Most LEAs ask schools to fill in some type of referral form. This prompt sheet will help you bring together all necessary information before picking up the phone.
Before you make a referral through your locally agreed procedures make sure you have the following information to hand.
- Name, including any middle names and, if the child is known by more than one name, list all names known.
- Date of birth.
- Address and telephone number.
- Health issues that may be relevant.
- Any known disabilities that may affect communication.
- Names of parents and or carers.
- Names and ages of any other children in family.
- Ethnicity and cultural background and where appropriate information about the need for interpreters.
- Name of the family’s GP.
- How long has the child attended your school?
- Attendance record – check if there has been a problem with attendance, look out for any patterns that emerge from attendance records, ie some children have been reported to miss every Monday because there have been problems at the weekend
- Behaviour – how does the child present in school? Check for any repeated patterns of behaviour, or sudden changes of behaviour. Do these relate to a change in circumstances at home?
- Relationship with school: good, non existent, volatile?
Child protection history
- Have you had previous concerns and have you made previous referrals? It is important to revisit previous concerns to get a wider picture. Child protection services are reliant on other agencies to help them build up a clearer picture of what has been happening. The relationship between each event may be more significant than each individual event.
- If you have referred in the past, what was the outcome? Never let the fact that no action was taken last time affect your way of managing new concerns. If you have a concern always pass it on.
It is useful to write down your reason for referral before making your call. Include as much detail as you can.
Where your concern is about physical injury make sure you note where on the body the injury is and describe shape and size. Some LEAs provide schools with body maps for recording site of injuries. If the injury looks like it has been caused in a particular way, say so.
Are your concerns about the child’s behaviour? If so give as much detail as possible. State exactly what the child has been doing. Don’t just report ‘sexualised behaviour’, give details.
Has the child disclosed? If the child discloses to you or to a member of your staff, record in as much detail as possible what was said, who was there and the child’s emotional state throughout the disclosure. Make sure any hastily written notes are signed and dated and kept securely. Handwritten notes are useful evidence should the case go to court at later date.
Referrals re emotional abuse usually involve a number of concerns arising from both contact with the child and contact with the parents. Emotional abuse can cause an impairment in the child’s development, and such children may have very low self-esteem and self-image. Detail the way the child functions at school, with peers and with parents. Emotional abuse is hard to evidence so detail a number of events that have led to your concerns.
If you are to refer a child because of possible neglect always check back to see if there have been any previous concerns. The Children Act talks about how the persistent neglect of very basic needs is likely to cause an impairment in the child’s development.
Always think through whether the case in question fits more appropriately within a ‘child in need’ framework than within a child protection framework. (For example, mucky children may simply come from mucky families; clearly the family need to do something about the child’s cleanliness and appearance, and may need some support in this, but it might not be the case that the child is being abused and in need of protection.)
Think through whether or not in this particular case you should ask the consent of the parent before making a referral. If you feel that asking consent would place the child at risk of significant harm do not ask parents for their consent. Where you decide not to ask consent record your reasons for not doing so.
Informing the parent
In most cases it is agreed that it is better to tell the parent that you intend to refer to child protection services, but think it through; if you think telling may put the child at more risk take advice first. In some LAs it is agreed that where a child discloses sexual abuse, the concerned agency should refer before speaking to parents.
Making the referral
Once you have all the details in front of you and you have thought through the issues you will be able to make a child protection referral with confidence. Follow your own locally agreed procedures to continue. Record all your actions and responses from other agencies.
Remember: value your professional judgement. School may be the only agency involved with the family at the time of referral. Do not come off the phone before you have shared your concerns.