A key principle should always be making the child safe.
N.B. As it is the local authority social services department that responds to reports about a child at risk of abuse, neglect or harm, the term ‘social services’ will be used in these procedures rather than local authority.
For the purposes of these procedures a report to social services will be taken to also mean a referral.
Responding to a report, about a child who is at risk of harm, abuse or neglect, means the local authority social services gathers information to determine the action that should follow. This may include working collaboratively with the police, if the child is at immediate risk of significant harm and/or a criminal offence may have been committed.
Practitioners from other agencies may also be approached to provide information. They have a duty to co-operate and provide information under Section 164 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.
Reports alleging that a child has been abused or is at risk of abuse must always be regarded as serious and enquiries by social services should commence without delay.
This may mean the social services department where the child:
All reports should be treated in the same way, whether the alleged abuse has taken place in or outside the family and regardless of the source of the report. That means anonymous reports, those from the general public and family members should be treated in the same way as reports from practitioners.
When a social services practitioner (the report-taker) receives a report, they should be able to elicit from the report:
basic information about the child and their family;
the cause for concern and the nature of the evidence to support these concerns;
any relevant information held by the individual and their agency.
The report-taker requires enough information to:
ensure names, aliases, addresses dates of birth are accurate
be clear about the abuse, harm or neglect concerns;
understand the foundation of and evidence for these concerns;
consider whether immediate action may be necessary to ensure that a child or other children at risk, are safe from harm;
assess whether a possible criminal offence may have taken place;
ascertain whether consent has been obtained for the report and if not why not;
be aware of specific needs for example, for an interpreter, signer.
If the report-taker is unable to gain sufficient information from the report- maker, they should contact other practitioners who may hold information on the child and their family.
At the end of any discussion about a child, both social services and the practitioner making the report, should be clear about:
proposed initial action;
who will be taking this action;
what the child and family will be told about the report and which agency will tell them.
If a report is made by telephone or face-to-face then the practitioner making the report must be asked to confirm the information in writing within 24 hours, using the agreed social services referral form.
Social services should acknowledge receipt in writing within 7 working days of receiving the report.
Members of the public who make reports will receive acknowledgement of receipt either by the person taking the original report or via another agreed format.
Anyone making a report of child abuse, harm or neglect should be made aware that any subsequent enquiries might be conducted either jointly by the police and Social services or as a single agency (Social services) enquiry.
All reports made to social services must be communicated by the out of hours staff (in writing and if possible, also orally) to the relevant social services team, together with the action taken to date.
In receiving the out of office hours report, the social worker and/or police officer must:
be alert to any indications of immediate risk to the child or other children or adults at risk and must be prepared to take urgent action to ensure they are safe. this may include medical attention;
where a report indicates an immediate risk of harm, requiring an immediate response, whoever receives the report – social services or the police – must ensure the other agency is informed and decide jointly what action, if any, is necessary to secure the immediate safety and well-being of the child and any other children. This must include a strategy discussion (see below), which records the agreed actions and the person responsible for carrying them out. The strategy discussion out of hours must be undertaken by the EDT social worker and a senior police officer. EDT will complete the relevant documentation in accordance with local arrangements;
The out of hours service/emergency duty team (EDT) social worker must check the child protection register for information on the child and make any other checks possible out of hours but recognise these may be limited.
However, not being able to make checks must not prevent taking any necessary action to safeguard the child.
Directors of social services should ensure arrangements are in place for social workers to access legal advice out of hours.