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1.2.1 Initial Contact and Referrals


This chapter should be read in conjunction with Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, Referrals Procedure.

DfE, Information sharing advice for safeguarding practitioners

This chapter should also be read in conjunction with:

Meeting the Needs of Children

Extremist Radicalisation Policy, Appendix 1: Extremist Radicalisation Case Management Flowchart


This procedure was amended in August 2018 to re-title and adjust the Step Up From Early Help and Youth Offending to Children’s Social Care process so that it reflects the current structure and process.


  1. Initial Contacts
  2. Referrals 
  3. Timescales 
  4. Screening Process
  5. Initial Disposal of Referrals
  6. Recording of Referrals

1. Initial Contacts

An Initial Contact is made where Children's Social Care is contacted about a child, who may be a Child in Need, and where there is a request for general advice, information or a service. At any time, an Initial Contact may become a Referral if it appears that services may be required for a Child in Need.

All contacts regarding children who have not got an open case file must go through the Customer Service Centre. FAST teams are permitted to take contacts but this is discouraged and in the event of a contact being taken by the FAST team, the person taking the contact must take responsibility for recording it as outlined in this chapter.

Customer Service Advisors must check that the child is known on MOSAIC.

Wherever contact is made to the Customer Service Centre regarding children who have an allocated worker, the caller will be connected with the social worker. However, if this is not possible, the Customer Service Advisor will connect the call with the Duty Social Worker for that locality team. Customer Service Advisers will not take information on open cases or update the child's file with information.

In all other cases, at the point when an Initial Contact is made, the Customer Service Advisor will briefly establish the nature of any concerns and whether the call is requesting a consultation with an Early Help Advisor or whether they want to make a safeguarding referral to the Children's Social Care.

The Early Help Advisor will support practitioners in their decision making. They will not take on cases themselves or facilitate safeguarding referrals into Children's Social Care. The Practitioner will directed back to Customer Service Centre to make a safeguarding referral. If an Early Help Consultation is required, the Customer Service Adviser will record whether consent has been given for the discussion by the parent/carers. Professionals will be asked to provide their name, job role and contact details and the name of the child if consent has been obtained. If Consent has not been obtained from parents/carers will parental responsibility to share personal details, the Early Help Advisers will only be able to provide practitioners with a hypothetical consultation and this could impact on the quality of the advice being given. If consent has been given the Customer Service Adviser will record a brief summary of the concerns on a contact and the Early Help Adviser will be sent a 'Contact Action for Consultation' and a decision will be made about the outcome of the contact, which could be:

  • Advise completion of EHA for Early Help Services and/or TAC;
  • Contact Customer Services to make a safeguarding referral.

If consent has not been given, the Customer Service Adviser will record a brief summary of the concerns on the hypothetical consultation record form and the Early Help Adviser will be sent an email with the form attached and a decision will be made about the outcome of the email, which could be:

  • Gain consent;
  • Advise completion of EHA for Early Help Services and/or TAC;
  • Contact Customer Services to make a safeguarding referral.

If a safeguarding referral has been requested then the Screening Manager is sent the information as a 'Content Action for Screening' and a decision will be made about the outcome of the contact which can be:

Provide information or redirect to another service;

  • Progress to a Referral see Section 2, Referrals;
  • The caller to complete an Early Help Assessment (EHA) if they are a Professional Referrer. In the event that a professional referrer is making a contact in the form of a EHA, they will be advised that they need to obtain the family's consent unless there is reason to believe that the child is likely to suffer Significant Harm and that their welfare will be prejudiced if consent is sought.

The outcome decision of both the consultations and safeguarding referral must be made within one working day of making the referral.

In circumstances where there are concerns that a child is likely to suffer Significant Harm the process can proceed to a referral immediately and the Customer Service Advisor will contact the FAST Team by telephone.

When a contact is to proceed to a referral the Customer Service Centre Advisor must record this as soon as possible but always within one working day. They must have the outcome: 'referral screened and awaiting assessment' and a workflow notification sent to the Team Manager of the local team of the address of the child/young person.

All referrals, decisions and outcomes will be assessed and monitored on the basis of meeting ethnicity, language, religious, cultural and diversity needs.

Professionals who phone the Local Authority with concerns about a child's welfare or request for services as a child in need should confirm their assessment and request in writing within 24 hours, using the safeguarding referral form.

