Contacts and Referrals


This chapter should be read in conjunction with:

Continuum of Need and Risk Identification Tool 

DfE, Information Sharing Advice for Safeguarding Practitioners

DfE, Working Together to Safeguard Children


In August 2021, this guidance was reviewed and updated to reflect current practice for responding to contacts and referrals made to the Bradford Integrated Front Door.

1. Initial Contacts

An Initial Contact is made where Children's Social Care are contacted about a child, who may be a Child in Need, and where there is a request for general advice, information or a service.

All contacts need to be considered alongside the Bradford Continuum of Need thresholds document and a decision should be reached within 1 working day of the contact being received.

At any time, an Initial Contact may become a Referral if it appears that services may be required for a Child in Need once assessed by Children’s Social Care.

Where an Initial Contact is made, the duty worker within the Integrated Front Door should establish whether the enquiry can be dealt with by the provision of information and advice or re-direction to other agencies or services. In accordance with Bradford’s Consent Practice Guidance, issues of consent will be considered in all cases and there is an expectation that referrers seek consent from Parents unless by doing so it would increase the risk of harm to a child/individual or compromise an ongoing Police investigation.

Suitable responses for services may also include a referral for Early Help alongside more universal support delivered by Lead Practitioners.

As part of their enquiries, IFD staff will check relevant systems (EHM / LCS) to ensure history is considered for children and their lived experiences are well understood. Whilst historical events should not be an automatic reason for future intervention, they do need to be considered routinely as part of decision making for children.

Screening teams may also involve other specialist functions within the Integrated Front Door including the Early Help Gateway and the MASH function which is currently being developed.

2. Referrals

An Initial Contact will be progressed to a Referral within 1 working day where the social worker or manager considers an assessment and/or services may be required for a child.

Referrers will have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified social worker. The referrer should be asked specifically if they hold any information about difficulties being experienced by the family/household due to domestic abuse, mental illness, substance misuse and/or learning difficulties.

Once the referral has been accepted by Children’s Social Care the lead professional role falls to a social worker.

The social worker should clarify with the referrer, when known, the nature of the concerns and how and why they have arisen.

The screening social worker will arrange contact the referrer and obtain as much of the following information as possible:

  • Full names, dates of birth and gender of children;
  • Family address and, where relevant, school/nursery attended;
  • Identity of those with Parental Responsibility;
  • Names and dates of birth of all members of the household;
  • Ethnicity, first language and religion of children and parents;
  • Nationality and immigration status;
  • Any special  needs of the children including the means in which they communicate;
  • Any significant recent or past events;
  • Cause for concern including details of allegations, their sources, timing and location;
  • Existing strengths within the family network;
  • The child's current location and emotional and physical condition;
  • Whether the child needs immediate protection;
  • Details of any alleged perpetrator(s);
  • Referrer's relationship with and knowledge of the child and their family;
  • Known involvement of other agencies;
  • Information regarding parents' knowledge of the referral.

3. Timescales

Once received, all Referrals must be written up and a decision made as to the appropriate response within 1 working day of the initial contact. In some instances, should be as soon as possible where it is evident the child is seen as requiring immediate protection/urgent action. Contacts will be RAG rated as defined by the Integrated Front Door RAG Rating Descriptors to ensure children in need of immediate protection or those at risk of significant harm do not experience delay. Within 1 working day, the social worker should make a decision about the type of response that is required. This will include determining whether:

  • The child requires immediate protection and urgent action is required;
  • There is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, and whether a multi-agency strategy discussion should be convened;
  • The child is in need, and should be assessed under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989;
  • Any services are required by the child and family and what type of services; and
  • Further specialist assessments are required in order to help the local authority to decide what further action to take.

If the social worker is unable to determine whether the statutory threshold is crossed and there are concerns that further information from other professionals is required without the consent of a person with parental responsibility, there has to be clear rationale recorded on the electronic file as to why consent is being dispensed with for other agency checks to be undertaken.

4. Screening Process

The process of Referrals must include screening against the Bradford Continuum of Need and Threshold Document to establish the overall risks to the child alongside whether the family is previously known, and whether there is a Child Protection Plan in relation to the child and/or whether the child is Looked After.

The screening process should establish:

  • The nature of the concern;
  • How and why it has arisen;
  • What the child's needs appear to be;
  • 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, including whether the child is the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  • The parent or carer should normally be informed that a Referral is being made unless to do so would place a child or vulnerable adult at increased risk of harm;
  • The Information shared should always be necessary, proportionate, relevant, accurate, timely and secure;
  • Involving other agencies as appropriate and in accordance with Information Sharing Advice for Safeguarding Practitioners and Working Together to Safeguard Children DfE.

If there are indications that a child may be at risk of Significant Harm, the duty manager may authorise whatever actions are necessary to protect the child or others in the household from Significant Harm, which may result in the immediate provision of services.

If there is suspicion that a crime may have been committed including sexual or physical assault or neglect of the child, the Police must be notified immediately. This notification should usually be made through the lens of a multi-agency strategy discussion however if a child is in immediate danger the report should be made by calling 999.

Personal information about non-professional referrers should not be disclosed to the parents or other agencies without the referrer's consent.

The parents / carers should usually be informed before discussing a referral with other agencies unless this may place the child at risk of Significant Harm, in which case the manager should authorise the discussion of the referral with other agencies without parental knowledge. The authorisation should be recorded with a supporting rationale.

5. Outcome of Referrals

The outcome of a Referral, which must be authorised by the manager, may be:

  1. That the child does not appear to be a Child in Need, which will result in one of the following: providing information, advice and guidance to the family / referrer and sign-posting to another agency and/or universal services;
  2. That the family would benefit from Early Help and to notify the Early Help Gateway of a requirement to review the case and action this for an Early Help Assessment, Group work or targeted Family Support;
  3. That the child appears to be a Child in Need and therefore, the manager will authorise an  Assessment;
  4. That it is suspected that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer from Significant Harm, which will result in an Assessment, with a view to conducting a Strategy Discussion, prior to a Section 47 enquiry commencing.

If there are indications that a child may be at risk of Significant Harm, the manager may authorise whatever actions are necessary to protect the child or others in the household from Significant Harm, which may result in the immediate provision of services. There should be consideration of a Strategy Discussion and of a multi-agency response

Professional referrers should be advised of the outcome of the referral in writing within 3 working days of the referral being received.

Feedback on the outcome of the Referral should also be provided to non-professional referrers in a manner consistent with respecting the confidentiality of the child. 

The child and family must be informed of the action to be taken.

In line with Practice Standards for Practitioners, the child should be seen within 5 days from the start of the Social Care Single Assessment or 24 hours if the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm.

Where requested to do so by local authority children's social care, professionals from other parts of the local authority such as housing and those in health organisations have a duty to cooperate under Section 27 of the Children Act 1989 by assisting the local authority in carrying out its children's social care functions. Inter-agency working should be undertaken with awareness of and in accordance with Statutory Guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018. Furthermore, these organisations and individuals must ensure that their functions, and any services that they contract out to others, are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, in accordance with Section 11 of the Children Act 2004.

6. Recording of Referrals

All Initial Contacts and Referrals should be recorded on the Early Help Module and Liquid Logic Case Management Systems.