Contacts and Referrals for Children in Need
See also: MAST Handbook - The MAST (Multi Agency Screening Team) operates borough wide and is the first contact point for all new referrals regarding children and young people. The service comprises a multi-agency team of social care staff, police, health and Early Intervention.Advice on Making Decisions about Thresholds for Intervention.
The local authority will make a decision and record next steps of action within 24 hours.
2. Initial Contact/Referral and Screening
The Multi Agency Screening Team (MAST) provides an information and advice telephone service for public and professionals to discuss any potential concerns/queries in relation to children and young people.
When professionals make a written contact/referral that does not meet the threshold for Children's Social Care Intervention the referrer will be provided with information and advice or re-directed to another agency. They will be informed of this decision and advised to record this on their relevant records.
Upon receipt of a contact/referral, it should be established whether the contact/referral is:
- A new contact about a child not previously known to Children's Social Care;
- An additional contact - new information - about a child whose case is open to Children's Social Care;
- A contact about a child whose case is closed.
Contact/referrals are taken by the MAST Business Support; if it appears that the child may be a Child in Need, the case will be passed to the Team/Practice Manager who will screen the contact to determine if it meets the threshold for further screening by a MAST social worker.
Any contact which indicates that there are child protection concerns must immediately be drawn to the attention of the Team/Practice Manager.A contact/referral record will be inputted on the child's electronic record.
3. Contact/Referral Process
The response to a contact/referral will be informed by the Continuum of Need and Response model (see Calderdale Safeguarding Children Partnership: Continuum of Need and Response) which clarifies thresholds for intervention and access to services. The Advice on Making Decisions about Thresholds for Intervention can also be consulted.
In consultation with the Team/Practice Manager, the duty Social Worker will process the contact/ referral. Any referral made by a professional/agency should be confirmed in writing within 48 hours if a child protection concern. Any other query/request will not be accepted without a written referral. Personal information about non-professional referrers should not be disclosed to the parents or other agencies without the referrer's consent. Should a referrer wish to remain anonymous this should be clearly recorded.
The Social Worker will attempt to speak to the person making the referral, to discuss their concerns in more detail.
The Social Worker should also establish with any professional whether the parent(s) and children (of sufficient age and understanding) are aware of the referral or have given their consent. If not, the Social Worker should consult the referrer and arrange for them to be informed and their consent sought for the process of checks/assessments - unless informing them would pose a serious risk to the child or others. In this case the Team/Practice Manager should be consulted and may authorise checks and assessments to be conducted without the child/parent's knowledge. The authorisation/consent must be recorded.
Once it has been established that a child appears to be a Child in Need the Social Worker should establish:
- The nature of the concern and how and why it has arisen, and whether a Child and Family Single Assessment is required;
- What the child's needs appear to be;
- Are there any risk factors;
- Whether there are any protective factors or support systems relating to the child which should be considered;
- Whether the concern involves Significant Harm;
- Whether there is any need for urgent action to protect the child or any children in the household.
This process will involve:
- Discussion with the referrer;
- Consideration of any existing records and nature of previous involvement, this includes MAST partner agencies i.e. Adult Social Care, Health, Police and Early Intervention. These agencies are co-located or MAST have access to these electronic systems. Consent is not required for these electronic checks;
- Involving and consulting partner agencies who are not co-located with MAST. Unless a child protection concern consent is required by the relevant parent/carer to contact any other agency.
In cases where there is a further contact/referral which meets the threshold for further action on a child within 3 months of closing to the Locality or Disabled Children's Team, this will be assigned to the relevant Team Inbox and contact will be made with the Team/Practice Manager.
Contact/referrals in respect of disabled children with complex health needs will be discussed with the Disabled Children's Team (DCT) where these relate to Children in Need and they meet the Disabled Children's Team eligibility criteria. Following agreement the contact will be passed to the Disabled Children's Team. The Disabled Children's Team will focus on the group of children with severe disabilities, where the needs specifically relate to the child or young person's disability. The specific criteria are children or young people who have a:
- A moderate or severe learning disability;
- A severe physical disability; or
- Sensory impairment or complex health needs or autistic diagnosis where there is also a moderate or severe learning disability.
If the Disabled Children's Team/Practice Manager's decision is that the children with disabilities criteria is not met this will be recorded on the electronic file system and the contact / referral will then follow the normal MAST process.Where the criteria is met for a Strategy Discussion/Meeting the Disabled Children's Team will be invited to that meeting to determine what support they can provide to the Children's Assessment Team.
4. Disposal of Contact / Referral
There are 3 possible outcomes:
- There are indications that a child may be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, in which case steps must be taken to protect the child or others in the household, including the immediate provision of services. A Child and Family Single Assessment and Strategy Discussion / Meeting should be initiated. This will include other relevant agencies and always the Police. See also Guidance for Strategy Discussion / Meeting;
- When there are no indications of Significant Harm but there are concerns sufficient to suggest that a child is in need then a Child and Family Single Assessment should be initiated;
- The child does not appear to require Children's Social Care Intervention and that it is appropriate to provide information and advice, sign-posting to another agency to undertake an Early Intervention Single Assessment (EISA), referral to the Early Intervention Panel (EIP), refer to additional services and/or no further action.