2. Referrals

An Initial Contact will be progressed to a Referral where the Screening Manager considers an assessment and/or services may be required for a Child in Need.

When there is a request from another lead professional on behalf of the family for a Social Care Assessment when the TAC is active:
  • The lead professional will gain the consent from the child/young person and parent(s)/carer(s) for a request to be made to social care for a Social Care Assessment. The consent will be recorded in the designated place on the current Early Help Assessment/plan;
  • The lead professional will gain the consent from the child/young person, parent(s)/carer(s) and all involved professionals for the information to be shared with social care and for social care to use the information contained within the Early Help Assessment/plan to inform the Social Care Assessment. The lead professional will record the consent within the TAC;
  • The lead professional will ensure that the information recorded on the EHA is accurate and up to date and of a standard that enables social care to use it as the basis of the Social Care Assessment. Once the lead professional has been notified that the Social Care Assessment has commenced the lead professional will send the Lead Social Worker the completed EHA within one working day of the notification.

The EHA is not a referral form although it may be used to support a referral or a specialist assessment' (WT 2013 (Archived)).

Contacts meeting the urgent threshold for a potential S47 investigation and a Social Care Assessment - to be sent directly to the FAST team

Where the content of the Contact meets the threshold for a Social Care Assessment and are within the criteria for direct transfer to the FAST Team, a referral will be created by the Customer Service Centre with the outcome referral screened and awaiting assessment’ and a workflow notification sent to the Team Manager of the local team of the address of the child/young person.

The responsibility of determining whether the urgent threshold requires a consultation with the Police Protection Unit to establish if Child Protection procedures need to be instigated, falls with the Team Manager and/or Practice Supervisor of the locality area FAST Team. The duty Practice Supervisor will determine whether child protection procedures need to be instigated and whether a Strategy Discussion will be required.

At this stage the "who is responsible for this referral" field will have the Customer Service Centre worker in, so that a notification can be sent back to them to identify that the FAST Team Manager has received the contact action.

Once the referral is authorised an automatic notification is sent to the Customer Service Centre Advisor. The Customer Service Centre Advisor will amend ‘who is responsible for this referral’ and ‘which team is responsible for this referral’ fields. It will be amended to the FAST Team Manager’s details.

The referral is to be allocated to a Social Worker on the same day as the referral has been received by the FAST team and a date for a visit is to be agreed in allocation between the Practice Supervisor and Social Worker. If appropriate and the contact details are available, a phone call will be made to the family to arrange a visit. If concerns in the referral or any concerns from past history suggest issues of neglect or poor home conditions the Social Worker should make an unannounced visit.

Postal letters to make an appointment should only be used if no other means of contact is possible and must be agreed with the Practice Supervisor. Postal letters are to be sent first class.

Step Up From Early Help and Youth Offending Service to Social Care

Step up referrals from Early Help and Youth Offending Service (YOS) should not be made directly to the CSC unless there is an immediate safeguarding concern.

If staff has a concern about a case they should discuss these concerns with their supervisor. If the supervisor is of the view that the case should be referred to social care for an assessment then a discussion should be had between the Practice Supervisor in Early Help/YOS or the Senior Early Help Worker (as case manager) with their Practice Supervisor in FAST team to agree a way forward. If FAST agree there should be a social care assessment then they complete the process on MOSAIC of putting on the contact and referral as part of the allocation. The Youth Offending PS to record outcome of the discussion in Childview. The Customer Service Centre does not get involved with the process.

If FAST do not agree a social care assessment is required and Early Help/YOS are not happy with the decision or where the outcomes are not agreed, then they should escalate their concern to their Children's Service Manager to determine next steps.

3. Timescales

Any member of staff who receives information relating to a child, who may be a Child in Need, must redirect the information to the Customer Service Centre, or (if it is known that it is an open referral) FAST Team or allocated social worker. The information must be redirected immediately and within one hour at the very longest.

Once received by the appropriate team, all Referrals must be completed and a decision made about the outcome within one working day.

The process of creating a contact through to the authorisation of the Referral is one working day from the date/time of the recorded on the contact.

Children's Services should acknowledge a written referral within one working day of receiving it.

4. Screening Process

These procedures for the screening of Referrals apply to new cases of children previously unknown to the authority, and to closed cases.

The process of Referrals must include screening against the Prioritisation with internal and agency checks undertaken as necessary. The child's name must be checked against the MOSAIC Database to establish whether the family is previously known, and whether there is a Child Protection Plan in relation to the child or that they are a Looked After Child. (See also Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, Section 47 Enquiries and Social Work Assessments).

