Requesting support from Children's Services

Information for professionals

We are committed to working with the children and families in our communities to provide the right level of support at the right time.

Families have an absolute right, upheld by law, to consent to professional involvement unless there are immediate concerns regarding a child's safety. Even in the event of immediate safeguarding concerns, it remains best practice to positively engage families, be transparent, and seek consent wherever it is safe to do so. Families also have a right to privacy, and where their needs can be met within their extended networks and/or local community, this is what should happen.

Concerned about a child's immediate safety?

If you believe that a child is in immediate danger, please contact the Police in the first instance using 999.

Next, report your concerns to Children's Service by telephone: 0300 123 6720 or 0300 123 6722 if out of hours. Please have available the Police crime log number.

You will be asked to follow up this telephone call with a formal request for support.

There is lots of support universally available to all children and families across Lancashire. These services can offer families experiencing difficulties help and guidance and can prevent them from requiring intensive family support or statutory intervention.

You can find more about what community services are available to help children and families whose needs are assessed to be in line with level one and two of the continuum of need within our local resources directory.

For those children and families whose needs are intensive or who are experiencing significant difficulties, a coordinated multi-disciplinary approach where people from different organisations with different skills, knowledge and experience work together with a family may be most effective.

This will most often be in circumstances where extended networks and community support have been exhausted. In such situations, it may be most appropriate to request support from Lancashire's Children and Family Wellbeing Service who can offer intensive family support. Again, these services must only be requested with the consent of those with parental responsibility.

This service can be accessed by completing the Lancashire Children's Services Request for Support form.

Conversations about a worry should usually begin with the family. It is a good way of exploring whether they share the concerns and worries and to assess any help that might be needed. If parents or young people understand that you're trying to help and are willing to work with you, they may be open to you making a referral to get the help they need, which will need their explicit consent.

When you have concerns about the welfare or development of a child, wherever possible the permission of parents/carers/children/young people (as appropriate to age and understanding) should have been sought before contacting Early Help Services or Children's Services.

The following questions will help you ensure that consent is obtained:

  • Does the person with parental responsibility know that a request for service is being made?
  • If this referral is based on information from a third party, are they aware that it is being made?
  • Does the child or young person know about this referral?
  • Does your Line Manager or Safeguarding Lead know about this referral?

There will be rare occasions when it would not be appropriate to inform parents / carers that services are being contacted about a safeguarding concern, when by doing so the child/young person would be placed at immediate or greater risk of harm.

7 golden rules of Information sharing

  1. GDPR isn't a barrier to sharing information.
  2. Be open and honest.
  3. Seek advice.
  4. Share with consent where appropriate.
  5. Consider safety and wellbeing.
  6. Necessary, proportionate, relevant, accurate, timely and secure.
  7. Keep a record.

There is also national guidance on sharing information to help you decide when and how to share personal information legally and professionally.

The law in England outlines that the state can only interfere in family life without the consent of those with parental responsibility when there is a risk that a child is at risk of, or experiencing, significant harm (Children Act 1989).

Legal definition of (Section 47) which is where the Local Authority have a duty to investigate on basis of Child Protection concerns:

Where a local authority –

  1. are informed that a child who lives, or is found, in their area and is the subject of an emergency protection order; or is in police protection;
  2. have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm,

The authority shall make, or cause to be made, such enquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.

This legislation also places a duty on the local authority to provide a range and level of services appropriate to those children's needs.

Legal definition of Section 17 (Child in Need):

A child shall be taken to be in need if:

  1. s/he is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development.
  2. her/his health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision for her/him of such services; or
  3. s/he is disabled

Section 17 support to children and families is more commonly known as Child in Need support. There are two clear difference between these two levels of intervention that are provided from statutory services:

Section 17 (Child in Need) Section 47 (Child Protection)
The child/ren is not at risk of or experiencing significant harm. The child/ren is at risk of or experiencing significant harm.
Those with parental responsibility, or the child, if age-appropriate and Gillick/Fraser competent, must consent to the ongoing involvement of the local authority. Although consent should still be sought from those with parental responsibility (if to do so would not increase risk of harm to the child), but this can be overridden to investigate the concern.

Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018) provides statutory guidance to all Local Authorities and Professional Partners throughout England. This document states:

Where a child's need is relatively low level, individual services and universal services may be able to take swift action. Where there are more complex needs, help may be provided under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. The document goes on to say that there should be clear criteria amongst all organisations and agencies working with children and families for taking action and providing help across this full continuum to ensure that services are commissioned effectively sand the right help is given to the child at the right time.

Working together to Safeguard Children also sets out the requirement for Local Authorities to publish a threshold document. Lancashire's threshold guidance is called 'Working Well with Children and Families in Lancashire' which outlines Lancashire's Continuum of Need.

Continuum of Need

Lancashire continuum of need

Level 1- Universal

At a glance: Children and young people who make good overall progress in most areas of development.

