19.7 Children at Risk of or Experiencing Significant Harm
Last updated 23/09/2021
Referral to LA Children’s Social Care
The referrer should ensure that sufficient information is available to support decision making including where possible.
The child’s name-and
A description- In the case of a referral
To assist in compiling the information required for a referral to LA Children’s Social Care, professionals should refer to the Trafficked Children Toolkit, particularly sections 1a the Assessment Framework for Trafficked Children, the Assessment checklist and Sefton’s Threshold for Intervention
If a professional is concerned that a child could be trafficked and/or at risk of significant harm, the professional should:
- Consult with their Safeguarding Officer and
- Refer to the Threshold of Intervention and refer to LA Children’s Social Care assessments
- Act promptly before the child goes missing;
- Consult with their agency SPOC.GATEWAY AUTHORITES
- Port authority professionals
- Kent [Dover Port]
- Hillingdon [Heathrow Airport]
- Solihull [Birmingham Airport]
- Croydon [New Arrivals claiming asylum]
- West Sussex (Gatwick Airport]
- Liverpool Airport
- Seaforth Docks .
- Glasgow [Glasgow City Airport
- Edinburgh [Edinburgh City Airport
An immigration professional who is concerned that a child may have been trafficked should act promptly, following UKBA guidance and complete the Risk Assessment Matrix The professional should contact MASH for consultation by telephone and where appropriate complete the on-line referral form.
LA children’s social care response
Referral and information gathering
The social worker should obtain as much information as possible from the referrer, including:
- The child’s name, dob, address, name of carer, address if different, phone number, country of origin, home language and whether s/he speaks English, names of any siblings or other children;
- A description of the indicators and circumstances which have identified the child to the referrer as being at risk of or having been trafficked into or within the UK illegally;
- The social worker should verify that the child is living at the address as soon as possible;
- In the case of a referral from a school or education department, the list of documentation provided at admission should also be obtained;
- A Home Office check should be completed to clarify the status of the child/ren and the adult/s caring for them.
See also the Sefton Child Protection Procedures http://www.seftonlscb.co.uk/
Action after the initial information gathering.
See also section 1b Flowchart for safeguarding a trafficked child in the Trafficked Children Toolkit for clarity about the child protection process once a referral has been made to LA Children’s Social Care.
On completion of the initial information gathering, the social worker discusses the Referral with their supervising manager to agree and plan one of four ways forward:
a) An assessment to decide whether:
- appropriate arrangements for the child have been made by her/his parents
- there are grounds to accommodate the child
- the child is in need of immediate protection section 47 enquiries should be initiated.
b) Accommodation of the child under s20 Children Act 1989 – there may be enough information at this stage to support a decision to accommodate the child. A child should be accommodated under s20 Children Act 1989 if:
- The child is lost or abandoned
- There is no person with parental responsibility for the child
- The person who has been accommodating the child is prevented, for whatever reason, from providing suitable accommodation or care.
If there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, the child can be accommodated on a voluntary basis or an Immediate Application to the Court for an Interim Care Order. The police also have powers to remove a child, but these powers (PPO) should only be used in exceptional circumstances.
Emergency action addresses only the immediate circumstances of the child/ren, and should be followed quickly by section 47 enquiries if not already completed;
c) No further action – if no concerns are identified, the social worker should advise the referrer within 24 hours of the outcome.
The discussion between social worker and supervising manager on completion of initial information gathering should be recorded, with tasks outlined and signed off by the manager.
If further action is needed, consideration should be given to involvement of the police, education, health services, the referring agency and other relevant bodies (e.g. housing, the benefits agency and immigration services). Careful consideration should be given to the effect of any action on the outcome of any investigation.
In undertaking any assessment and all subsequent work with the child, the social worker must ensure that they use a suitable interpreter.
Children and Families Assessment
The assessment should be led by a qualified and experienced social worker. It should be carefully planned, with clarity about who is doing what, as well as when and what information is to be shared with the parents. The planning process and decisions about the timing of the different assessment activities should be undertaken in collaboration with all those involved with the child and family. The process of Children and Families Assessment should involve:
- Seeing and speaking to the child (according to their age and understanding) and family members as appropriate;
- Drawing together and analysing available information from a range of sources (including existing records); and
- Involving and obtaining relevant information from professionals and others in contact with the child and family.
