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.
The initial checks should consist of:
checking information held in any existing social services records on the child, other children in the family and the carers, and past involvement by services;
(where a report is received about a child already known to social services a great deal of information may already be available that can inform initial decision-making)
checking the child protection register;
making enquiries with other agencies as appropriate.
In addition, the report-taker must:
establish whether other children in the family and adults at risk are safe from harm;
inform police if a suspected crime has been committed. (joint enquiries by social services and police)
The report-taker may need to contact other practitioners and services to gain sufficient information to determine the initial decision:
where requested to do so practitioners from across other agencies have a duty to co-operate and provide information under Section 164 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales)Act 2014;
the safety and welfare of the child takes precedence over the need to maintain professional confidentiality. The social worker should make clear the nature and purpose of the request, and record the request and response in writing;
it is the responsibility of each agency or individual professional to contribute all the relevant information including concerns and strengths when requested and not be selective.
if the child and family have lived abroad, is of dual nationality, or the British child of foreign parents’ information should be sought from relevant agencies. Practitioners from agencies such as health, social services or police should request this information from their equivalent agencies in the country/countries in which the child has lived.
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)
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:
In all cases, whilst the safety of the child must remain paramount:
the least intrusive intervention should be used wherever possible;
social services should aim to work with the family to safely protect the child.
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:
all relevant and available information regarding the safeguarding concern should be summarised;
the plan in place should be assessed and reasons why this is not keeping the child safe from significant harm explored;
other agencies involved with the family must contribute.
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.