5.2 Making a Referral

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This policy was last reviewed in July 2023 - changes to statutory guidance Working Together to safeguarding children may lead to further changes of this policy. 

Date of next review: July 2025


Referral Criteria for Practitioners


Safeguarding partner agencies and contracted service providers must make a referral to Children's Services (Social Care and Early Help services) if there are signs that a child under the age of 18 years or an unborn baby:

  • Is or has suffered Significant Harm
  • Is likely to Significant Harm: or
  • With the agreement of a person with Parental Responsibility where an Early Help Plan has identified that the child and family would be likely to benefit from family support services from Children's Services.

The timing of such referrals must reflect the level of perceived risk, but should usually be within one working day of the recognition of risk.


Where a child or young person is admitted to a mental health facility, practitioners should consider whether a referral to Children's Service is necessary.


Practitioners in most agencies should have internal procedures, which identify child protection designated/named managers /staff, able to offer advice and decide upon the necessity for a referral. However, a formal referral or any urgent medical treatment must not be delayed by the need for such consultation.


Consultation may also be made directly with Children’s Services. Where consultation with Children’s Services is sought, and Children’s Services then conclude that a referral is required, the information provided will be regarded and responded to as such.


An adopted child may divulge when they are in placement, that they have been abused at some time in their previous history. An adopted child may also be vulnerable to physical, sexual or emotional abuse and/or neglect whilst they are placed for adoption


If practitioners have concerns that a child may be a potential victim of modern slavery or human trafficking then a referral should be made to the National Referral Mechanism, as soon as possible.

Ensuring the Child's Immediate Safety


The safety of children is paramount in all decisions relating to their welfare. Any action taken by members of staff from a safeguarding partner agency should ensure that no child is left in immediate danger.


The law (Section 3(5) of the Children Act 1989) empowers anyone who has actual care of a child to do all that is reasonable in the circumstances to safeguard their welfare.


Where abuse is alleged, suspected or confirmed in a child presented at A&E or admitted to hospital, they must not be sent home / discharged until:

  • Children’s Services has been notified by phone that there are child protection concerns;
  • A Strategy Discussion has been held, including relevant hospital staff.

See also the sub-section Immediate Protective Action in the Action on Receipt of Referrals Procedure 

Urgent Medical Attention


If the child is suffering from a serious injury, medical attention must be sought immediately from Accident and Emergency (A&E). In these circumstances, Children’s Services and the duty consultant paediatrician must be informed.


Except in cases where emergency treatment is needed, Children’s Services and the Safeguarding Investigations Unit are responsible for ensuring that any paediatric assessment or medical treatment required as part of a Section 47 Enquiry are initiated (see Section 47 Enquiries Procedure, Paediatric Assessment).

Listening to the Child


Responsibility for making enquiries and investigating allegations rests with Children’s Services and the Safeguarding Investigations Unit, along with other relevant agencies.


Where abuse is alleged, the initial response should be limited to listening carefully to what the child says to:

  • Clarify the concerns
  • Offer reassurance about how they will be kept safe; and
  • Explain what action will be taken.

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.

All professionals should be aware that children may not feel ready or know how to tell someone that they are being abused, exploited, or neglected, and/or they may not recognise their experiences as harmful. For example, children may feel embarrassed, humiliated, or being threatened.


If the child gives a clear disclosure to the first responder (e.g. a teacher) then there is no need for the Police to take a first account (Q&A). The child should be able to go straight to an Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) interview. Wherever possible the child should not have to repeat the disclosure before an ABE interview. In the cases where it is felt that an intermediary is needed to support the child and aid communication, this should be recorded and evidenced as to why it might delay the interview. The interview should be child-focused. The interview planning is important and should also be fully recorded.


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.


If the child is thought to be able to understand the significance and consequences of making a referral to Children’s Services, they should be asked their view.


Regardless of a child's expressed view, it remains the responsibility of the practitioner  to take whatever action is required to ensure their safety and that of any other children.

Parental Consultation


Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 provides the core legal basis for professionals to share personal information for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child.

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 provides that professionals do not need consent to share personal information. It is one way to comply with the data protection legislation but not the only way. Where consent is not sought the family should be informed unless doing so may:

-Place the child at risk of Significant Harm e.g. by the behavioural response it prompts (e.g. where fabricated or induced illness is suspected)

-lead to an unreasonable delay

-Place others at risk (see Violence Towards Staff  and Working with families who are uncooperative and/or not engaging with professionals

-Lead to the risk of losing evidential material.

