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Contacts and Referrals

Scope of this chapter

This chapter includes actions that will be undertaken both when contacts are received regarding a child who is and also in respect of a child who is not currently receiving services from Children and Families and Specialist Services.

All those in contact with children and families in a professional capacity will consult the Continuum of Need document to obtain information regarding the types of services available for a child they are supporting. They will contact Hertfordshire Children’s Services via telephone in an emergency or via the online referral form where a child:

  • Is suffering or has suffered harm through abuse and / or neglect;
  • Is likely to suffer harm through abuse and / or neglect; or
  • (With agreement of a person with parental responsibility) would be likely to benefit from family support services.


Related guidance

Contact - A ‘Contact’ is where a member of the public or a professional makes contact with Children’s Services about a child who may be a Child in Need of support or protection, and where there is a request for information or a service.

Referrer - The ‘Referrer’ is the member of the public or professional making contact with Children’s Services.

Referral - For this procedure, a ‘Referral’ is a possible outcome of a Contact, where a social worker or manager considers a statutory response may be required. In some instances, it may be identified that a child may be better supported via other services such as Early Help or Universal Services (e.g. health, schools, children’s centres, etc.).

The belief or suspicion about significant harm may be based on information which comes from different sources.

  • It may arise in the context of the Families First Assessment where the Lead Professional becomes concerned about the extent of the child's unmet needs and the risk of harm to the child;
  • It may come from a member of the public, the child concerned, another child, a family member or other professional 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 details of both children, must be sent to Children’s Services;
  • The suspicion or allegation may relate to a parent or professional or volunteer caring for or working with the child - see Managing Allegations against Adults who work with Children and Young People Procedure.

Where a professional is unsure about contacting Children's Services - schools, family centres and health agencies all have designated (or named) professionals responsible for safeguarding children and these professionals should be your first point of contact. Ask your manager if you are not sure of your agency’s safeguarding designated or named professional.

Where a case is already open to Children's Services - concerns/information should be sent to the allocated social worker. If you have information which suggests an urgent child protection matter, please speak to the allocated social worker or their team manager without delay.

If there is an immediate safeguarding concern where the child is not already an open case to Children's Services, or, if you do not know the name of the allocated social worker, you should contact the Customer Services Centre directly to make a new referral/share information. Customer Service Centre - Tel: 0300 123 4043.

Schools and Keyworkers with an Open Families First Assessment

Children’s Services have implemented a single Consultation Hub for schools and Keyworkers with an open Families First Assessment.

The Consultation Hub is operated by a Social Worker, a Child Protection School Liaison Officer and a Families First Coordinator and is intended to provide advice on child protection concerns.

The Consultation Hub is open to all schools in the county, including Independent Schools and key workers with an open Families First Assessment only. There is an expectation that professionals will continue to consult the Continuum of Need and HSCP Child Protection Procedures and their designated safeguarding lead.

The purpose of the Consultation Hub is for schools to be able to seek advice when they have a potential safeguarding concern for a child, specifically if they are not clear of the next steps that may need to be taken to ensure the most appropriate support is provided. The Hub is also able to offer advice and guidance around Early Help Services and intervention.

Following a consultation, you may be advised to make a referral. All referrals made will be triaged and sent to the most appropriate team within Children’s Services.

Please note, Children’s Services will keep a record of the consultation, which could be shared with the family should a Subject Access request be received – subject to safeguarding considerations.

The Consultation Hub will be open Monday – Thursday 9am - 5pm and Friday 9am - 4pm.

The Consultation Hub will be open Term Time Only. If you have any safeguarding concerns outside of these hours, please follow the guidance of the Continuum of Need.

  • For clear safeguarding concerns - Schools should consult the Hertfordshire Continuum of Need document to ascertain if the concern meets threshold for safeguarding and discuss with the Designated Safeguarding Lead within the School. If it is felt that threshold is met for an urgent safeguarding referral to be made, School should call 0300 123 4043 and make the referral (Following up in writing using the online referral form);
  • If the referral is not considered urgent but felt to meet threshold for a safeguarding response, an Online Child Protection Referral Form should be completed;
  • When there is current Social Care involvement with a family. The named worker should be contacted with your concerns;
  • To have concerns ‘noted or logged’ on a system. Internal School Systems should be used for these concerns;
  • By Key Workers of an open Families First Assessment. If a child within your school has an open Families First Assessment, advice should be sought from your local Senior Families First Coordinator;
  • When there is an open Families First Assessment to another agency. Schools should contact the named Key worker.

