Back to Responding to a report of a child at risk of harm, abuse and/or neglect

Responding to a report

The local authority has a duty to respond to a report about a child at risk of harm, abuse or neglect.

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.

The task

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.

Information-gathering by the report-taker

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:

  1. is living that is their permanent or temporary address; for example, homeless accommodation;
  2. has been placed; for example, an out of area placement;
  3. has been found. for example, they are on holiday, have runaway and been found at a railway station in another authority area.

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.

Pointers for Practice: Eliciting Information Following Report-The Challenges

Receiving a report

When a social services practitioner (the report-taker) receives a report, they should be able to elicit from the report:

The report-taker requires enough information to:

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.

Pointers for Practice: Subjective Factors that Can Influence the Receipt of a Report

Clarifying next steps with the report-maker

At the end of any discussion about a child, both social services and the practitioner making the report, should be clear about:

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.

Managing reports out of usual office hours

Outside usual office hours, reports can be made to the social services out of hours service/ emergency duty team (EDT) and/or to the police (see Section 2).

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:

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.