Most children, young people and families will experience challenges in their lives that impact on their wellbeing. Most families will be able to weather these challenges (are resilient to them) either without help from services, or with advice, guidance, and support from universal services, including empathy and understanding.

May require single agency response, requires consent from those with parental responsibility.

Level 2 -  Universal plus

At a glance: Children and young people whose needs require some extra support.

Some children, young people and families will need support from people who know them well and have established relationships with them to meet some challenges where advice and guidance has not been enough to help the family achieve change or where a child or young person needs additional support to help them to thrive.

May benefit single agency response through Early help assessment and plan. Should be co-ordinated by the service who knows the child or family best and requires consent from those with parental responsibility.

Level 3 - Intensive support

At a glance: Vulnerable children and young people whose needs are complex in range, depth or significance.

A small number of children, young people and families will experience significant difficulties and will need coordinated support from experts working with them to find sustainable solutions that reduce the impact of challenge on the wellbeing and development of children and young people.

May benefit co-ordinated, multi-agency response through Early help assessment and plan. Led by Family Intensive Support Services; requires consent from those with parental responsibility.

Level 4 - Specialist support

At a glance: Children and young people whose needs are such that require intervention under the Children Act 1989.

In exceptional cases families need specialist, statutory support that is designed to maintain or repair relationships and keep families together wherever possible. In some very specific circumstances, the needs are so great that children need to be away from their family to ensure that they are protected

Where children require or may benefit from Children’s Social Care assessment and planning. Intervention is led by Children’s Social Care Lead Professional. Consent is not required if there are concerns about the child's safety that place them at risk of significant harm or if to seek concern would place the child at increased risk.

To learn more about the continuum of need watch our short video below.

Working Together to Safeguard Children reminds us that providing early help is more effective in promoting the welfare of children than reacting later. It states that:

"Early help means providing support as soon as a problem emerges, at any point in a child's life; early help can also prevent further problems arising. The guidance outlines that effective early help relies upon local organisations and agencies working together to:

  • Identify children and families who would benefit from early help;
  • Undertake an assessment of need for early help;
  • Provide targeted early help services to address the assessed needs of a child and their family which focuses on activity to improve the outcomes for the child."

Early help may be offered to children and families in Lancashire assessed as having needs in line with level 1, 2 and 3 of the Continuum of Need.

An Early Help Assessment and Plan (previously the Common Assessment Framework or CAF) can help to identify areas of need and support for a family.

If the child lives outside of Lancashire you should report any concerns to the local authority in the area where the child lives. Contact details are available on their websites:

Requesting support

If you're a professional (including teaching, health or social work), use the request for support form to request support or raise safeguarding issues to the Children’s Services Support Hub and Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).

You can see a full version of our request for support form with guidance (PDF 681 KB) and you can also read more about our new processes in this Partner Practitioner Guidance document (PDF 550KB).

This replaces the previous referral mechanism, the Children’s Social Care referral form (MARF) and the Children Family Wellbeing Request for support form.

You should only use the request for support form if you consider the child's needs to be at level 2, 3 or 4 of Lancashire's Continuum of Need.

You will be asked to identify what level of support you feel the child and family needs in line with the Continuum of Need guidance.

When contacting the service on 0300 123 6720 for advice only you will be asked to provide details regarding the nature of your enquiry with reference to Lancashire's Continuum of need.

This is to ensure your call is directed to the MASH Social Work Team, or Children's Services Support Hub.

If a Request for Support is required following the receipt of advice – you will be advised to complete an electronic Request for Support Form.

Children's Social Care will only accept telephony referrals if the child or young person is at immediate risk of harm and in need of assistance from Children's Social care in the next 24 hours.

If you believe that a child is in immediate danger, please contact the Police in the first instance using 999. Next, report your concerns to Children's Service by telephone: 0300 123 6720 or 0300 123 6722 if out of hours. Please have available the Police crime log number.

Families tell us that support works well when they are respected and listened to by the people who work with them or they approach for help. This is more likely to be successful when practitioners show empathy and work with families to explore how problems have come about and how to make changes.

It is important that any problems are identified early, so that the child and their family receive appropriate support in a timely way to prevent the problem from escalating.

Do:

  • Provide clear, factual information.
  • Provide clear details about what work you have done to support the family, and the impact of your worries on the child.
  • Detail information about consent, make sure that children and families are aware of the request for support (when age appropriate and safe to do this).
  • Acknowledge protective factors and family strengths.

Avoid:

  • Formalising and watering down language; use the child’s and parents’ actual language and quotes wherever possible.
  • Including the history of our past involvement – unless you are aware that a child has been open to CSC in other areas. We do need to know what has happened since CSC involvement ended.
  • Writing anything that is not appropriate for sharing with families in terms of language that can be perceived as judgemental and stereotyping

The request for support process visual (PDF 113KB) provides more details of the process and what happens next.

Make a request for support

Make a request for support (professionals)

Should you experience any technical difficulties with the new request for support form, please contact our advice line on 0300 123 6720. 

If you are a member of the public, please see these links for further information: