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2.2.1 Contacts and Referrals


This Chapter should be read in conjunction with:

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board Threshold Document

Early Help Strategy (Cambridgeshire Families Thrive)

DfE, Information Sharing Advice for Safeguarding Practitioners


In January 2018, this chapter was entirely revised and updated and should be re-read in full.


  1. Initial Contacts
  2. Requests for Checks and Information
  3. Requests for Consultation
  4. Progressing Contacts
  5. Referrals
  6. Strategy Meetings
  7. Feedback to the Referrer
  8. Request for Transfer in CP Conference

1. Initial Contacts

An Initial Contact is made where the Integrated Front Door (IFD) is contacted about a child, who may be a Child in Need, and where there is a request for general advice, information or a service. The IFD comprises the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and the Early Help Hub (EHH) and provides a single point of contact for all concerns about children and families.

Each contact will be allocated to an Information Officer who will consider it against the thresholds for Children in Need and the criteria for Early Help.

A decision will be made by a Team Manager within 24 hours regarding the level of response required.

At any time, an Initial Contact may become a Referral if it appears that services may be required for a Child in Need or to address safeguarding concerns.

Any significant information received about a child who is an open case will be emailed to the Social worker, Consultant Social Worker and Unit Coordinator and that team will store the information and record a case note on ICS. 

Referrals from partners should be submitted on the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board Referral Form, though the Police will use their Form 101. Referrals from the Police concerning domestic abuse should also have a DASH referral attached. Where this is not present it should be requested. The Early Help Assessment may be used to support a referral or a specialist assessment or to request additional support through the Early Help Hub.

Where the referral is from family member or member of the public, as much information about the family and the concerns must be obtained as possible, using the standard referral form as a guide, along with the name and contact details of the referrer. If the caller asks for their details not to be shared with the family, it must be explained that, whilst Social Care would not divulge these, anonymity cannot be guaranteed. Such a referral would be marked as ‘anonymous’ to support this.

Domestic Violence/Abuse contacts

Domestic violence/abuse contacts must be clearly flagged as such on the contact record. Where the contact includes information that assesses the situation as high risk as in the Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse Risk Identification Checklist (CAADA RIC), Scale 3 / 4 on the Barnardo’s Risk assessment matrix then MASH enquiries will be undertaken.

Click here to view Barnardo’s Domestic Violence Risk Identification Matrix.

Contacts Relating to a CYPS Member of Staff or their Family

This should be read in conjunction with the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual.

If a contact linked to a member of staff becomes a referral, the Head of Service will be consulted with a view to any necessary work being undertaken by another area or authority, as appropriate in the circumstances.

Any member of staff found to be searching or viewing data in ICS that is not relevant to their role will be disciplined as a breach of conduct under the terms and conditions of employment.

Where information is of a highly sensitive nature, the records may be ‘locked down’. A manager or relevant business support manager may request "ACL" (Access Control List) via the Business Support Helpdesk to be applied to relevant records in ICS to limit access to named individuals. This may include preventing a member of staff from accessing their own child's record.

Where the Parent Carer is Under 18

Where the parent/carer of a child who is the subject of a referral, is under 18, they may be the subject of a referral themselves and offered an assessment in their own right. This would normally be undertaken by a different Social Worker. If this is declined then this must be recorded on the 'Social care referral form' exemplar form by the Team Manager/CSW.

2. Requests for Checks and Information

Requests for basic checks from other professionals are not recorded as contacts if this is all that is required. Information can only be shared with the following professionals:

  • Youth Offending Service;
  • NHS Cambridgeshire;
  • NHS Peterborough;
  • Department of Child Health;
  • North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust;
  • BENCH (Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Community Rehabilitation Company);
  • NPS (National Probation Service);
  • Cambridgeshire Police;
  • Emergency Duty Team;
  • Other Local Authorities.

The Information Officer must establish the caller’s identity and confirm that they have an active involvement in the case they are enquiring about. If in any doubt they must take the caller’s name and switchboard telephone number and call back to confirm validity.

The following information can be shared subject to the above validation:

  • Whether a case is open or closed;
  • Whether a child is known to Childrens Services;
  • The name of the allocated Social Worker and Manager;
  • Whether there are any siblings and whether they are also open cases to Childrens Services.

In certain circumstances, more detailed information will be shared, for example with CAFCASS to assist in court proceedings. Such requests are required in writing and must be specific about the purpose for which the information is required. The Information Officer will provide a brief chronology of Social Care involvement.

However, there are sometimes circumstances where a partner agency or another authority will request more detailed information, for example where safeguarding concerns have been raised about a parent previously known to Cambridgeshire. Whilst it is important to respond to any concerns about a child’s safety, care must be taken not to breach data protection regulations.

Unless this is very urgent due, perhaps, to an immediate child protection issue, the agency should be asked to put their request in writing, outlining the issues and including the consent of the adult(s) concerned. Where consent is unavailable or has been withheld, the request must detail the attempts made to secure it. Information would only be shared without consent to assist a s47 investigation.

The request should be passed to a Team Manager who can authorise for a worker from the agency or authority to view Cambridgeshire files. Notes can be taken, but only documents ‘owned’ by Cambridgeshire County Council (e.g. social worker’s assessment) can be copied. Documents originally provided by third parties would require their permission to be shared and court documents cannot be disclosed without the permission of the relevant court.

In very urgent situations, advice should be taken from Legal Services and the Data Protection Team on what it would be permissible to share.

