Assessment and Thresholds Guidance

Please note the text below is the actual procedure. Please ensure you read it in full.

Multi-agency guidance for assessment and thresholds of needs, risk and intervention for children and young people

 1. Introduction

This guidance is designed for anyone working with children & young people and their families:

  • To show the criteria for access to services for children based on a multi-agency needs/risk matrix
  • To outline the four levels of prevention, need and risk, including safeguarding thresholds
  • To set out the key principles for service provision to children, young people and families
  • To know what action to take if they are worried about a child’s welfare or safety
  • To understand what will happen if a child is referred to children’s social care
  • To outline the threshold between Early Help and Children’s Social Care, although in some circumstances both services will be involved.

It does not cover every possible circumstance or situation so if you require more information or advice please speak to a more senior person in your organisation or contact the Access and Referral Hub on 0300 300 8585.

This document reflects the guidance in Working Together to Safeguard Children (March 2015), which is the national framework setting out how services to safeguard and promote the welfare of children should operate and Keeping Children Safe in Education Keeping children safe in education

2. Principles

Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 places a duty on key persons and bodies to make arrangements in any local area to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and improve the outcomes for children. This covers a range of agencies which work with children, including children’s and adult social care, other local authority services, NHS organisations, police, probation service and youth offending teams.

 A child is anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. ‘Children’ therefore means ‘children and young people’ throughout this guidance.

 All professionals should use their professional judgement alongside this guidance in deciding what action to take and when to refer to children’s social care or another agency. They should seek advice if uncertain and record their actions and reasons for taking the action, including if they take no action.

 The following principles should underpin all multi-agency work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children:

  • the child’s needs are paramount, and the needs and wishes of each child, be they a baby or infant, or an older child, should be put first, so that every child receives the support they need before a problem escalates; this may mean the parent’s wishes and needs are secondary.
  • all professionals who come into contact with children and families, even if the child is not the primary service user, should be alert to their needs and any risks of harm that individual abusers, or potential abusers, may pose to children.
  • all professionals must share appropriate information in a timely way. Failure to share information, or not doing so in a timely way, is a factor repeatedly identified as a significant learning point in Serious Case Reviews.
  • all professionals working with children who live in Central Bedfordshire can discuss any concerns about a child with colleagues and CBC Children’s social care, via the Access and Referral Hub on 0300 300 8585.
  • all professionals need to contribute to whatever actions are needed to safeguard and promote a child’s welfare and take part in regularly reviewing the outcomes for the child against specific plans and outcomes.
  • All professionals working with a child and family need to be aware of the child’s ‘journey’ from the moment that the need for help has been identified to the end of that help with improved outcomes.  
  • It is also crucial to understand the timescale for the child and the serious impact neglect and harm can have on babies and young children. “For children who need additional help every day matters” [Working Together, page 7].
  • “Any professional with concerns about a child’s welfare should make a referral to [the Access and Referral Hub on 0300 300 8585]. Professionals should follow up their concerns if they are not satisfied with the…response.” [Working Together, page 9]
  • Every assessment should be focused on outcomes.

Everyone who works with children has a responsibility to undertake training that will help them understand the principles of safeguarding and how agencies work together. A range of e-learning and traditional courses are available. See the Central Bedfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (CBSCB) website for more details.

 3. Consent to share information

It is important for all professionals to understand when they should share information or refer to another service. The government has issued advice for all frontline practitioners and senior managers working with children, young people, parents and carers:

 Information Sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (March 2015)

This makes clear that any professional who “has concerns about a child’s welfare, or believes they are at risk of harm…should share the information with the local authority children’s social care…and/or the police...If it is thought that a crime has been committed and/or a child is at immediate risk, the police should be notified without delay.” The above advice also contains a helpful ‘Myth-busting guide’. There is also guidance in Working Together.

In general:

  • you should always seek the parent’s consent; if you try to make a referral without obtaining consent you will be usually asked to do so
  • the overwhelming majority of parents will give consent and appreciate practitioners who are honest and direct with them
  • in certain circumstances you do not need a parent’s consent if
    • it is evidently dangerous to the child to seek consent
    • it would cause delay that would significantly add to the risk
  • You may consider override seeking consent if the concern is about sexual abuse, forced marriage, ‘honour’ violence, female genital mutilation, fabricated or induced illness in a child
    • If you are unable to obtain consent or think it may not be appropriate you should seek advice from the designated or named professional or relevant manager in your organisation, by phoning the Access and Referral Hub on 0300 300 8585, but this should not cause a delay in safeguarding a child or young person.
  • The young person can consent themselves – this requires a judgement about their capacity, and you should seek advice (from within your own agency or by phoning the Access and Referral Hub) or consult the NSPCC website.

4. Windscreen – levels of need, risks and thresholds.

A link is provided to this document here: Thresholds Windscreen Document Levels of Need, Risk and Threshold

5. Level 1 Universal services

Children’s needs at this level are met by universally accessible service e.g. schools, colleges, early years settings, health visiting, children’s centres. Children at this level do not need to be referred to Early Help or Children’s Social Care.