All relevant information (including historical information) should be taken into account. This includes seeking information from relevant services if the child and family have spent time abroad. Professionals from agencies such as health, LA Children’s Social Care or the police should request this information from their equivalent agencies in the country or countries in which the child has lived.
During the Children and Families Assessment, a social worker should check all the documentation held by the referrer and other relevant agencies.
Documentation should include (if available),
- Home Office papers,
- birth certificate and proof of guardianship.
- This list is not exhaustive and all possible types of documentation should be considered. recent or new photograph of the child should be included in the social worker’s file together with copies of all relevant identification documentation.
When assessing any documentation, attention should be given to the details. If a passport is being checked the official should:
- Verify the date of issue;
- Check the length of the visa;
- Check whether the picture resembles the child;
- Check whether the name in the passport is the same as the alleged mother/father, and if not, why not; and
- Check whether it appears to be original and take copies to ensure further checks can be made if necessary.
Immigration staff will be able to give a clear explanation of the immigration process, different forms of documents, leave to enter the UK and opinions on a document’s validity.
Even if there are no apparent concerns, child welfare agencies should continue to monitor the situation until a child is appropriately settled. The social worker should advise the referrer of their decision and the proposed plan. In each case of a child with immigration issues UKBA should be informed so that they can co-ordinate the immigration processes with the child’s plan.
Once the relevant information has been gathered and the risk assessment matrix identifies that the child has potentially been trafficked, the social worker and supervising manager, together with the police, should decide whether to convene a strategy meeting.
The strategy meeting must:
- Share information – this should involve the MASH, UKBA any other relevant professionals;
- Develop a strategy for making enquiries into the child’s circumstances, including consideration of a video interview;
- Develop a plan for the child’s immediate protection, including the supervision and monitoring of arrangements (for looked after children this will form part of the care plan);
- Agree what information can be given about the child to any enquirers; and
- Agree what support the child requires.
- Interview as part of section 47 enquiries
The decision to conduct a joint interview with the child and, if necessary, with the child’s carers will have been taken at the strategy meeting. The interviews must be conducted in line with the Sefton Child Protection Procedures. In particular, the child should be seen alone if English speaking or with an interpreter and in a safe environment.
Planning and undertaking the interview/s could involve Children’s Social Care, the UKBA and/or the local police. It may be helpful to involve immigration officials in this decision-making as outstanding immigration concerns may need resolving. In the longer-term, information gathered at an interview might help to resolve the child’s immigration status. Intelligence gathered from the interview may also be helpful in preventing other children being trafficked from overseas.
Professional interpreters, who have been approved and DBS checked, should be used where English is not the child’s preferred language. Under no circumstances should the interpreter be the sponsor or another adult purporting to be a parent, guardian or relative. Every child should be given ample opportunity to disclose any worries away from the presence of the sponsor.
The interview should focus on the following areas:
- The child’s family composition, brothers, sisters, ages;
- The child’s parents’ employment;
- Tasks done around the house;
- Length of time in this country;
- Where they lived in their country of origin;
- Where they went to school in their country of origin; and
- Who cared for them in their country of origin.
The adults in the family should be interviewed separately, covering the same areas. A comparison can then be made between the answers to ensure they match.
All documentation should be seen and checked. This includes Home Office documentation, passports, visas, utility bills, tenancy agreements and birth certificates.
Particular attention should be given to the documentation presented to the school at point of admission. It is not acceptable to be told that the passport is missing or that the paperwork is missing. It is extremely unlikely that a person does not know where their paperwork / official documentation is kept and this information could be considered as an indicator the child may have been trafficked.
The interview should be conducted as fully as possible, both to ensure accuracy and to avoid intrusion into the family for a longer period than is absolutely necessary.
On completion of section 47 enquiries
On completion of the section 47 enquiries, consideration should be given to a strategy review meeting being convened.
Where it is found that the child is not a family member and is not related to any other person in this country, consideration should be given as to whether the child needs to be moved from the household and/or legal advice sought on making a separate application for immigration status.
Any law enforcement action regarding fraud, trafficking, deception and illegal entry to this country is the remit of the police. The local authority should assist in any way possible. However, the responsibility for taking legal action usually remains with the criminal justice agencies (exceptions include benefit fraud, held by Department of Work and Pensions).