Prioritising Children in Need - Information for
The broad aim of Social Cares' Children and Family Service is to
promote the social inclusion of children in need and to manage risk
or harm to children. The purpose of this information is to
help professionals understanding of the principles that need to be
considered when prioritising access to services.
Cheshire Social Cares has a general duty:
a) to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in its area
who are in need; and
b) so far as is consistent with that duty to promote the upbringing
of such children by their families.
(Children Act 1989 Section 17).
Should Cheshire East Social Care "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."
(Children Act 1989 Section 47).
The Children Act 1989 and other legislation places duties and
responsibilities on other agencies to provide and co-operate with
the provision of services for children in need, and to assist in
enquiries where there is concern that a child is at risk of
As the Council's resources are not unlimited, it is necessary to
make decisions about which requests for services will receive the
most urgent attention, and which will require a service from Social
The following principles will be applied:
- Priority of speed of response will be given to those children
assessed as being in greatest need, this includes the local
authorities' dual role of safeguarding children and promoting their
- Research evidence shows that assessment of need and the
provision of family support is a more effective way of fulfilling
our duties in meeting the needs of children and families. Our
response to referrals will follow this principle.
- However, if there is concern that a child is or may be at risk
of suffering significant harm, this must be addressed before the
assessment can progress.
- We will work closely with other statutory and voluntary
agencies to ensure a range of services are available to children in
need. Access to Social Care will follow an assessment of need.
Children in Need
Children may be defined as in need or vulnerable in many
different ways. Most children will have their needs met by their
families, friends, and services in the community.
The families referred to Social Care will have differing levels
of need. Many will be helped by advice and information, practical
services or short term intervention. A smaller proportion will have
more complex and serious problems that require a detailed
assessment, involving other agencies in the process, leading to
plans and interventions.
In order to ensure that referrals to Social Care are dealt with
in a consistent manner and appropriate priorities are established,
Social Care have drawn up three broad levels of need, level one
being the most in need.
Level three - This may include children whose
health or development may be adversely affected, but the family is
coping, or families might need help with a specific issue.
In these situations Social Services' response would be to offer
advice and information and/or direct to other services.
Level two - Children whose health and
development is suffering significantly.
This may be due to complex or critical needs of children and
families that are causing difficulties and may include disabled
In these situations, Social Care will commence an assessment
following referral, involving the family and other agencies. This
is to gain a better understanding of the child's needs, consider if
and what services are needed and how and by whom they will be
Level one - Referrals to Social Care that raise
concerns that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant
This may include situations where there is concern about serious
abuse to a child, or the breakdown of a child's care
There will be an immediate response by Social Care along with
other key agencies. Enquiries and assessment will be needed
involving the family and other agencies, to consider the impact of
any harm, the needs of the child and any action or services that
It is acknowledged that the boundaries between these levels are
not rigid, but are areas for judgement and consultation.
Consultation is important between agencies if there are any
uncertainties regarding the level of need of children and how they
can best be met.
Your local Social Care Access Team
will be able to give you further information and advice regarding
referrals to Social Services.
Below: diagram showing the extent of children in need in
Cheshire in the context of all the children in Cheshire.