 6. The CBC Children’s Social Care and Early Help Assessment process

The primary role of Children’s Services, whichever team is involved, is to assess the child’s needs, promote their welfare and outcomes, and when necessary protect them from harm.

The Access and Referral Hub

When you refer to the Access and Referral Hub or the Children with Disabilities Team Duty Desk, there are a number of actions Children’s Services can take:

  1. offer information and advice as the referral does not meet the threshold to provide Early Help or undertake a C&FA Assessment
  2. the child is identified as needing support through Early Help, and the Early Help team will identify a professional, usually known to the child, to complete an Early Help Assessment with the child and family
  3. the child is transferred to the relevant social work team, usually the Assessment Service, for a Child and Family Assessment (C&FA) under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989
  4. the child is transferred to the relevant social work team, usually the Assessment Service, to undertake a Child Protection enquiry under Section 47 of the Children Act, 1989. In serious cases the SW team will take immediate action to protect the child(ren), either with the police or by seeking a court order.
  5. if the child was previously receiving a service from a social work team and has been closed within the preceding 3 months the closing team will decide what action should be taken
  1. If the concerns relating to the child(ren) are deemed to need further investigation to determine if Threshold is met for assessment then the case is transferred to the MASH (Multi agency safeguarding Hub)

What is the MASH?

Central Bedfordshire MASH is an integral part of the Central Bedfordshire Access & Referral Hub. The MASH is a secure unit of a co-located multi-agency professional, including police, health, social care professionals.

The MASH function is to identify risks to vulnerable children at the earliest possible stage by providing a safe and speedy triage, to determine the most effective interventions.  This is achieved by expedient information gathering to support multi-agency informed decisions , to allow children and families access to  appropriate timely comprehensive assessments and interventions. To improve outcomes for children and their families.

Central Bedfordshire understands that an overwhelming majority of serious case reviews document poor inter-agency communication, as one of the key contributing factors to tragic outcomes. The Central Bedfordshire Mash is designed to overcome this factor by working to a shared objective and by using local resources

Expected outcomes:

  • More robust decision making
  • Less duplication across agencies
  • Reduction in repeat referrals and cases requiring No further action
  • Better information sharing across partner agencies
  • Reduction in the risk of borderline cases slipping through the net

Early Help Assessment (EHA)

If Early Help is agreed as the best approach to supporting a child / family:

  • Early Help will review the referral and identify a lead professional in the community to complete an Early Help Assessment
  • Early Help will provide suggestions of support and services that could meet the needs identified
  • Early Help (Locality)will liaise with the identified lead professional in the community and support them through the process of completing an EHA and putting the Team Around the Child (TAC) process in place
  • Early Help will record the Early Help Assessment on the system once received as Early Help information from the community
  • Early Help (Locality) will broker specific services referenced in the EHA

In cases where it is felt that the circumstance, level of need and complexity  is beyond the level of support that can be provided by a lead professional within the community a referral is made for Early Help Case Management. Early Help will visit the family, undertake an early help assessment  and do direct work with child and family.

Child and Family Assessment (C&FA)

When a SW undertakes a C&FA under Section 17 (Child in Need) or Section 47 (Child Protection) they will

  • Discuss the concerns with the referrer and record the discussion, excluding Police domestic abuse referrals.
  • Clarify if the parents have consented to share the information; consent is only disregarded if the circumstances are judged to be immediate and high risk or seeking consent would place the child at increased risk
  • Consult records already held by Children’s Services
  • Contact other agencies to gather information
  • Receive guidance on when they should meet the child and family to inform them of the concerns raised within the plan for the assessment and seek their agreement to this. The visit will be identifies as needing to be within 24/48 hours or 5 days.
  • Children will be seen on their own to ensure their views and experiences inform the assessment when appropriate and consent is given.
  • interpreters will be used for any family where there is an indication that their English is not of a standard that will clearly allow them to understand the concerns and explain their family circumstances  
  • Assessments are completed within 45 working days; some assessments for less complex family circumstances are completed in 10 days; the time taken will be proportionate to the risk and needs. If the work being undertaken requires extension beyond the 45 days the Team Manager will record the reason why. 
  • When it is appropriate the professional who refers should make every effort to attend any strategy meetings, child protection case conferences and team around the child meetings that are convened
  • While the assessment is being carried out any professional who is involved with the child should ensure that any new information or concerns are conveyed to the SW as soon as practical
  • The referrer and other agencies will be informed of the outcome
  • Any professional involved with the child or family can contact the assessing social worker at any point to pass on information or seek clarification about the progress of the assessment.

7. How to use the risk tables

The following three tables set out a brief description of the levels of need and risk, some of the most significant need and risk factors and how services will respond. The examples of needs and risks in the second column are indicators of need or risk. They should not be considered in isolation. The presence of one need or risk will rarely be evidence of the overall level of need. The overall level of need and risk will usually be based on

  • The presence of a number of factors
  • The balance of needs and risks at different levels
  • The presence or absence of resilience or protective factors (see section 11 below),
  • There may be other significant factors not covered in these tables, and
  • The accumulation of known concerns and historical background.

