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

Action following a report: initial checks and decisions

Once the report has been received, the relevant social services team must decide and record next actions within one working day.

The focus should be the safety and well-being of the child. This means if a report of child abuse, harm or neglect is unsubstantiated it is important to be aware that the child may still have care and support needs or the family may benefit from early help services and a referral or signposting made to these services provided the parent/s give consent .

Whenever social services have a case reported which may appear to constitute, a criminal offence against a child, they must always discuss the case with the police immediately.

If the report constitutes an allegation of failure of care standards or breach of regulation by a regulated provider or a statutory agency, they must discuss with their relevant safeguarding lead and follow Safeguarding Boards’ professional concerns protocol.

Completing initial checks

The initial checks should consist of:

In addition, the report-taker must:

Multi-agency contributions

The report-taker may need to contact other practitioners and services to gain sufficient information to determine the initial decision:

Working Together to Safeguard People: Information Sharing for Safeguarding Children

Information_sharing_advice_practitioners_safeguarding_services.pdf

N.B. Parents’ permission, or the child’s, where appropriate, should be sought before discussing a report about them with other agencies, unless: seeking permission may place a child or others at potential risk of harm. (See engaging the family)

The initial decision

Decisions made following the report must take account of all the known information and the work currently being undertaken with the child and their family.

The initial decision should be based on enough information i.e. proportionate, enabling the report-taker to determine:

  1. no further action;
  2. that the child’s needs for care and support should be assessed under Part 3 of Social Services & Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014, Section 21 – duty to assess a child’s needs for care and support;
  3. that immediate protection and urgent action is required;
  4. that there is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering or likely to significant harm and a strategy discussion/meeting should be held to initiate s47 Enquiries under The Children Act 1989.

In all cases, whilst the safety of the child must remain paramount:

What to do when the initial decision is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is at risk of significant harm

If the initial checks, following a report, conclude that social services have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is at risk of significant harm (The Children Act 1989) they should convene a strategy discussion/ meeting to determine whether s47 Enquiries should be initiated, and how these enquiries should be undertaken.

This may take place at any stage following a report or may occur at other times where, for example, the child is looked after by the local authority and receiving services as a child with care and support needs under S.76 Part 6 of the Social Services and Well-being Act (Wales) 2014 Act and possible significant harm has been identified.

The discussion may take place at a meeting or by other means such as telephone or video-conferencing. It must happen within one working day of the decision to hold it.

The police are responsible for any criminal investigation.

Managing emerging/accumulative concerns regarding significant harm whilst the child has a care and support plan under Part 3 of Social Services & Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014, Section 21 – duty to assess a child’s needs for care and support;

In some cases, concerns regarding significant harm may emerge or accumulate whilst a child is subject to a Part 3 Care and Support Plan.

At the point that those working with the child and their family believe that the concerns are such that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm s47 enquiries must be considered commencing with a strategy discussion/meeting.

At this meeting:

Example: Bethan 3 years old, is an only child and has been the subject of a care and support plan for 3 months. Her mother died 12 months ago, and her lone parent father has found it difficult demonstrating any emotion towards Bethan since then. For example, he has never displayed physical emotion towards Bethan when he drops her off or collects her from nursery. Moreover, Bethan is frightened of engaging in any activities that might make her dirty as ‘daddy gets cross’.

Despite the care and support package, which focused on grief counselling and developing a bond between father and daughter, there appears to have been little progress. Indeed, both the social worker and nursery staff believe the situation has deteriorated. Bethan has indicated she eats meals on her own and is left to play in her room or on her tablet when she’s home with daddy. She has begun wetting and soiling herself and become resistant to leaving nursery at the end of each day, shouting that daddy hates her and she wants to stay with Mrs Grant, her nursery teacher.

Bethan’s father has told the social worker he cannot cope and he’s thinking about putting her up for adoption as he finds he resents her more and more. The social worker, who manages the care and support plan discusses this with the nursery and considered Bethan is suffering significant harm. She informs the father of her intention to request a strategy meeting to initiate s47 Enquiries. Social services decide to hold a strategy meeting to consider or decide initiating s47 Enquiries as evidence to date would indicate Bethan is experiencing significant harm.