If you are a key worker leading a Families First intervention and have a child protection concern about the family you are working with or a school who has a concern that you believe warrants a child protection referral, please contact the Consultation Hub before completing the Child Protection Contact Form online.

Early Years and Childcare

If you are not a school or a key worker of an open Families First Assessment, please use the Continuum of Needs Continuum of Needs and/or seek advice from your agency designated safeguarding lead.

Early years providers have a duty under section 40 of the Childcare Act 2006 to comply with the welfare requirements of the early years foundation stage (EYFS)44. Early years providers must ensure that:

  • They are alert to any issues of concern in the child’s life;
  • They have and implement a policy and procedures to safeguard children. This must include an explanation of the action to be taken when there are safeguarding concerns about a child and in the event of an allegation being made against a member of staff. The policy must also cover the use of mobile phones and cameras in the setting, that staff complete safeguarding training that enables them to understand their safeguarding policy and procedures, have up-to-date knowledge of safeguarding issues, and recognise signs of potential abuse and neglect;
  • They have a practitioner who is designated to take lead responsibility for safeguarding children within each early years setting and who must liaise with local statutory children’s services as appropriate. This lead must also complete child protection training.

Where professionals are concerned that a child or young person may be at imminent risk of significant harm, please call 999 or call 0300 123 4043 to make a Child Protection Contact Referral.

The Child Protection Referral form can be filled in online and is available with guidance on Hertfordshire County Council Website at: Report Concerns About a Child or Request Support.


When members of the public are concerned about the welfare of a child or an unborn baby, they will contact the Customer Services Centre, who will pass the information to the appropriate Children’s Services Team.

The Police and the NSPCC help lines offer an alternative means of reporting concerns and they will then inform Children's Services of any child protection concerns accordingly.

If a member of the public has immediate concerns for the safety and wellbeing of a child, they should call the Police.

Professionals wishing to make a referral should use the online referral form - Report concerns about a child or request support, Hertfordshire County Council. Professionals must create an account if they do not already have one.

Any immediate safeguarding concerns should be reported via the Customer Service Centre and then followed up using the online form within 24 hours, attaching any relevant documentation.

If for any reason professionals cannot send documents electronically, they should send them to the address below.

Customer Service Centre,
P.O. Box 153,

Any professional from another agency receiving a child protection (request) from a member of the public will:

  • Advise her/him to refer directly to Children's Services via the CSC;
  • Inform Children's Services of the details of the concern via CSC/online referral form;
  • Note details of the concern and the communication with CSC.

Professionals will, in general, seek to discuss any concerns with the family and where possible seek their agreement to make contact with Children's Services.

If informing the parents / carers or seeking agreement will place a child at increased likelihood of harm, having a discussion with parents/carers or seeking agreement will not be required.

The referrer will keep a written record of:

  • Discussions with child;
  • Discussions with parent;
  • Discussions with managers;
  • Information provided to Children's Services;
  • Decisions taken (clearly timed, dated and signed).

Contacts to Children's Services outside normal Customer Service Centre hours (08.00 - 20-00 Monday - Friday & 09.00 - 16.00 Saturday) are diverted to the Safeguarding Out of Hours Service.

Members of the public may prefer not to give their name to Children's Services or the NSPCC. Anonymous referrals from members of the public must be fully recorded and investigated thoroughly as possible by Children's Services.

If the referrer does not wish for their identity to be revealed, this will be recorded. Where possible, staff will respect a referrer's request for anonymity; however there are limitations to confidentiality in certain circumstances, for example, where her/his identity may have to be given e.g. to a court. This will always be explained to the referrer.