The tables are designed to help professionals working with children understand when a child, young person or their family should be referred to the Access & Referral Hub or the Children with Disabilities Service and the most likely response. If in doubt any professional can always contact the Access and Referral Hub or the Children with Disabilities Team for advice.

8. Level 2: Children & young people with additional needs – Early Help.                          Please click here for the table: Poster Level 2 Assessment and Thresholds Level of Need Risk and Intervention

9. Level 3: Children & young people with complex needs – Children in Need.  Please click here for the table: Poster Level 3 Assessment and Thresholds Level of Need Risk and Intervention

10. Level 4: Children and young people with urgent, and immediate or other high priority needs. Please click here for the table: Poster Level 4 Assessment and Thresholds Level of Need Risk and Intervention

11. Resilience Factors 

In making a decision about which service should help a child or the level of needs and risks it is important to consider the resilience factors which may protect and counterbalance the risks. Being resilient can mean a child in otherwise challenging circumstances can develop ‘normally’ or they can overcome adversity. A number of factors have been identified that can contribute to resilience:

  • Individual factors:

o   good communication skills

o   humour

o   religious faith

o   capacity to reflect

o   intelligence

o   a talent or skill that is allowed to develop

  • Family factors:

o   at least one supportive relationship in close family

o   affection

o   clear boundary setting

o   support for education

o   family acknowledge difficulties and are cooperating with services to help them

o   acknowledgement and understanding of the child’s additional  needs or disability

  • Community factors:

o   a wide support network, e.g. extended family

o   positive friendships

o   a supportive relationship with an adult outside the family

o   access to sport and leisure activities

o   a good standard of living

o   a good school with academic and non-academic opportunities

o   good housing

These (and other factors) will be taken into account when a decision is made about what assessment or service should be considered for a child, young person or family. The Adverse Childhood Experiences of a parent should also be considered when making decisions about assessment or service should be provided to a family.

12. Children and Young people with specific needs or risks

Some children and young people require a specific assessment and/or help because of their particular circumstances or because of the nature of the risk they are exposed to. These are

  1. children who commit offences and are known to the criminal justice system
  2. children who return home from care
  3. children at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) *
  4. children at risk of radicalisation *
  5. children at risk of child sexual exploitation *
  6. Children who are missing
  7. children at risk of honour based abuse or forced marriage
  8. young carers
  9. children with disabilities
  10. children not a school

*for these areas of risk there is a senior practitioner in the Access and Referral Hub who has lead responsibility. If you require more advice or wish to discuss a child or young person who is exposed to this specific risk and they do not have a social worker, please ask to speak to the “senior practitioner who leads on…”

Children exposed to the risks or needs listed above will normally be assessed and receive services from Early Help or Children’s Social Care according to the risks, needs and resilience factors set out in Sections 8, 9, 10 and 11 of this guidance, i.e. according to the Level 2, 3 or 4 indicators and the resilience factors. But additionally the following procedures will be followed.

a. Children involved in the Criminal Justice System

Children involved in the criminal justice system will be known to and supervised / work undertaken by the local Youth Offending Service (YOS), who undertake a range of interventions to reduce the risk of re-offending by young people, including working with their parents, carers and the victims of crime.

In addition to managing the safety and well-being of children known to the Service, The YOS must also act as an enforcer of Court and pre-Court disposals managing risk of offending and risk of harm to others. The YOS has a responsibility to risk assess and manage the safety of victims (current and future) and offers services to the victims of the children known to the YOS.

The Youth Offending Service is made up of representatives from the police, probation service, social services, health, education and drug and alcohol misuse services. Because the service incorporates representatives from a wide range of partners, it can respond to the needs of young offenders in a comprehensive way. The Youth Offending Service identifies the needs of each young offender by assessing them using a national assessment format (ASSET plus). This helps to identity specific problems that may contribute to the young person offending as well as measuring the risk they pose to others. This enables the YOS to identify suitable programmes to address the needs of the young person with the intention of preventing further offending. As part of their assessment they will check if the young person or family is known or previously known to Children’s Social Care/Adult Services. They will also consider whether the young person has specific needs such that s/he would benefit from referral to Early Help or Children’s Social Care or whether they are suffering abuse or neglect in which case they must be referred to children’s social care.

The assessment also includes checks on the young person’s education, training and employment (ETE) status and any special educational needs. The YOS officer will liaise with colleagues in schools, colleges and the SEN team where appropriate. Physical and emotional/ mental health is another part of the assessment process and checks will be made with colleagues in health around any concerns the young person presents or interventions they need.

Any professional who is involved with the young person should ensure that any new information they have or changes in the child’s circumstances are conveyed to the YOS worker as soon as practical. They can contact the YOS worker at any point to pass on information or seek clarification about the progress of the assessment or of ongoing work. Children’s Social Care records indicate if a child is currently open or previously involved with the YOS. The YOS may work with the older sibling of children open to other services such as Early Help. Robust joined up work and planning across all services working with a family is essential.

