When a referral is made to social services, by a child’s school or doctor, for example, each Local Authority will have its own process for referrals being made. Within each Local Authority, Children’s Social Care (“social services”) should be the principle point of contact for dealing with referrals.
Once a referral has been accepted by social services, a Social Worker should be appointed to take the role of Lead Practitioner.
Within one working day of a referral being received the Local Authority Social Worker should acknowledge receipt to the referrer and make a decision about the response.
They should determine whether:
• the child requires immediate protection and urgent action is required
• the child is in need and should be assessed under section 17 of the Children Act 1989
• there is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, and whether enquires must be made and the child assessed under section 47 of the Children Act 1989
• any services are required by the child and family and what type of services
• further specialist assessments are required to help the local authority to decide what further action to take
• to see the child as soon as possible if the decision is taken that the referral requires further assessment
The child and family must be informed of the action to be taken, unless a decision is taken on the basis that this may jeopardise a police investigation or place the child at risk of significant harm.
The maximum timeframe for the assessment to conclude, such that it is possible to reach a decision on next steps, should be no longer than 45 working days from the point of referral. If, in discussion with a child and their family and other practitioners, an assessment exceeds 45 working days, the Social Worker should record the reasons for exceeding the time limit.
It is the responsibility of the Social Worker to make clear to children and families how the assessment will be carried out and when they can expect a decision on next steps. Local Authorities should determine their local assessment processes through a local protocol.
If your child is referred to Social Services in most situations it will be advisable to fully cooperate with the Social Worker and assist them in completing their enquiries and assessments. It is advisable to take independent legal advice from a specialist solicitor.
Jennifer Moore, Senior Associate, Rayden Solicitors, Hampstead
Jennifer Moore joined Rayden Solicitors in 2015 and has a wealth of experience in all areas of private family law. She has particular expertise in dealing with cases involving children following the breakdown of a relationship, for example disputes as to where a child will live and how much time a child will spend with a parent. She can also advise on complicated matters involving adoption and children cases where there is a social services involvement.
Jennifer also has also dealt with many cases that have an international angle, and as well as children matters, also specialises in complex financial disputes arising out of divorce and separation.
Jennifer is a young mother having recently returned to work and her empathy as a young mother is particularly evident in the cases involving children. She recognises that each client’s circumstances are different and unique to them and her warmth and sensitivity is underpinned with a practical, calm and pragmatic approach to matters in order to achieve an outcome which prioritises a client’s individual objective and provides a long term solution.