1.2 Making a Referral following the Identification of Child Safety and Welfare Concerns
In March 2021, this chapter was updated throughout in line with local practice/terminology.
1. Duty to Refer
Practitioners, employees, managers, helpers, carers and volunteers in all agencies must make a referral to Children's Social Care if it is believed or suspected that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm.
The following are examples of when a professional should make a referral. Please note, this list is not exhaustive.
- A child makes a clear allegation of abuse;
- A child sustains an injury and there is professional concern about how it was caused;
- A non-mobile infant sustains any injury, however slight, without an adequate accidental explanation;
- A member of the public makes a clear, detailed, allegation that someone has abused a child;
- Where there is concern that a child may have been conceived as the result of an incestuous relationship or intra-familial sexual abuse;
- Professional concern exists about abuse or neglect, despite no allegation being made;
- Despite professional intervention, either on a single agency basis or as part of FCAF intervention, because of suspected neglect or emotional abuse there is concern that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm;
- An allegation is made that a child under 13 has been involved in penetrative sex or other intimate sexual activity;
- Where young people under the age of 18 are engaged in sexual activity and there are concerns around Significant Harm;
- There are concerns a child under 18 is being sexually exploited;
- Concern exists about a child having contact with a person who may pose a risk, or potential risk, to children (see Persons, Volunteers/Carers Identified as Posing a Risk to Children Procedure for further Guidance);
- A child has been abandoned;
- A child is being denied access to urgent or important medical assessment or services;
- A child is at risk of being subjected to illegal procedures, for example Female Genital Mutilation or Forced Marriage;
- A child is being harmed through seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another for example through domestic abuse;
- Where there has been a single incident of domestic violence in families with a child under 12 months (including an unborn child) even if the child was not present;
- There are any other circumstances which suggest that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, including as a result of 'Honour Based Violence';
- Further concerns have arisen in relation to a child who has an open case with Children's Social Care;
- Either an adult or a child makes historical allegations of abuse;
- There are suspicions of Fabricated or Induced Illness (see Fabricated or Induced Illness / Perplexing Presentations Procedure);
- Where there are concerns about the welfare of an unborn child;
- Concerns of Significant Harm have risen for a child receiving a service as a child in need;
- Further concerns have arisen of increased or additional risk to a child currently on the List of Children who are the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
- A child has been made the subject of an Emergency Protection Order or Police Protection;
- Concerns have arisen for a child who is the subject of a Supervision Order or Care Order;
- A child or young person has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, due to their participation in or as a victim of gang activity, or other community or youth related violence;
- A child or young person has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, due to being exposed to radicalisation and extremist views;
- A person applies to the police for information about a person who has contact with his / her children, under the Child Sex Offender Review Disclosure Scheme. However, following receipt of information that the person does, or may pose a risk, he or she does not take steps to protect the children, by separating them from the person posing a risk.
When there are concerns about Significant Harm, then the referral must be made immediately. The greater the level of perceived risk, the more urgent the action should be. The suspicion or allegation may be based on information, which comes from different sources. It may arise in the context of the Family Common Assessment Framework. It may come from a member of the public, the child concerned, another child, a family member or practitioner staff. It may relate to a single incident or an accumulation of lower level concerns.
The information may also relate to harm caused by another child, in which case both children, i.e. the suspected perpetrator and victim, must be referred - see also Sexual, Physical and Emotional Abuse by Children and Young People of other Children and Vulnerable Adults Procedure.
The suspicion or allegation may relate to a parent, practitioner, volunteer or anyone caring for or working with the child - if so, see also Allegations against Persons who work with Children (including Staff, Carers and Volunteers) Procedure.
A referral must be made even if it is known that Children's Social Care is already involved with the child/family.
Advice and consultation may be sought about the appropriateness of the referral from Children's Social Care or, if the case is open, from the allocated social worker. Alternatively advice may be sought from a Designated Senior Person or Named Practitioner from within the referrer's own agency.
Where consultation is sought and Children's Social Care conclude this meets the criteria for a referral the information provided so far must be regarded and responded to as a referral, and the referrer advised accordingly. The referrer must confirm their referral in writing within 24 hours.
WHEN IN DOUBT, CONCERNS MUST BE SHARED.
2. Urgent Medical Treatment
If the child is suffering from a serious injury or requires treatment, medical attention must be sought immediately by calling an ambulance or taking the child to the Accident and Emergency Department of the local hospital. The duty Consultant Paediatrician must be informed of the nature of the concerns and a referral must be made in accordance with this procedure as soon as practicably possible.