The YOS has a lead officer (Service Manager) responsible for ensuring safeguarding is at the forefront of their business.

The YOS is a shared service across both Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire. They work with young people aged between 10 and 18 who are within the criminal justice system. They offer work in relation to pre-Court disposals which includes a Diversion programme as well as those subject to Court outcomes. The YOS delivers the work of Court disposals on behalf of the Court. The age of criminal responsibility is 10, a young person who commits and offence at the age of 18 will be dealt with by the adult Criminal Justice system.     

A young person who is remanded to youth detention accommodation (YDA), becomes looked after (i.e. is ‘in care’) under the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, 2012. Children’s Social Care must visit the child and assess her/his needs. A Detention Placement Plan (DPP) must be prepared for the young person, setting out how the YDA and other professionals will meet the child’s needs. The DPP must be reviewed in the same way as a care plan for any other looked after child.

 YOS Contact details:

Bedfordshire Youth Offending Service

Enterprise House

36 Old Forde End Road

Bedford

MK40 4PF

Tel: 01234 276400

 This is the secure email format for sending information to your YOS contact : firstname.surname@bedford.gov.uk.cjsm.net

b. Children who return home from care

Children usually come into care because there are serious concerns about the care they received from their parents or some other serious family difficulty meant their parent(s) could not care for them. Children who return home from care are at greater risk than other children of experiencing abuse or neglect. Therefore the decision by Children’s Social Care to return a child from care to their parents will always require very careful consideration and specific procedures have to be followed.

There are three circumstances in which children can return home:

  • the return home is planned by the social work team and the child ceases to be looked after
  • the return is unplanned (e.g. an older child takes themselves off home)
  • the child is placed at home while remaining subject to a Care Order, so s/he remains looked after

Children who return home in a planned or unplanned way will normally be considered as children in need, or if the risks are sufficient they may become subject to a Child Protection Plan.

Planned return: When a child is looked after an assessment will have been completed already or will be completed. Her/his needs should be addressed before a decision is made about the child's return home. Government regulation sets out the requirement that an assessment by a social worker must take place before the child returns home. This must consider the views of all professionals who know the child including her/his carers. This will provide evidence of whether the necessary improvements have been made to ensure the child's safety when they return home. Appropriate support will be provided for children who return home, ensuring that they are safe and the risks and needs, as set out in Sections 8, 9, 10 and 11 above (i.e. according to the Level 2, 3 or 4 indicators and the resilience factors), are met.

Unplanned return: If the child’s return home is unplanned, e.g. the child is ‘taken from care’ by a parent or carer or the child chooses to return home without agreement then Children’s Social Care must consider whether there are any immediate concerns about the safety and well-being of the child. If the child is not safe a Strategy Meeting will consider further legal or police action. If it is safe for the child to remain at home an assessment will be undertaken and support provided as for children who return home in a planned way.

Placement at home under a Care Order: If a child is subject to a Care Order and a care plan for her/him to return home is agreed this will require the agreement of the Assistant Director, Children’s Operations. An assessment will be completed as above and, if agreed, a support plan will be put in place. The child will remain subject to the normal review process for looked after children.

If the child is subject to an Interim Care Order the agreement of the court will be required if there is a plan to return her/him home and the Guardian must be informed.

If it becomes unsafe for a child to remain at home steps will be taken as for any other child where this decision is reached.

c. Children at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM)

Female genital mutilation is a criminal offence and any girl for whom FGM is planned will be a child in need of protection.

The Serious Crime Act, 2015 has updated and extended the law in relation to FGM. The law now covers and protects not only UK nationals, but also anyone who is ‘habitually resident’ in the UK. This refers to a person’s ordinary residence, as opposed to a short, temporary stay in the country. This applies irrespective of whether the person is subject to immigration restrictions or whether they are in the UK lawfully.

The Act introduces a new offence of failing to protect a girl under the age of 16 from FGM. A person is liable if they are ‘responsible’ for a girl at the time when the offence is committed. A ‘responsible’ person will have parental responsibility and have frequent contact with the girl. Alternatively, it is any adult who has assumed responsibility for caring for a girl in the manner of a parent.

There is a new duty on healthcare professionals, teachers and social care workers, to notify the police when, in the course of their work, they discover that an act of FGM appears to have been carried out on a girl who is under-18.

Health professionals in GP surgeries, sexual health clinics and maternity services are the most likely to encounter a girl or woman who has been subjected to FGM so need to be particularly alert to the following indications, and consider the risk to siblings, children of a woman who has had FGM, and extended family members.

Indications that FGM may be about to take place include:

  • The family comes from a community that is known to practise FGM
  • A child may talk about a long holiday to her country of origin or another country where the practice is prevalent, including African countries and the Middle East
  • A child may confide to a professional that she is to have a 'special procedure' or to attend a special occasion
  • Any female child born to a woman who has been subjected to FGM must be considered to be at risk, as must other female children in the extended family
  • Any female child who has a sister who has already have undergone FGM must be considered to be at risk, as must other female children in the extended family.