Professional referrals cannot be anonymous and should be made in the knowledge that during the course of enquiries it will be made clear which agency has originated the contact.

Children's Services will acknowledge contacts within one working day of receipt. Acknowledgement will be provided by an automated email or verbal confirmation (if contact made via phone). If no acknowledgement is received within three working days, the referrer must contact Children's Services again to establish the current status of their contact. At this stage the feedback provided may consist of acknowledging receipt of the contact only. Once the screening process has been conducted and a decision as to the outcome of the contact has been made, the referrer will be contacted again with further information.

Referrers will in most circumstances be contacted directly and have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with the most relevant Childrens Services team.

When making contact with Children’s Services, if the following information is known to the referrer, please provide as much detail as possible:

  • Full names, dates of birth and gender of children (including surnames used);
  • Family address (current and previous) and, where relevant, school/nursery attended;
  • Identity of those with Parental Responsibility;
  • Names and dates of birth of all members of the household (including all surnames used);
  • Ethnicity, first language and religion of children and parents/carers;
  • Details of any extended family or community who are significant for he child;
  • Any additional needs of the children including the means in which they communicate;
  • Any significant / important recent or past events/incidents in the child or family life, including previous concerns;
  • Cause for concern/need including details of allegations, their sources, timing and location of incidences;
  • 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 current or previous involvement of other agencies/professionals e.g. schools, GPs;
  • Background information relevant to referral e.g. positive aspects of parents care, previous concerns, pertinent parental issues e.g. mental health, domestic abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, threats and violence towards professionals;
  • Information regarding parents' knowledge of and agreement to the contact/ referral;
  • What support the child/family/professional think may be needed;
  • The views of the child/family about the contact.

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. The Act ensures that information shared is done appropriately.

The manner in which the provision of information and obtaining agreement from parents to share information is required, or not required, is as follows:

  • Parents Informed and agreement obtained to share information is obtained - The child and family will, where possible, be informed about the contact into Children’s Services and parents' permission will generally be sought by Children's Services before discussing information about them with other agencies;
  • Parents Informed Only - In this instance, the child and family will be informed only, but agreement to share is not obtained due to various reasons (e.g. It was not possible to gain agreement but it is in the best interest of the child to share information urgently);
  • Parents Not Informed and Agreement to Share Information is Not Obtained - Permission is not required if any criteria below apply:

    If parent(s) have not been informed prior to the contact, the professional referrer should be asked to inform them unless it is considered to do so might place the child at an increased likelihood of suffering significant harm by:

    • The behavioural response it prompts e.g. a child being subjected to abuse, maltreatment or threats / forced to remain silent if alleged abuser informed;
    • Leading to an unreasonable delay;
    • Leading to the risk of loss of evidential material;
    • Placing a member of staff from any agency at risk.

Inter-agency discussion without parental permission may also be justified if it is concluded that information held in other organisations is likely to inform a decision to conduct Section 47 Enquiries.

In the absence of consent by the parents the Lead Professional will make a judgement as to whether, without help, the needs of the child to be safeguarded will escalate.

A Children's Services Team Manager will authorise any decision to discuss the referral with other agencies without parental knowledge or permission, and the reasons for such action will be recorded. When there is a possibility that a crime may have been committed, discussion with the Police may occur prior to informing the parents of the concern.

All reasonable attempts must be made to gain parental consent.

Following receipt of a Contact, the Customer Service Centre will send the information on the most appropriate service to respond. In most cases, this will be The Gateway.

A review of the Children’s Services ‘front door’ has taken place. Based on the findings of the review which were further endorsed through a recent Peer Review, we are making some changes that will ‘go live’ on 26 July 2021.

  • The introduction of ‘The Gateway’. The front door functions of MASH, Families First Triage, the Adolescent Hub and the Consultation Hub will sit under one umbrella known as The Gateway;
  • The Gateway functions will sit under the operational management of Chris Askey –MASH Service Manager. Line management and team structures within Families First triage, MASH and the Adolescent Hub will remain the same but decision making is centralised;
  • Any clarification needed in respect of the best pathway for a child that cannot be quickly resolved between teams, will be made by Chris Askey to avoid any drift and provide a timely response to children and families. Communications between teams, parents and professionals in such circumstances will be formalised;
  • The functions within The Gateway will work closely together. It is anticipated that in time there will be co-location. There will be joint training, joint comms, joint team.