3. Ensuring Immediate Safety
The safety of children is paramount in all decisions relating to their welfare. Any action taken by staff should ensure that no child is left in immediate danger.
When considering whether immediate action is required to protect a child, all agencies should also consider whether action is required to safeguard and protect the welfare of any other children in the same household or related to the household or the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere e.g. a work environment such as a school.
The law empowers anyone who has care of a child to do all that is reasonable in the circumstances to safeguard her/his welfare.
A teacher, foster carer, child minder or any practitioner should, for example, take all reasonable steps to offer a child immediate protection from an abusive parent.
Where abuse is alleged, suspected or confirmed in children admitted to hospital, they must not be discharged until a referral has been made to the relevant Children's Social Care team in accordance with this procedure and a decision made as to the need for immediate protective action. See also Section 11, Emergency Protective Action.
No child known to Children's Social Care who is an inpatient in a hospital and about whom there are child protection concerns should be discharged home without a referral to establish that the home environment is safe, the concerns by medical staff are fully addressed and there is a plan in place for the ongoing promotion and safeguarding of the child's welfare.
The safety and welfare of the child overrides all other considerations, including the following:
- The gathering of evidence;
- Commitment or loyalty to relatives, friends or colleagues.
For further details, see Underlying Principles and Values, Information Sharing and Confidentiality.
The overriding consideration must be the protection of the child - for this reason, absolute confidentiality cannot and should not be promised to anyone.
For guidance in relation to making a referral relating to under-age sexual activity, see Working with Sexually Active Young People Procedure.
If suspicions or allegations are about relatives, friends or colleagues, practitioner or otherwise, the concerns must not be discussed with them before making the referral.
Individual members of the public who make a referral may prefer not to give their name or alternatively they may disclose their identity, but not wish for it to be revealed to the parents/carers of the child concerned.
Wherever possible, Children's Social Care practitioners receiving referrals from members of the public should respect the referrer's request for anonymity. However, referrers should not be given any guarantees of confidentiality, as there are certain limited circumstances in which the identity of a referrer may have to be given e.g. the Criminal or Family Court arena. The referrer's request for anonymity must be recorded.
N.B. Referrals made by practitioners can never be anonymous.
It is important that professionals are aware the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK GDPR place duties on organisations and individuals to process personal information fairly and lawfully and to keep the information they hold safe and secure. The Data Protection Act 2018 contains 'safeguarding of children and individuals at risk' as a processing condition that allows practitioners to share information. This includes allowing practitioners to share information without consent, if it is not possible to gain consent, it cannot be reasonably expected that a practitioner gains consent, or if to gain consent would place a child at risk.
Note: The Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR do not prevent, or limit, the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare and protect the safety of children. See Information Sharing Procedure.
5. Listening to the Child
If the child makes an allegation or discloses information which raises concern about Significant Harm, the initial response should be limited to listening carefully to what the child says so as to:
- Clarify the concerns;
- Offer reassurance about how s/he will be kept safe;
- Explain that the information will be passed to Children's Social Care and/or the Police.
If a child is freely recalling events, the response should be to listen, rather than stop the child; however, it is important that the child should not be asked to repeat the information to a colleague or asked to write the information down.
If the child has an injury but no explanation is volunteered, it is acceptable to enquire how the injury was sustained. A body map diagram may be used but it is not acceptable to take photographs.
However, the child must not be pressed for information, led or cross-examined or given false assurances of absolute confidentiality. Such well-intentioned actions could prejudice police investigations, especially in cases of Sexual Abuse.
A record of all conversations, (including the timings, the setting, those present, as well as what was said by all parties) and actions must be kept.
No enquiries or investigations may be initiated without the authority of the Children's Social Care or the Police.
If the child can understand the significance and consequences of making a referral, he/she should be asked her/his views by the referring practitioner.
Whilst the child's views should be considered, it remains the responsibility of the practitioner to take whatever action is required to ensure the safety of that child and any other children.
6. Parental Consultation
Practitioners should, in general, discuss concerns with the family and, where possible inform them that they are making a referral unless this may, either by delay or the behavioural response it prompts or for any other reason, place the child at increased risk of Significant Harm.
