
- Decisions taken (clearly timed, dated and signed);
- Records should be reviewed with regular intervals to ensure that decisions taken are followed through.
The referrer should confirm verbal and telephone referrals in writing, within 24 hours or by the end of the next working day, using the relevant Multi-Agency Referral Form.
The duty social worker receiving the referral should keep a written record of:
- Discussions with the referrer;
- Discussions with any other practitioners or agencies involved (including the Police where a crime against a child may have been committed);
- Any other relevant information which was taken into account;
- Discussions with managers;
- Decisions taken (clearly timed, dated and signed);
- Records should be reviewed with regular intervals to ensure that decisions are followed through.