Initial Contacts and Referrals

If there are Child in Need or Child Protection concerns agencies/professionals are encouraged to make the referral by phoning directly the Waltham Forest Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on:

Phone: 020 8496 2310 (Monday - Thursday 9am-5.15pm and Fri 9am-5pm)
Mob: Tel: 020 8496 3000 (Out of Hours)
Fax: 020 8496 2313

And to be followed up in writing by the completion of the MARF - Multi Agency Referral Form within 24 hours.

The completed MARF plus any existing CAF (Common Assessment Framework) Assessment needs to be sent to the Waltham Forest Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub based at:

Juniper House, 221 Hoe Street,
E17 9PH,
Waltham Forest
Fax: 020 8496 2313

Where a referral is being made in relation to an allegation against someone working with or caring for children please see Waltham Forest's LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) - Allegations against a professional or volunteer working with children.

Where there are concerns about child sexual exploitation the Guidance on MAP (Multi-agency Planning) and MASE (Multi-agency Sexual Exploitation) should be followed.


This chapter should be read in conjunction with:

1. Initial Contacts

An Initial Contact is made where the Waltham Forest Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) 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.

All contacts need to be considered alongside thresholds for Waltham Forest Early Help and Threshold Criteria for Intervention Document and a decision made 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.

Any significant information received about a child who is an open case should be regarded as an Initial Contact, passed to the child's allocated social worker and recorded on the electronic data-base. In the case of siblings their needs should also be taken into account.

The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) is not a referral form, although it may be used to support a referral or a specialist assessment.

In all other cases, at the point when an Initial Contact is made, the MASH social worker should establish whether the enquiry can be dealt with by the provision of information and advice or re-direction to other agencies or services.

There are occasions where advice of a general nature is provided but no personal details are provided, in these cases the workers actions should be recorded on the "Advice Form".

The MASH social worker should also check the electronic data-base records to see if the child or family is known and, if known, retrieve information on them. Any such information should be passed to the allocated social worker if there is one, and otherwise to the duty social worker. (See Section 4, Screening Process.)

Each child referred to Children's Social Care and who go onto receive services must have a category of need code recorded in Frameworki. For children who then go on to become looked after, the child's placement and legal status cannot be recorded without a category of need code.

2. Referrals

An Initial Contact will be progressed to a Referral where the social worker or manager considers an assessment and/or services may be required for a Child in Need.

Referrers should 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 violence and abuse, mental illness, substance misuse and/or learning difficulties.

Once the referral has been accepted by local authority 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 social worker will arrange to visit or 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;
  • 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;
  • The child's current location and emotional and physical condition;
  • Whether the child needs immediate protection;
  • Details of any alleged perpetrator;
  • Referrer's relationship with and knowledge of the child and his or her family;
  • Known involvement of other agencies;
  • Information regarding parents' knowledge and agreement to referral.

3. Timescales

Once received, all referrals must be written up and a decision made about their disposal within one working day of the initial contact. (Note: This should be as soon as possible where it is evident the child is seen as requiring immediate protection/urgent action)

 Within one 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 enquires must be made and the child assessed under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

    (See London Child Protection Procedures, Child Protection s47 Enquiries Procedure, Timescales);
  • 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.

4. Screening Process

The following process applies to new cases of children previously unknown to the authority, and to closed cases.

The process of Referrals must include screening against the Waltham Forest Early Help and Threshold Criteria for Intervention Document and must include internal electronic database and agency checks. (Consent from the persons involved should be obtained) to establish 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;
  • Involving other agencies as appropriate and in accordance with Information Sharing Advice for Safeguarding Practitioners, DfE:
    • Consent from the parent or carer should normally be sought;
    • However, the Data Protection Act should never be a barrier to 'sharing information where the failure to do so would result in a child or vulnerable adult being placed at risk of harm' or indeed on those occasions where seeking consent might increase the risk of harm;
    • Information should always be 'necessary and proportionate'.

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 (see London Child Protection Procedures, Child Protection s47 Enquiries Procedure, Strategy meeting / discussion).

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.

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

The parent's consent should usually be sought before discussing a referral with other agencies unless this may place the child at risk of Significant Harm, or may compromise evidence in which case the manager should authorise the discussion of the referral with other agencies without parental knowledge or consent. The authorisation should be recorded with reasons.

5. Initial Disposal of Referrals

The initial disposal 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: the provision of information, advice, sign-posting to another agency, referring on to another agency with the family's consent and/or no further action;
  2. That the child appears to be a Child in Need with a moderate level of need, in which case, the manager may authorise an Assessment;
  3. That the child appears to be a Child in Need with a high level of need, which must result in 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 and further Assessment 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. (See London Child Protection Procedures and Practice Guidance, Child Protection Enquiries (Section 47) Procedure.)

Professional referrers should be advised of the disposal of the referral.

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. 

6. Recording of Referrals

All Initial Contacts and Referrals should be recorded on the electronic database.