Indications that FGM may have already taken place include:

  • A child may spend long periods of time away from the classroom during the day with bladder or menstrual problems
  • A prolonged absence from school with noticeable behaviour changes on the girl's return could be an indication that a girl has recently undergone FGM
  • Professionals also need to be vigilant to the emotional and psychological needs of children who may or are suffering the adverse consequence of the practice (e.g. withdrawal, depression, etc.)
  • A child requiring to be excused from physical exercise lessons without the support of her GP.

Where a child is thought to be at risk of FGM, professionals should be alert to the need to act quickly, to prevent the child being abused through FGM in the UK or abroad. A referral should be made to the Access and Referral Hub as a potential child protection referral.

Further procedures are being developed by a Pan-Bedford Group, which will be available on the CBSCB website when complete.

d. Children at risk of Radicalisation

Radicalisation is defined as the process by which people come to support terrorism and violent extremism and, in some cases, to then participate in terrorist groups. The process of radicalisation is different for every individual and can take place over an extended period or within a very short time frame.

While the risk of radicalisation may raise serious security issues, children and young people may still need the help and support that can be provided through Early Help, Child in Need and safeguarding services. The process should be seen as the same as for other children with welfare or safeguarding needs.

The national Prevent strategy emphasises the importance of a multi-agency partnership to monitor activity and risks, which should include Children's Services. The Channel programme is an initiative led by the Police and provides support to those at risk of being drawn into violent extremism. Young people at risk of being radicalised are likely to be exposed to safeguarding risks or have other needs which require intervention from either Early Help or Children’s Social Care.

Any professional who is aware of a young person at risk of radicalisation, for example as a result of observed behaviour or reports of conversations to suggest the child supports terrorism and/or violent extremism, must report these concerns to the named or designated safeguarding professional in their organisation or agency. Professionals should share their concerns with child and family where there is no immediate risk of harm to gain understanding of the child’s behaviour / conversation to avoid misunderstanding.

All case should be referred into the Access and Referral Hub in the first instance in line with other safeguarding concerns.

In exceptional cases, it may be considered that a child or young person is already involved or potentially involved in supporting or pursuing extremist behaviour. This may be, for example, where the child is part of a family with known extremists (e.g. people who are currently subject to criminal proceedings or who have been convicted of terrorism related offences). Where this is the case, a referral must be made to the Access and Referral Hub and the police must be informed as soon as possible. It may be that sharing information about the concerns with the parents may increase the risk to the child and therefore may not be appropriate at the referral stage. More information about radicalisation can be found on CBSCB website

e. Children at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE)

Where there are concerns that a child or young person is risk of sexual exploitation, the risk assessment tool, available to professionals via the CBSCB website, must be completed. This is also integrated into the Children’s Social Care electronic database. This tool offers prompts to identify risk factors and provides guidance as to indicators that professionals should consider in respect of CSE to inform their assessment of risk. Those working outside of Social Care should complete a referral to the Access and Referral Hub, as for any other child where there are safeguarding concerns, to allow a decision to be made about Social Care intervention. Professionals should also consider referrals to services such as Brook and the NSPCC for specific pieces of work if CSE is a concern.

The Child Exploitation Group (CSEG) has been formed to considered trends, disruption and forms of intervention. This panel, unlike the previous Child Sexual Exploitation Group, does not consider individual children. Any interventions should be managed via the usual safeguarding processes that exist. The CSEG is informed by intelligence that is submitted to the Police by professionals and members of the public. Further details as to this process and the CSEG can be found here

If a professional completes the risk assessment tool and concludes that the young person is at low risk of CSE, it is possible that they have other significant unmet needs or risks, in which case a referral to the Access and Referral Hub for Early Help or a Child and Family Assessment should be made.

More information about child sexual exploitation can be found on the dedicated page on the CBSCB Website: Child Sexual Exploitation

f. Children who go missing

Children and young people who go missing in Central Bedfordshire are responded to in accordance with the Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Luton Borough Safeguarding Children Boards Safeguarding Children and Young People who Run Away and go missing from Home and Care protocol. Please click here for LSCB protocol

Repeatedly going missing should not be viewed as a normal pattern of behaviour. For example, repeat episodes of a child going missing can indicate sexual exploitation. If a child has run away two or more times, consideration should be given to undertaking an Early Help Assessment or if the indications are that the child is a Child in Need, a referral to Children’s Social Care in conjunction with the threshold criteria.

When a young person who’s where about are unknown are reports to the police, the police will category’s that young person as missing or absent using the Association of Chief Police Officers definitions. These are: Missing - “Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests the person may be subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or another” or Absent – “A person not at a place where they are expected or required to be and where there is no apparent risk”

The Statutory Guidance on Children Who Run Away or Go Missing from Home or Care 2014 is issued under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 and states that local authorities must offer an independent return interview to all children who run away or go missing from their family home or care’.

In central Bedfordshire, Any young person who has been reported as missing or absent to the police or to another organisation will be offered a return home interview by our independent return home interview services. The return home interview service will accept referrals via the access and referral hub from parent’s carers and professionals.

g. Honour Based Abuse and Forced Marriage

Honour Based Abuse (HBA) is a crime or incident that has been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family or community. . Identifying that a crime or incident may be ‘honour based’ is key to being able to respond to it appropriately and correctly and ensuring that the correct support is given to those involved.