Situations where it would not be appropriate to inform family members prior to referral include where:
- Discussion would put a child at risk of Significant Harm;
- There is evidence to suggest that involving the parents / caregivers would impede the police investigation and / or Children and Families Services enquiry;
- Sexual abuse is suspected;
- Where there are concerns that a child may have been conceived as a result of an incestuous relationship or intra-familial sexual abuse;
- Complex (multiple or organised) abuse is suspected;
- Fabricated or induced illness is suspected;
- To contact parents / caregivers would place you or others at risk;
- Discussion would place one parent at risk of harm, for example. in cases of domestic abuse;
- It is not possible to contact parents / caregivers without causing undue delay in making the referral;
- Where there are concerns about a possible forced marriage or honour based violence;
- An allegation is made that a child under 13 has been involved in penetrative sex or other intimate sexual activity;
- Where young people under the age of 18 are engaged in sexual activity and there are concerns around Significant Harm.
In relation to the last two dot points above, decisions to share information with parents will be taken using professional judgment and in consultation with these Child Protection Procedures. Decisions will be based on the child's age, maturity and ability to appreciate what is involved in terms of the implications and risks to themselves. This should be coupled with the parents' ability and commitment to protect the young person. Given the responsibility that parents have for the conduct and welfare of their children, professionals should encourage the young person, at all points, to share information with their parents where ever safe to do so.
A decision by any practitioner not to seek parental permission before making a referral to Children's Social Care must be approved by their manager, recorded and the reasons given.
Where a parent has agreed to a referral, this must be recorded and confirmed in the referral.
Where the parent is consulted and refuses to give permission for the referral, further advice and approval should be sought from a manager or the Designated Senior Person or Named Practitioner, unless to do so would cause undue delay. The outcome of the consultation and any further advice should be fully recorded.
If, having taken full account of the parent's wishes, it is still considered that there is a need for a referral:
- The reason for proceeding without parental agreement must be recorded;
- When making the referral, the referrer must make it clear that parental consent has been withheld;
- The parent should be contacted by the referring practitioner to inform her/him that after considering their wishes, a referral has been made.
7. Making a Referral
Referrals to Children's Social Care must be made in one of the following ways:
- By contacting the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub (24hours);
- In an emergency outside office hours, by contacting Children's Social Care Emergency Duty Team via the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub or by contacting the Police on 999;
- All practitioners must follow up contact with the Safeguarding Hub by completing a Multi Agency Confirmation Form (MACF).
The Sheffield Safeguarding Hub provides a single point of access for the screening of safeguarding concerns from professionals and members of the public. It is a multi-agency team, with, with 'screening' and specialist social workers, working alongside colleagues from a range of partner agencies including police, health and independent domestic violence advocates.
In the event that an agency does not agree with the response and decisions made in relation to the referral the referring agency should discuss their concerns directly with the Safeguarding Hub manager in the first instance to seek resolution. See also: Effective Challenge and Escalation Procedure.
If the child is known to have an allocated social worker, referrals should be made directly to the allocated worker or, in her/his absence, the manager in that team. In the absence of contact details for the allocated social worker, contact the Safeguarding Hub
If the concern arises out of office hours, and requires an immediate response the referral should still be made via the Safeguarding Hub contact number, where it will be dealt with by the Emergency Duty Team. If it is not possible to contact the Safeguarding Hub for any reason the concern must be reported to the Police Local Referral Unit (LRU) or if not available to the Duty Inspector at the nearest police station.
Practitioners in all agencies should have internal procedures, which identify Designated Senior Persons or Named Practitioners - managers or staff, who are able to offer advice on child protection matters and decide upon the necessity for a referral. Consultation may also be required directly with the Safeguarding Hub or the allocated social worker in Children's Social Care.
Arrangements within an agency may be that a designated person makes the referral. However, if the designated or named person is not available, the referral must still be made without delay.
A referral or any urgent medical treatment must not be delayed by the unavailability of designated or named practitioners.