3. Request for Consultation

Professionals can contact Social Care for consultation on a particular case to assist them in determining next steps without committing to a referral.

Such requests will be passed initially to an Information Officer who will ascertain full details of the child. They will confirm with the caller that information is not being recorded onto Social Care records, though will be held on a confidential spreadsheet.

The Information Officer completes the Professional Consultation form and transfers this and the call to the appropriate MASH Navigator or Early Help Area Manager. The Navigator/EHAM will discuss the cases with the caller and record the advice given on the form which is then passed to Business Support for filing.

If, in fact, the caller wishes to make a referral, or this is the advice from MASH following consultation, the process outlined below would be followed.

4. Progressing Contacts

Upon receipt of a Contact, the Information Officer will open an Involvement on ICS and assign an initial ‘BRAG’ rating:

Blue: Information request or NFA
Green: Early Help Hub
Amber: Requires MASH action
Red: Immediate safeguarding concern

The Information Officer will examine the Contact information to ascertain whether the referrer (if a professional) has obtained the consent of parent(s) or the child (if over 16) for the referral to be made. If there are no safeguarding concerns and consent has not been obtained, they will not accept this as a referral and will contact the referrer to ask that they discuss the referral with the parent/child and contact again.

Where consent has not been obtained and there are no safeguarding concerns raised within referral, the Information Officer will discuss/agree with the Team Manager the options of forwarding the referral to the Early Help Hub or case closure.

Where there is not a safeguarding issue and parental consent has been obtained the Information Officer will complete family details on ICS and add a brief chronology of any previous Social Care involvement.

Where there are safeguarding concerns, the Information Officer will discuss these immediately with the Team Manager and also complete ICS and the chronology. Where parental consent has not been obtained for the referral, the TM must consider whether, given the nature of the concerns, it is appropriate to proceed without consent. (Note: this is only applicable in cases rated Amber or Red). It should be noted that this is not a one-time decision. If consent has not yet been obtained, future case planning must continually consider the need to obtain this as soon as doing so would be safe for the child.

The Team Manager will determine next steps, including a ‘Threshold Decision’ about whether MASH involvement is required. They will assign the appropriate BRAG rating in the light of information now available:

Amber: Requires MASH action within 24 hours
Red: Requires urgent MASH action within 4 hours
and provide ongoing oversight, recording their decision as a case note on ICS

Information about partner agency involvement will be requested from the MASH Navigators who will provide this in accordance with the timescale / BRAG rating of the case.

5. Referrals

Where a referral has been rated Amber or Red by the Team Manager, it becomes a referral and further action will be taken within MASH.

Amber: Urgent safeguarding issues will require MASH enquiries and/or a strategy meeting within 4 hours of the referral being received, to determine whether a s47 investigation is required.
Red: MASH enquiries will be completed to establish whether the threshold is met for s17 assessment or s47 investigation. Where it is clear that a detailed assessment will be needed, for example in non-urgent pre-birth referrals, the case may be passed directly to the local social work Unit.

The Team Manager must clearly record on ICS the rationale for this decision.

6. Strategy Meeting

It is for Social Care to determine whether a strategy meeting is required and the Team Manager will allocate the case to a Social Worker who will complete the ‘Strategy Meeting Request’ template, passing it to Business Support with the time of the meeting. Business Support will organise and minute the meeting and will invite partners who will collate their agency’s information in preparation for the meeting. A professional who has made the referral should normally be invited to attend the strategy meeting. The Social Worker will review the case chronology and prepare an initial analysis to inform the discussion. They must always attend and contribute fully to the discussion.

The meeting will be chaired by the Team Manager who will also sign off the minutes of the meeting on ICS.

The minutes should be circulated to attendees within 24 hours of the meeting.

For further information on the process, content and management of strategy meetings see Strategy Discussion Guidance.

Where the meeting decides to progress to a s47 investigation, see Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board, Child Protection Enquiries – Section 47 Children Act 1989.

7. Feedback to the Referrer

Feedback should be provided, normally by email, to any professional referrer at the conclusion of the MASH process/involvement. Feedback is not given to family members or members of the public to protect the confidentiality of the referred family.

8. Request for Transfer in CP Conference

It is very important that children subject to Child Protection Plans are safeguarded when their family moves from one local authority area to another.

When a family move into Cambridgeshire their current authority are required to notify MASH. This may only be for information if only a temporary stay is anticipated, or with a view to a Transfer-In Child Protection Conference being held and possible case transfer.

In response to such an enquiry, the Information Officer should not initially record any details, but require the referring authority to complete Form SOC 1233. This will help ensure full details are obtained and will also inform the action that follows.

Upon receipt of the completed form, the Information Officer will discuss this with the Team Manager.

Where it is clear that the family’s residence is permanent, the Team Manager will complete a case note in ICS, whilst the Information Officer will create records for the family, open an involvement, add the SOC 1233 form to a communications log and forward to PQA for a Transfer-In Conference to be arranged.

When PQA accept that a Conference is required, they will notify the relevant District for case allocation.

Where the family’s presence in the county is temporary, or where the family appears to be moving about and not settling, it may not be appropriate for the ‘ownership’ of the case to be transferred to Cambridgeshire.

The Information Officer will still add the family details and SOC 1233 to ICS, but if the referring authority is seeking a CPC and case transfer, further discussion would be required. If first line managers are unable to immediately agree case responsibility, they must refer to their respective child protection managers, who should determine case responsibility. If agreement is still not achieved, this must be escalated to more senior managers as a matter of urgency to prevent delay which could have a detrimental effect on the child.