IZZAT is a term commonly used within the cultures associated with Honour Based Abuse. IZZAT aka Family Honour is very impactive on the victim and plays a large part in motivating the families’ behaviour and actions. The Honour code is an unwritten code of conduct that involves loss of face on someone’s part and if offended against is very serious for the victim, especially in groups of the community where loyalty is considered paramount.

Cultures in which HBA exist sometimes also practice forced marriage, and do not accept that a woman can have a partner before marriage or that they can choose their own spouse. Remember that where there is a forced marriage, there is likely to be a rape.

Honour Based Abuse can be distinguished from other forms of violence as it is often committed with some degree of approval and/or collusion from family and/or community members. Examples of HBA may include murder, un-explained death (suicide), fear of or actual forced marriage, coercive control, child abuse, domestic abuse, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, threats to kill, assault, harassment, forced abortion.

Any act may cause HBA but those commonly found are: -

  • Dishonourable Behaviours
  • Defying Parental Responsibility
  • Use of Drugs or Alcohol Smoking
  • Declaring Sexuality
  • Girlfriend/Boyfriend
  • Becoming Westernised Wearing Make-up
  • Intimacy with another person
  • Seeking a Divorce

A Forced Marriage (FM) is where a marriage is entered into without the full and free consent of one or both parties, as a result of physical or psychological pressure or abuse. This issue of consent is paramount in these cases.

True Consent is an “agreement by choice, and the freedom and capacity to make that choice” Professionals must also consider whether a complainant had the capacity (i.e. the age and understanding) to make a choice OR whether he or she was in a position to make that choice freely, and was not constrained in any way. Assuming that the complainant had both the freedom and capacity to consent, the crucial question is whether the complainant agrees to the activity by choice.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPO) is made to protect someone from being forced into marriage & an Order can be made to protect someone who has already been forced into marriage. Each one is bespoke to the individual and can help protect from Threat of harm, violence, harassment and Travel. They can be applied for at the County Court by the victim, Police, Social Services or any interested 3rd party. A breach of an FMPO should be treated in the same way as any breach of an order i.e. a non–molestation order.

Professionals working with a child or young person who believes they are at risk of or victim of HBA or FM should complete a referral to the Access and Referral Hub to allow a decision to be made about Social Care intervention. Professionals should also consider referrals to services such as the Police and the Foreign and Common Wealth Office. At no point should the professional: -

  • Enter into Mediation.
  • Send them away believing it’s not serious
  • Approach the family or community leaders.
  • Use interpreters from the community.
  • Go to the family home/ alert those with influence that there is professional involvement / last resort
  • Contact them by phone to find out if they are being held against their will
  • Give information to well-meaning enquirers, be aware of some counsellors, MPs, and or persons with authority requesting information or offering mediation.
  • Breach confidentiality / share information without their consent unless they are a child or there is an imminent risk of serious harm or threat to life of the victim.
  • Make contact with overseas law enforcement agencies.
  • Return them to the family or tell family where they are.

h. Young carers

A young carer is defined in Working Together, 2015 as:

a person under 18 who provides or intends to provide care for another person (of any age, except generally where that care is provided for payment, pursuant to a contract or as voluntary work).

Young carers are usually young people living with a family member, most often a parent or sibling, who have a disability, chronic physical illness or mental illness, or an alcohol or drug misuse problem. They may have to cook, clean, shop, provide nursing or personal care, or emotional support at a level that is significantly greater than would be expected in a family where another family member did not have these difficulties. Additionally the parent’s difficulties may mean they are not able to care for and support their child as well as another parent.

Young carers often miss out on opportunities that other children have to play and learn. Some may struggle educationally and are sometimes bullied for being ‘different’. They can become isolated, with little relief from the pressures at home, and little chance to enjoy a normal childhood. They may be afraid to ask for help as they fear letting the family down or being taken into care.

Any professional concerned that a child is a young carer and this is adversely affecting their well-being should complete an Early Help Assessment and contact the Access and Referral Hub if this identifies support needs greater than can be met by that agency.

Children’s Social Care has a duty to carry out an assessment under the Young Carers’ (Needs Assessment) Regulations 2015 and must carry out a young carer’s needs assessment in a manner which is appropriate and proportionate to the needs and circumstances of the young carer if they consider the young carer has support needs. The assessment must consider the impact of the child’s caring role on their health and development; and reach a view about whether, in the view of the child’s needs and personal circumstances, any care tasks are “inappropriate” or excessive. The local authority must also carry out such an assessment if a young carer, or the parent of a young carer, requests one. Depending on the circumstances the assessment will be carried out through an assessment by Early Help, Children’s Social Care or the Children with Disabilities Service.

Such an assessment must consider whether it is appropriate or excessive for the young carer to provide care for the person in question, in light of the young carer’s needs and wishes. The Regulations require local authorities to look at the needs of the whole family when carrying out a young carers’ needs assessment. A young carers’ assessment can be combined with assessments of adults in the household, with the agreement of the young carer and adults concerned.