In accordance with Working Together to Safeguard Children (paragraph 69) within one working day, the manager or social worker with delegated authority will, in most cases, 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;
  • The child is in need, and should be assessed under Section 17 of the Children Act;
  • There is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm, and whether enquiries must be made and the child assessed under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 (see Section 47 Enquiry Procedure);
  • 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;
  • To see the child as soon as possible if the decision is taken that the contact requires further assessment.

If a child is open to a Children’s Services team, any requests for information or requests to view files will be processed by the allocated worker (CSC will add documents to Livelink and add Casenotes).

If a child is closed, CSC will open a Contact on LCS and use the following guidance for processing the request.

If the requests for information relates to an adult who was a former recipient of Children’s Services, CSC will open an Adult Contact on LCS to process the request.

If another local authority requests information due to a section 47 enquiry then CSC can confirm this without consent. Confirmation should be sent by email to a GOV.UK e-mail address.

All other information requests from agencies require a copy of a consent form from the individual or someone with PR.

The enquirer should be informed by CSC (telephone or email) that they need to provide evidence of consent/their statutory role with the family before we can process their request. The current request will not be processed.

If a statutory agency such as CAFCASS; SEN; Ofsted; CRI; SPA (Mental health) HYH; police, probation, schools/free schools/academies or NHS ask whether a child or their family is known to Children’s Services, and if the requestor confirms that the information is required for the purpose of protecting and safeguarding the welfare of a child, OR they have gained written consent from someone with PR the following action should be taken:

CSC to confirm details such as whether the child is known, whether the case is open or closed (if the Referral is Open to a Team this request would be sent via Casenotes to the allocated worker to progress) and the dates, purpose and outcome of Children’s Services involvement. Practitioners should check the dates and content of the following before recording on Enquiry Forms:

  • LCS and EHM Forms tab: Contacts (including outcomes, only record if these have not been progressed to a Referral); Referrals (including outcomes); Assessments (including outcomes); S47 enquiries (including outcomes); CP conferences; Closures;
  • LCS CP tab: Periods of Child Protection Plans and Reasons;
  • LCS CLA tab: Periods of CLA history, Accommodation and Legal Status;
  • LCS Chronology: Any Domestic Violence incidents not recorded as a Contact/Referral;
  • IES Referrals tab: Any referrals progressed for Early Interventions/Help;
  • IES Forms tab: Closure records.

On some occasions, agencies such as Housing may request information. This may be due to a family having rent arrears. This information sharing would not be informing a possible safeguarding decision and should therefore not be given without signed parental consent.

The UKBA (or UKIVA) may often request information that may inform the future plans for a child, i.e. a child being allowed to safely remain in the UK or safely return to their country of origin. For these requests for information on a child CSC can provide information without parental consent. All confirmation to UKBA should be sent by email to a GOV.UK e-mail address.

CSC will complete the initial CAFCASS Request for Information form.

If another Local Authority (OLA) or CAFCASS want detailed information about Hertfordshire’s involvement with a child/family (chronology, C and F assessment etc.) then this will be processed by the team currently working with a child (open cases to all services) or the relevant Safeguarding or 0-25 Assessment team (closed cases).

  • The requests need to be clear why the information is being requested and the context/background to the request, otherwise, CSC will return the request asking for more information;
  • Contact to be opened on LCS by CSC and progressed to ‘Info and Advice’ (or open and closed as an Adult Contact on LCS if relating to adult former recipient of services);
  • CIAO/Service Support to request paper files where appropriate and arrange with the OLA a date to view files;
  • Support to be provided by Service Support/CIAO/Children’s Practitioner to enable access to LCS (supervised at all times) ensuring that only child and relevant family members’ records are viewed;
  • In some cases, where OLA is some distance from Hertfordshire, or the relevant information is limited (e.g. Contacts / Information Only records), CIAO or Children’s Practitioner can cut and paste records/provide a chronology of relevant information and send this securely to LA. All relevant information will be included. If the OLA have asked specific questions, these will be answered as far as possible, or a reason provided if this is not possible. A Team Manager/CSW will oversee what is to be sent before it is sent. Information shared will be attached to either Livelink or case notes, so that subsequent requests may build on previously shared information;
  • Legal advice to be sought regarding provision of copies of relevant documents to the OLA.
  • If case is open - case note to allocated worker and email to CLU Helpdesk;
  • If case is closed - Contact to be opened on LCS and email to CLU helpdesk.