The person making the referral should provide the following information if available - (note - absence of information must not delay a referral):
- Full name, any aliases, date of birth and gender of child/children;
- Full family address, telephone numbers and any known previous addresses;
- Identity of those with Parental Responsibility;
- Names, date of birth and information about all household members, including any other children in the family, significant people who live outside the child's household;
- Ethnicity, first language and religion of children and parents/carers;
- Any need for an interpreter, signer or other communication aid - see also: Use of Interpreter, Signer or Others with Special Communication Skills, Underlying Principles and Values;
- Any special needs of the child/ren;
- Is the child registered at a school or early year setting or regularly attending a school/early years setting? If so, identify the school/early years setting;
- Is the health visitor/school nurse known;
- Any other known health contacts, e.g. GP, hospital consultant;
- Any significant/important recent or historical events/incidents in the child or family's life;
- Has the child recently spent time in another local authority area or abroad;
- Cause for concern including details of any allegations, their sources, timing and location;
- The identity and current whereabouts of the suspected/alleged perpetrator;
- The child's current location and emotional and physical condition;
- Whether the child is currently safe or is in need of immediate protection because of any approaching deadlines (e.g. child about to be collected by alleged abuser);
- Any other contact between children and the alleged perpetrator;
- The child's account and the parents' response to the concerns if known;
- The referrer's relationship and knowledge of the child and parents/carers;
- Known current or previous involvement of other agencies/practitioners;
- Any vulnerable adults in the household;
- Any known history of violent behaviour;
- Any wider family and environmental factors;
- Information regarding parental knowledge of, and agreement to, the referral.
8. How Referrals will be Received
Child Protection referrals into the Safeguarding Hub will be received by a screening social worker, providing referrers with an opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified social worker. Outside normal working hours, the Emergency Duty Team will receive referrals.
The referral will be dealt with in accordance with the local Family Common Assessment Framework and the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families to determine whether a referral should be responded to on the basis that the child is in need of support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 or in need of protection under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.
The social worker receiving a referral will establish:
- The nature of the concern;
- How and why it has arisen;
- What the child's and family's needs appear to be;
- Whether the concern involves any risk of Significant Harm;
- Whether there is any need for any urgent action to protect the child, any other child in the same household or any child in contact with an alleged perpetrator.
To do so, the worker receiving the referral will usually discuss the case with the referrer and in doing so, will:
- Give their name and designation;
- Help the referrer to give as much relevant information as possible and repeat back to the referrer the key points using the order indicated in Section 7, Making a Referral);
- Clarify information that the referrer is reporting directly and information that has been obtained from a third party;
- Discuss whether there are concerns about maltreatment and if so, what is their foundation;
- Clarify who has and who has not been told about the referral;
- Clarify the whereabouts of the child;
- Discuss whether it may be necessary to consider taking urgent action to ensure the safety of the child or any other child in the same household or who is in contact with an alleged perpetrator;
- Agree how to re-contact the referrer if further clarification is required;
- Clarify the extent to which the referrer's anonymity can be maintained (if this is an issue in the case of a non-practitioner referrer);
- Clarify expectations about how and when feedback is to be given.
Referrers 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.
At the end of any discussion about a child, the referrer (whether a practitioner or a member of the public or family) and the Children's Social Care social worker should be clear about any proposed action, who will be taking it and timescales, or if no further action will be taken. The outcome should be recorded by Children's Social Care and by the referrer (if a practitioner in another service) using the relevant forms/recording procedures.
Receipt of a written referral should be acknowledged within ONE working day. If the referrer has not received an acknowledgement within THREE working days they should make contact with the Safeguarding Hub manager.
The worker receiving the referral must consider whether there are other children in the same household, the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere, who should be considered as the subject of a referral.
The worker receiving the referral will also:
- Check Social care records and other relevant databases available to the Safeguarding Hub, to establish what information is already held about the child, family and alleged perpetrator;
- Check whether the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan and/or whether there has been any previous involvement with the Children's Social Care in relation to the child or children concerned and any other members of the household;
- Identify other agencies or persons who may hold relevant information;
- Consult other agencies as appropriate (including the Police if any offence has been or is suspected to have been committed - see Section 9, Where there is or may be a Crime Committed).
Parents should be informed of the referral and their permission sought to share information with other agencies unless to do so would:
- Prejudice any investigations or enquiries;
- Be prejudicial to the child's welfare and/or safety;
- Cause concern that the child would be at risk of further Significant Harm;
In these circumstances, a manager from Children's Social Care may decide to consult other relevant agencies without seeking parental consent. Any such decision must be recorded with reasons.
9. Where there is or may be a Crime Committed
If the referral relates to a situation in which a crime has or may have been committed, including sexual or physical assault or physical injury caused by neglect, the worker receiving the referral must discuss the referral with the Police at the earliest opportunity. The Police, in consultation with Children's Social Care and any other agencies involved with the child, must consider whether there should be a criminal investigation and/or a Children's Social Care led intervention.