In Central Bedfordshire there are a number of services that can support young carers. Carers in Bedfordshire provide universal support for all carers, and there is individual support for young carers and children affected by parental mental illness provided by the Early Help Service. There is also specialist commissioned provision for children affected by parental substance misuse who may also be young carers.

i. Children with disabilities

The Children with Disabilities Service has developed guidelines to explain how Early Help and Child in Need or with urgent, immediate or other high priority needs are assessed and responded to in their service.

Level 2 Intervention - Early Help Services

  • Early intervention and childcare
  • Family learning and access to work
  • Positive activities for children and young people which promote their aspirations, health and well being.
  • Parenting and Family Support
  • Healthy lifestyles and risky behaviours
  • Emotional well being and counselling support services
  • Low level carer breaks

The process will require an assessment and recommendation to the Manager. If appropriate an Early Help package will be considered by Panel and then monitored and reviewed through Team Around the Child Meetings. This will contribute to the process to develop an Education, Health & Care Plan.

Level 3 and 4 Intervention - Child in Need or with urgent, immediate or other high priority needs

Disabled children and young people who meet the threshold criteria for a service and whose needs are complex, enduring, and cross many domains will often be at risk of isolation, family breakdown, lack of good enough or consistent and confident parenting, significant harm or of coming into care.

 Additional risks may include barriers to development and the minimising of hopes, aspirations and potential. When undertaking an assessment of a disabled child, the local authority must also consider whether it is necessary to provide support under section 2 of Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (1970).

Children with disabilities with these high level needs are helped by a combination of universal, targeted and specialist services and coordinated by a Social Worker. Depending on the severity of need this may include

  • Social Work Assessments (C&FA)
  • Child In Need planning and review
  • Short-break planning
  • Family Group Meetings and Conferences
  • Complex Multi-Agency meetings

For a small number of children Child Protection or Looked After Assessment, Planning, Visits and Reviews processes will be followed. If a local authority considers that a parent carer of a disabled child may have support needs, they must carry out an assessment under section 17ZD. The local authority must also carry out such an assessment if a parent carer requests one. They may also require the local authority to undertake an assessment of their ability to provide, or to continue to provide, care for their child. The local authority must take account of the results of any such assessment when deciding to provide services to the disabled child

j. Children not in school

The Access and Inclusion service has clear protocols in place for schools in respect of children who are missing from education, are excluded from school, have poor attendance, where parents chose to electively home educate and children who work or perform. These factors alone do not indicate a child is at risk of harm or neglect. The Service will work with schools to ensure that these protocols are effectively implementedThe Access and Inclusion Service will follow statutory procedures to track and locate those children that move schools both within the local authority area and nationally, if they cannot be located immediately social care will be informed. The service will continue to locate the children until they cease to be of statutory school age (last Friday in June of year they are 16). In most cases children are located within 4 weeks. The Access and Inclusion Service ensures that schools follow legislation and statutory guidance regarding exclusion for school. This works to ensure that ‘illegal exclusions’ do not take place where children are left unsupervised and their location may not be known making them vulnerable to CME/CSE. When the LA become aware of illegal exclusions then these are challenged and where required escalated within the LA. Children who electively home educatedChildren who work and perform

  • Where we are informed about children/young people who take part in part time work or performances, the statutory responsibilities given to the Local Authority are carried out in line with national legislation and local bylaws, to ensure that children only take part in these activities in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations. This is to ensure the young people are neither exploited, placed in danger nor asked to undertake activities which may have a negative impact on their education/personal development. The Local Authority will refuse to issue/withdraw work permits and performance licences where it is deemed in the best interests of the child/young person.
  • Where the service is made aware that a parents have chosen to electively home educate they will follow both local and national guidance. This includes contacting the family to offer advice and guidance. If the service has any concerns then a request will be made for a home visit and should ‘it appear’ the child is not being educated, it will use its statutory powers to make a legal order for the parent to return the child to a school. If there are any safeguarding concerns then contact will be made with the Early Help service.
  • In respect of children who are persistently absent from school where schools commission the service a proactive multi-agency support package is put in place with both parents and children to encourage improved attendance. The service also has a clear Code of Practice for using legal interventions when parents refuse to engage or support their children in attending school.
  • Children with poor school attendance
  • Children Excluded for School
  • Children Missing from Education

13. Allegations against staff or volunteers working with children and young people

Allegations are sometimes made against professionals or others working with children. It is a legal requirement that any agency must inform the designated officer (formerly known as the LADO) within one working day when an allegation is made against any member of staff or volunteer and prior to any further investigation taking place. [See Working Together 2015, Chapter 2, paragraph 4-8]

Referrals must be made to 0300 30008142 or lado@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk.

This procedure must be followed if any person who works with children has

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates he or she would pose a risk of harm if they work regularly or closely with children.

It is important to note that having a sexual relationship with a child under 18 if in a position of trust in respect of that child, is an offence even if consensual (Sec 16-19, Sexual Offences Act 2003).