The process for the screening of referrals involves the initial stage where the Customer Services Advisor takes the referral call and gathers the information. The Screening Manager will review and analyse the information gathered by the Customer Services Adviser and make a decision as to the appropriate outcome.

The screening process should establish:

  • What the safeguarding concerns are;
  • What the concerns are based on;
  • Whether there are any other services supporting the child/family;
  • Why the caller is referring to Children’s Social Care now;  
  • What the caller wants to happen now;
  • What the caller wants Children’s Social Care intervention to be to decease safeguarding risk.

This process will involve:

  • Discussion with the referrer if further detail or clarification is required;
  • Consideration of any existing records, including whether the child is/or has been the subject of a Child Protection Plan/Child and Family Progress Plan;
  • The Area Team will involve other agencies as necessary.

If there are indications that a child may be at risk of Significant Harm, the Screening Manager may authorise whatever actions are necessary to protect the child or others in the household from Significant Harm, which may result in the immediate provision of services.


If there is suspicion that a crime may have been committed including sexual or physical assault or Neglect, the Police must be notified immediately.

Personal information about non-professional referrers should not be disclosed to the parents or other agencies without the referrer's consent.

Involving other agencies should be appropriate and in accordance with Information Sharing Advice for Safeguarding Practitioners:

  • Consent from the parent or carer should normally be sought;
  • However, the Data Protection Act should never be a barrier to ‘sharing information where the failure to do so would result in a child or vulnerable adult being placed at risk of harm’ or indeed on those occasions where seeking consent might increase the risk of harm;
  • Information should always be ‘necessary and proportionate’.
The Screening Manager should authorise any discussion of the referral with other agencies without parental knowledge or consent. The authorisation should be recorded with reasons.

5. Initial Disposal of Referrals

The initial disposal of a Referral, which must be authorised by the Screening Manager, may be:

  1. That the child does not appear to be a Child In Need which will result in one of the following: the provision of information, advice, sign-posting to another agency, directed to Early Help Services and/or no further action;
  2. That the child appears to have a low level of needs or risks. In these circumstances the manager must request a Social Care Assessment;
  3. That the child appears to have moderate to high level of needs or risks which must initiate a Social Care Assessment;
  4. That it is suspected that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer from Significant Harm. In these circumstances, the Screening Manager must progress to a Social Care Assessment, with a view to the locality FAST Team conducting a Strategy Discussion, prior to Child Protection Enquiry and Social Care Assessment commencing.

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

Feedback on the outcome of the Referral should also be provided to non-professional referrers in a manner consistent with respecting the confidentiality of the child.

6. Recording of Referrals

All Initial Contacts and Referrals should be recorded on the MOSAIC Database.

Copying a Referral to siblings

The decision to create a referral to a sibling will be made by the Screening Manager and progression of the referral must be completed by the FAST team within one working day of the date and time of the original referral. The date of the sibling's referral must be the date which it was created and not the date of the original referral.

The FAST team must ensure that the outcome recorded by the Screening Manager on the Contact of the subject child is copied to the contact created by copying the referral to the sibling.

Should a duplicate contact be made from copying the referral to Siblings then the FAST team should ensure that the original contact is deleted, once the outcome has been copied (see above).

Sibling contact not progressing to referral

If the decision has been made by the Screening Manager not to progress the sibling to referral then they advise the Customer Service Advisor of this outcome on the contact of the siblings. This must be completed when progressing the subject child’s contact to referral. All contacts must have an outcome selected within one working day of it being created.

Creating a contact and referral on a siblings record at a later date

If a contact on a sibling's record did not progress to a referral within one working day, a further contact must be created if further information is received. This contact must be followed by a referral if a Social Care Assessment is required. The timescales for creating contacts and referrals outlined earlier in this document apply.

Referrals closed at referral with no Social Care Assessment

Should the FAST team determine, following either further investigation and/or re-direction to other services such as Early Help etc. that a social care assessment is not required they can close the referral at the referral stage.

The FAST team should discuss this decision with the Screening Manager to agree this course of action, then authorise the referral and close the referral using the outcome of 'Closure at Referral' using the same date. In the summary section the FAST team must give a summary as to why they have decided a Social Care Assessment is not required, along with a record of the discussion with the Screening Manager.