SEFTON LSCB Safeguarding Policies and Procedures Online Manual

    3.14 Pre-Birth Referrals

    Last updated 12/11/2018

    Where agencies or individuals anticipate that prospective parents may need support services to care for their baby or that the baby may be likely to suffer Significant Harm, a referral to Children’s Social Care Services through MASH must be made as soon as the concerns are recognised. There will be no delay based in assessing an unborn child based on length of pregnancy.

    Where the concerns centre around an aspect of parenting behaviour, for example substance misuse, the referrer must make clear how this is likely to impact on the baby and what risks are predicted.

    A pre-birth referral should always be considered where:

    • There has been a previous unexplained death of a child whilst in the care of either parent;
    • A parent or other adult in the household has been convicted for violent conduct, against a child or within the home environment.
    • The mother, father or a sibling in the household has a Child Protection Plan;
    • The mother, father or a sibling has previously been removed from the household by court order or Accommodated as a result of concerns regarding Significant Harm;
    • The degree of domestic violence and abuse known to have occurred is likely to significantly impact on the babies safety or development;
    • The degree of parental substance misuse is likely to significantly impact on the babies safety or development;
    • The degree of parental mental illness/impairment is likely to significantly impact on the babies safety or development; 
    • There are serious concerns about the prospective parents’ ability to care for themselves and/or to care for the child, for example where the parent has no support and/or has learning disabilities;
    • Any other concern exists that the baby may be likely to suffer Significant Harm, including a parent previously suspected of having Fabricated or Induced Illness in a child, or a prospective parent who has been the subject of fabricated or induced illness as a child themselves.

    Delay must be avoided when making referrals in order to:

    • Provide sufficient time to make adequate plans for the babies protection;
    • Provide sufficient time for a full and informed assessment;
    • Avoid initial approaches to parents in the last stages of pregnancy, at what is already an emotionally charged time;
    • Enable parents to have more time to contribute their own ideas and solutions to concerns and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome to assessments;
    • Enable the early provision of support services so as to facilitate optimum home circumstances prior to the birth.

    Concerns should be shared with prospective parent/s and informed of a referral  to Children’s Social Care through MASH Services unless this action in itself may place the welfare of the unborn child at risk e.g. if there are concerns that the parent/s may move to avoid contact with social workers or other professionals. 

    Referrals must be made as early as possible when there has been a history of concerns and/or social care intervention with previous children, or this is a teenage pregnancy where there are additional needs.

    See also Information Sharing (Section 13)

    Where the outcome of the referral is that the child is in need of support services rather than safeguarding, the concerns are redirected by MASH to the Early Help Gateway.