Whilst the responsibility to instigate criminal proceedings rests with the Police, they should consider the view expressed by other agencies. In some circumstances with less serious cases, it may be agreed that the best interests of the child would be served by a Children's Social Care led intervention rather than a full police investigation.
This will need to be discussed carefully and a decision made at a Strategy Discussion.
10. The Outcome of a Referral and Feedback
Children's Social Care will decide upon and record their next steps of action within one working day of receiving a referral.
The decision about future action will take account of the discussion with the referrer, consideration of information held in existing records and discussion with any other practitioners or services as necessary (including the Police where a crime against a child may have been committed - see Section 7, Where there is or may be a Crime Committed).
The outcome of the referral will be:
- That the child appears to be a Child in Need and there are concerns about the child's health and development or concerns of Significant Harm which justify an Assessment (which may be very brief if the criteria for initiating a Section 47 Enquiry are met); and/or
- That emergency protective action should be taken to safeguard the child or children - see Section 11, Emergency Protective Action - (this will usually be determined by an immediate Strategy Discussion); or
- Where the child is already known and new information suggests that the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, that a Section 47 Enquiry and/or a new or updated Assessment is required; or
- That a referral to another agency should be made in accordance with the Family Common Assessment Framework and/or the provision of advice and information is acted on; or
- That no further action is required.
Where the Significant Harm has been caused by a person who was not previously known to the child or by another child, the decision whether to take further action under these procedures will depend on the following:
- Is the alleged perpetrator likely to pose a risk of Significant Harm to this or any other children?
- Did the parent or carer by omission or commission contribute to the abuse?
Feedback on the outcome of a referral should be provided to the referrer, including where no further action is to be taken.
In the case of a referral by a member of the public, feedback should be provided in a way which will respect the confidentiality of the child.
11. Emergency Protective Action
Where there is a risk to the life of a child or the possibility of immediate harm, the Police officer or social worker must act with urgency to secure the safety of the child.
Immediate protection may be achieved by:
- An alleged abuser agreeing to leave the home;
- The removal of the alleged abuser;
- A voluntary agreement for the child to move to a safer place;
- Application for an Emergency Protection Order;
- Removal of the child under powers of Police Protection;
- Gaining entry to the household under Police powers.
The agency taking protective action must always consider whether action is also required to safeguard other children in the same household or in the household of/in contact with an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere.
Children's Social Care should only seek the assistance of the police to use their powers of Police Protection in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an Emergency Protection Order or other reasons relating to the child's immediate safety.
Planned immediate protection will normally take place following a Strategy Discussion.
Where a child/ is or children are afforded immediate protection by an Emergency Protection Order or Police Protection the local authority has a duty to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry.
12. Cross Boundary Referrals
If the referral relates to a child who is temporarily visiting the area of another local authority or in a hospital or Looked After outside of the local area, the local authority/Police for the area where the child actually is at the time have prime responsibility for an initial response to the referral.
The referral should be passed to that authority immediately for them to follow the necessary procedures and to undertake a Section 47 Enquiry and/or take any immediate protective action that is necessary. They will be responsible for liaising with any other Children's Social Care as necessary.
Before undertaking such enquiries, the child's home authority must be consulted and agreement sought on who is best placed to undertake the enquiries. Where this is consistent with the child's immediate protection needs, it may be agreed that the child's home authority will respond to the referral.
For those children from other local authority areas, who are the subject of Child Protection Plans, there must be consultation with the responsible Lead Social Worker.
Any relevant personnel from another local authority or agency should be consulted and invited to attend the Strategy Meeting or invited to contribute to the Strategy Discussion.
Comprehensive enquiries must be undertaken with the host local authority and any agencies to which the child is known. This must include checking whether the child has a Child Protection Plan.
All enquiries should be confirmed in writing.
The Strategy Discussion/Meeting, clarifying roles, responsibilities and timescales for actions, must be recorded on the relevant Forms and copies of the record distributed within ONE working day, to all relevant parties.
13. Pre-Birth Referrals
Where agencies or individuals anticipate that prospective parents may need support services to care for their baby or that the baby may likely to suffer Significant Harm, a referral to Children's Social Care must be made as soon as the concerns are recognised.
Where the concerns centre around an aspect of parenting behaviour, for example substance misuse, or domestic violence, the referrer must make clear how this is likely to impact on the baby and what risks may be predicted. See Pregnant Women, Partners and Babies where there is Substance Misuse (MAPLAG) Procedure.