Every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against publicity while an allegation is being investigated or considered. 

Section 13 of the Education Act 2011 introduces new restrictions implemented in September 2012 on the publication of any information that would identify a teacher who is the subject of an allegation of misconduct that would constitute a criminal offence, where the alleged victim of the offence is a registered pupil at the school. Such restrictions remain in place unless or until the teacher is charged with a criminal offence.

The Pan Bedfordshire Interagency Child Protection Procedures sets out clear polices for dealing with allegations against people who work with children.

Working Together 2015 also sets out that such policies should make a clear distinction between an allegation, a concern about the quality of care or practice or complaint and these procedures are detailed below.

14. Management of professional differences of opinion

From time to time there may be genuine differences of opinion about the level of risk/resilience and how to help a child or family or misunderstandings between professionals or communication does not work well. Professionals have a duty to voice any concerns they have and constructively challenge and be open to challenge  to understand the factors leading to the professional difference and work together to provide an acceptable solution, which focuses on the outcome for the child. This applies to all professional and all agencies, who should welcome challenge and accept constructive challenge as part of a healthy professional curiosity.

If you are dissatisfied with the response from any agency including Children’s Services, staff and managers will want to know and there are a number of routes professionals can take to raise complaints or seek to resolve disagreements. Staff can find the full CBSCB procedure and timescales for action in the Pan Bedfordshire inter-agency escalation procedures.

In general:

  • Professionals should attempt to resolve differences through discussion and/or meeting within a working week or a timescale that protects the child from harm
  • Most day-to-day inter-agency differences of opinion will require a children’s social care team manager to liaise with their equivalent in the relevant agencies, e.g. police detective sergeant, named or designated health professional or designated teacher.
  • If agreement cannot be reached following discussions between the first line managers within a further working week or a timescale that protects the child from harm, the issue must be referred without delay through the line management to the equivalent of service manager/detective inspector/head teacher or other designated senior professional. Alternatively (e.g. in health services), input may be sought directly from the designated doctor or nurse in preference to the use of line management.
  • If professional differences remain unresolved, the matter must be referred to the heads of service for each agency involved.
  • Where the professional differences still remain unresolved or one Agency remains concerned about the process or behaviour of another agency or feels there are wider learning points from the case then please refer the case to the Central Bedfordshire Safeguarding Children Board at LSCB@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk

IT IS IMPORTANT THAT IF ANY PROFESSIONAL THINKS THE ACTIONS TAKEN OR PROPOSED WILL NOT ADEQUATELY SAFEGUARD OR HELP A CHILD OR FAMILY THAT THEY RAISE THESE CONCERNS CLEARLY AND IMMEDIATELY.

If a child or family wishes to complain they can do so under the Children Act 1989 and the Representation Procedure (Children) Regulations 2006, by following the Children’s Services Complaints procedure which can be found here.

15. Whistle blowing

Whistle blowing or confidential reporting polices are designed to encourage any member of staff to raise concerns if they suspect malpractice in their organisation. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 encourages individuals to raise concerns about malpractice in the workplace. Staff should raise concerns within their organisation first unless they think the employer will cover it up, would treat them unfairly if they complained or hasn’t sorted it out and they’ve already told them. If this is the case the employee can contact a Prescribed Organisation, which has a duty to deal with the concern.

Central Bedfordshire Council’s Confidential Reporting Policy “makes it clear that employees can raise serious concerns without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination or disadvantage and is intended to encourage and enable employees to raise those concerns within the Council, rather than overlooking a problem.”

All agencies must have a Whistle Blowing policy as set out in Working Together 2014, page 54. For example all maintained schools must have their own whistle blowing policy which should be available to all members of staff.

All NHS bodies have whistle blowing policies. NHS employees should seek information from their manager or Human Resources or Personnel Department. More information is available here.

16. Contact Information

  • If you wish to report a concern of abuse or neglect
  • If you would like to request early help services
  • If a child or young person has made a disclosure about exploitation
  • If a young person is at risk of sexual exploitation

Call the Access and Referral Hub 0300 300 8585

or where the child has a disability 0300 300 8314

(Mon-Thurs 8.45-5.20   Fri 8.45-4.20)

Out of Hours - at all other times call the

Emergency Duty Team   0300 330 8123

 

A PDF version of this document is provided here: Multi Agency Guidance for assessments and thresholds of Needs Risk and Intervention

Posters for your perusal which can be printed and displayed:

Poster Level 2 Assessment and Thresholds Level of Need Risk and Intervention

Poster Level 3 Assessment and Thresholds Level of Need Risk and Intervention

Poster Level 4 Assessment and Thresholds Level of Need Risk and Intervention

We have developed an online feedback tool for agencies and individuals to comment on the usefulness and implementation of the Guidance for assessment and thresholds of need, risk and intervention documents. Agencies and individuals are encouraged to complete this online survey which consists of only six questions (scored from 1 to 5) and provides a free text box for comments. Feedback from the survey will support guidance around the documents implementation and use in practice. Please respond to the survey here.

 

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