Where police (or another Government agency) make a request for information which is required for the prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension and prosecution of offenders or the assessment or collection of any tax or duty, should be referred to the Data Protection Team e-mail: or tel: 01992 588099.

These requests for information are commonly called s.29 Requests (S.29 of the Data Protection Act 1998). These types of requests can only be made by organisations with an investigatory function such as the police, UKBA, Probation and CEOP and so on.

S.29 requests are routed through to the DPT and they will take the requestor though verification / justification to ensure the exemption is justifiable and then we invite the requester in to view the information.

The Data Protection Team will also progress Subject Access to Records Requests.

No other requests for information will be processed by the DP Team.

IF IN DOUBT of Requestor identity or the legitimacy of the request.

If CSC is IN DOUBT of requestor identity or the legitimacy of the request – CSC should inform them that they need to provide evidence of their identity as a statutory agency (and consent from someone with PR unless there is a child protection risk) before providing any information. The request will not be processed in the interim.

If there are indications that a child be may be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, the manager will 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 will be notified immediately.

On receipt of notification that a child has been taken into Police Protection the Team Manager should have a strategy discussion with Police. See Hertfordshire Social Work Procedures - Children Looked After and Care Leavers, Police Protection Guidance

The initial outcome decision following a contact, which must be authorised by the manager, may be:

Option 1: No Further Action / Information and Advice - The child does not appear to be a Child in Need, the provision of information, advice, sign-posting to another agency and/or no further action.

Option 2: Services Provided by Families First/ Specialist Adolescent Services Hertfordshire (SASH) or Universal Services - The child’s need may be best met by a coordinated multi-agency response (i.e. Early Intervention) via a Families First Assessment or Specialist Adolescent Services Hertfordshire (SASH), access to Short Breaks (children with disabilities), or from Universal Services in the community such as health or schools, etc. and may not require intervention under the S17 or S47 of the Children Act 1989.

Option 3: Further Assessment: Where the child appears to be a Child in Need which requires a Child and Family Assessment or it is suspected that the child is or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, which will result in an assessment with a view to conduct a strategy discussion prior to Section 47 Enquiries.

The child will be seen as soon as possible if the decision is taken that the contact will progress to a referral requiring further assessment. See Hertfordshire Social Work Procedures Manual, Child and Family Assessments Procedure.

  • For Child in Need, a Child and Family Assessment will commence immediately and the child will be seen within 5 working days;
  • For a child who is or is likely to suffer significant harm, a decision to initiate a strategy discussion and S47 Enquiries will be made with 24 hours.

Please also see: PGN entitled CS0508 Recording Feedback to Professional Referrers and Parents on LCS and EHM Guidance September 2019.

Following the gathering of further information if another service has been deemed more suitable to meet the child’s needs the receiving team will inform the referrer of where they have signposted their contact.

If the referrer made the referral on behalf of someone else or referred on information s/he received, they will be reminded that it is their responsibility to feed back the actions to the person they received the information from.

In the case of contacts from the public, feedback must be consistent with the rights to confidentiality of the child and her/his family.

The holding team must actively respond to identification of risk or harm first, and satisfy themselves that there are protective factors in place, then look at transferring the case between teams.

In instances where children and families progress to further assessment, the following will apply:

See chapters on Single Assessment in the HSCP Manual or Child and Family Assessments within the Social Work Procedures Manual and Families First Assessment and Early Help page on the Hertfordshire Internet site.

Last Updated: December 7, 2023