A pre-birth referral must always be considered where:
- There has been a previous unexplained death of a child whilst in the care of either parent;
- A parent or other adult in the household has been convicted for violent conduct;
- The mother, father or a sibling in the household has a Child Protection Plan;
- The mother, father or a sibling has previously been removed from the household by court order or Accommodated as a result of concerns regarding Significant Harm;
- The degree of Domestic Abuse known to have occurred is likely to significantly impact on the babies safety or development;
- The degree of parental substance misuse is likely to significantly impact on the babies safety or development;
- The degree of parental mental illness/impairment is likely to significantly impact on the babies safety or development;
- There are serious concerns about the prospective parents' ability to care for themselves and/or to care for the child, for example where the parent has no support and/or has learning disabilities;
- Where a pregnant woman is associating with a person she knows is identified as a person presenting a risk or potential risk to children or she is herself a person posing a risk;
- Any other concern exists that the baby may be likely to suffer Significant Harm, including a parent previously suspected of having Fabricated or Induced Illness / Perplexing Presentations Procedure, or a prospective parent who has been the subject of fabricated or induced illness as a child themselves.
Delay must be avoided when making referrals in order to:
- Provide sufficient time to make adequate plans for the babies protection;
- Provide sufficient time for a full and informed assessment;
- Avoid initial approaches to parents in the last stages of pregnancy, at what is already an emotionally charged time;
- Enable parents to have more time to contribute their own ideas and solutions to concerns and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome to assessments;
- Enable the early provision of support services so as to facilitate optimum home circumstances prior to the birth.
Concerns should be shared with prospective parent/s and consent obtained to refer to Children's Social Care unless this action in itself may place the welfare of the unborn child at risk e.g. if there are concerns that the parent/s may move to avoid contact with social workers or other practitioners.
Where the outcome of the referral is that the child is in need of support services rather than safeguarding, the child should be referred to the appropriate service using the Family Common Assessment Framework/Assessment format with the parents' /carers' involvement and agreement.
It is a requirement for a midwife or registered medical professional to attend the birth of a baby unless there has been an unforeseen medical situation. In the event of an emergency then an appropriate midwife or medical professional should be contacted immediately. Where it is deemed that the parent's intention is to exclude medical intervention then the welfare of the child should be seen as paramount and consideration should be given to involving a specialist from Children's Social Care or the police.
14. Adults who disclose that they have abused a Child
Adults may disclose to a professional that they have abused a child. This may be when receiving a therapeutic service from a counsellor or therapist, or receiving another type of service provision. Where disclosure of sexual abuse is concerned, it is important to note that abusers may seek therapeutic help strategically, when they suspect that they are about to be investigated or they believe a victim may be about to disclose the abuse; they may use the fact that they have sought help as mitigation for their offences. They may gain pleasure from talking about the abuse or may try to reinforce the perceived acceptability of it. They may attempt to 'groom' a therapist, counsellor or other professional in an attempt to ensure that the abuse is not reported, or to continue receiving support from the professional after it has been reported.
It is not safe to assume that an adult who discloses involvement in sexual abuse will disclose the full extent of his / her abusive behaviour. It is also unsafe to conclude that, without a multi-agency risk assessment, because s/he claims the abuse happened in the past, s/he is not actually continuing to abuse currently. It may well be the case that other agencies with a child protection responsibility, that is the police or Children's Social Care, have additional information already. The whole picture created by putting together what is known to agencies may mean that decisive protective action can be taken in respect of particular children, or that a prosecution will become feasible. See Underlying Principles and Values, Information Sharing and Confidentiality and Section 16, Disclosure of Childhood Abuse.
Where Sexual Abuse or Fabricated or Induced Illness is concerned, or any other situation where a child or other adult may be placed at further risk by doing so, it will not be appropriate to seek the service user's consent to share information before a referral is made to police or Children's Social Care. For more information see Fabricated or Induced Illness / Perplexing Presentations Procedure.
15. Adults who give cause for Concern in Relation to Children with whom they have Contact
Staff in the course of their work may become concerned about the risk of Significant Harm to a child posed by a particular adult. In these cases, it will be appropriate to seek guidance from the police and Children's Social Care about any action that may need to be taken.