Whilst consent is not required to share information for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child (provided that there is a lawful basis to process any personal information required), individuals do have the right to be informed about the collection and use of their personal data. This is a key transparency requirement under the UK GDPR.

Informing families of the use of their information can be verbal in most cases, with reference made to relevant existing privacy notices where required. All organisations should have up to date privacy notices on their website that individuals can be directed to if they would like to find out more about how their data might be used.


For further guidance, see Information Sharing and Confidentiality 


Referrals from named professionals cannot be treated as anonymous, so the parent will ultimately become aware of the identity of the agency making the referral.

Making a Referral to Children's Social Care - Professionals


Referrals should be made to the relevant safeguarding Ingegrated Front Door/Front Door/ Single Point of Access where the child is living or is found, see Local Contact Details 


In urgent situations outside office hours, the referral should be made to the relevant Emergency Duty Service/Out of Hours Team (see Local Contact Details)


If the child is known to have an allocated social worker, referrals should be made to them or in their absence the manager or a duty officer in the relevant social work team. Where this is considered to be a child protection referral the referrer should follow this up in writing and Children’s Services should respond as set out in Action on receipt of Referrals Procedure.


All referrers should have an opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified social worker.


Where available, the following information should be provided with the referral (but the absence of information must not delay the referral):

  • Cause for concern including details of any allegations, their sources, timing and location
  • What the child said
  • The child's current location and emotional and physical condition
  • Whether the child needs immediate protection
  • Full names, date of birth and gender of child(ren)
  • Family address (current and previous)
  • Identity of those with Parental Responsibility
  • Names and date of birth of all household members and any known regular visitors to the household
  • Details of the child's extended family or community who are significant for the child
  • Ethnicity, first language and religion of the child and parents/carers
  • Any need for an interpreter, signer or other communication aid
  • Any special needs of the child and other household members
  • Any other equalities information
  • Any significant/important recent or non recent events/incidents in the child or family's life, including previous concerns
  • Details of any alleged perpetrators (if relevant)
  • Details of any children not in the household who may be at risk (i.e. children of an alleged perpetrator)
  • Known current or previous involvement of other agencies/practitioners e.g. schools, GPs
  • Background information relevant to the referral e.g. positive aspects of parents care, previous concerns, pertinent parental issues, threats and violence towards professionals, any information about difficulties being experienced by the family/household due to domestic abuse, mental illness, substance misuse, and/or learning difficulties
  • The referrer's relationship and knowledge of child and parents/carers
  • Information regarding parental knowledge of, and agreement to, the referral.

All professional referrals made verbally must be confirmed in writing in all cases covering the areas above (in the bullet points above) by the referrer, within 24 hours. 


Professional referrals cannot be anonymous and should be made in the knowledge that during the course of enquiries it will be made clear which agency has originated the referral.


If there is no acknowledgement by Children's Services of the referral within a further 24 hours, the professional should contact Children’s Services to establish the current status of the referral.


The referrer should keep a written record of:

  • Discussions with child
  • Discussions with parent
  • Discussions with managers
  • Information provided to Children's Services
  • Decisions taken (clearly timed, dated and signed).

Quick Referral Flowchart

Referrals by Members of the Public


When members of the public are concerned about the welfare of a child or an unborn baby, they should contact the local Children's Services of the area in which the child lives/is found or, in the case of an unborn baby, where the care-giver lives (see Local Contact Details)


In urgent situations outside office hours, the member of the public should contact the relevant Emergency Duty Service/Out of Hours Team (see, Local Contact Details).


The NSPCC help line offers an alternative means of reporting concerns


Individuals may prefer not to give their name to Children's Services or the NSPCC. Anonymous referrals by members of the public will be investigated thoroughly by Children’s Services.


Alternatively the member of the public making the referral may disclose their identity, but not wish for it to be revealed to the parents / carers of the child concerned.


Wherever possible, staff should respect the referrer's request for anonymity. There are however, certain limited circumstances in which the identity of a referrer may have to be given i.e. the court arena.


Local publicity material should make the above position clear to potential referrers.


All referrers will have an opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified social worker.

This page is correct as printed on Friday 24th of May 2024 06:02:08 PM please refer back to this website (http://sussexchildprotection.procedures.org.uk) for updates.