In particular, Children's Social Care should assess any risk posed to individual children by an adult offender who is a person posing a risk (PPR), or who has committed any offence against a child which caused Significant Harm. See Persons, Volunteers / Carers Identified as Posing a Risk to Children Procedure for more information. In most cases, this will involve undertaking child protection enquiries and convening a Child Protection Conference - see Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure.
If the person who is posing a risk is a member of staff or volunteer or a carer then the procedures set out in Allegations against Persons who work with Children (including Staff, Carers and Volunteers) Procedure should be followed.
16. Disclosure of Childhood Abuse
It is not unusual for people to disclose experiences of physical, sexual, emotional abuse and / or neglect which constitute Significant Harm only when they reach adulthood. People who make disclosures do not only include potential, current or former service users, but professionals whose disclosure may be prompted by discussions in training for example, or listening to other people's experiences in their work. See also See Section 15, Adults who give cause for Concern in Relation to Children with whom they have Contact
Responses to allegations by an adult of abuse experienced as a child should be of as high a standard as a response to current abuse because:
- There is a significant likelihood that a person who abused a child in the past will have continued to do so and may still be active;
- Criminal prosecution may be possible if sufficient evidence can be carefully collated.
Wherever historical abuse enquiries relate to alleged abuse within institutions, for example children's homes or boarding schools, professionals should consult the Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure and Allegations against Persons who work with Children (including Staff, Carers and Volunteers) Procedure.
17. Taking Action following a Disclosure by an Adult
When an adult discloses childhood abuse, the professional receiving the information should record the discussion in detail. See Section 19, Recording. The professional should establish, where possible, if the adult has any knowledge of the alleged abuser's recent or current whereabouts, and whether they know if the alleged abuser has had any recent or current contact with children.
If the professional receiving the information is concerned that the alleged abuser has current or recent contact with children s/he should inform Children's Social Care by contacting the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub or South Yorkshire Police - see Local Contacts. Children's Social Care will always involve the police in cases where a criminal offence may have been committed.
If there are no concerns that the alleged abuser has current or recent contact with children, the professional to whom the disclosure was made should ask the adult whether they want to report the abuse to the police. If so the Police should be contacted (see Local Contacts). The adult should be reassured that the police are able and willing to progress an investigation, wherever possible, even for those adults who are vulnerable as a result of mental ill health or learning difficulties.
Professionals should always try to encourage adults who disclose childhood abuse to talk to the police and / or Children's Social Care about what their options may be. This is particularly important in relation to safeguarding other potential victims. Professionals involved with the adult who disclosed the abuse should also ensure that they are referred for therapeutic interventions if they so wish.
18. Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults
Where concerns exist that a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, the worker making a referral should consider whether Vulnerable Adults are present in the household. On receipt of a referral, Children's Social Care should contact the Safeguarding Manager for (Adults). If a Vulnerable Adult is present a referral should be made to Safeguarding Adult Services. If an investigation by Children's Social Care identify a Vulnerable Adult a referral should also be made.
Workers making referrals may be invited to contribute to a safeguarding adults' Strategy Meeting/Discussion, the safeguarding adult Section 42 enquiry under the Care Act 2014 and / or the safeguarding adult conference.
Where an adult protection referral indicates that children may be at risk, the Safeguarding Manager (Adults) should contact Children's Social Care. Child and adult safeguarding services should work collaboratively in order to protect all involved, where appropriate. See Sheffield City Council, Safeguarding Adults Policies, Procedures and Guidance.
Information about adults who may be at risk of harm, Vulnerable Adults who may be pose a risk of harm to children, and Vulnerable Adults who admit abuse of a child must be shared within the framework of the Safeguarding Adults Information Sharing Protocol. See Sheffield City Council, Safeguarding Adults Policies, Procedures and Guidance.
The referrer should keep a written record of:
- The child's account;
- Discussions with the parent;
- Discussions with managers;
- Information provided to the duty social worker;
- Decisions taken (clearly timed, dated and signed);
- Records should be reviewed with regular intervals to ensure that decisions taken are followed through.
The referrer should confirm verbal and telephone referrals in writing, within 24 hours.
The duty social worker receiving the referral should keep a written record of:
- Discussions with the referrer;
- Discussions with any other practitioners or agencies involved (including the Police where a crime against a child may have been committed);
- Any other relevant information which was taken into account;
- Discussions with managers;
- Decisions taken (clearly timed, dated and signed);
- Records should be reviewed with regular intervals to ensure that decisions are followed through.