Berkshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures
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1.2.4 Children's Social Care Thresholds and the Multi-Agency Needs/Risk Matrix


To ensure a consistent response to the application of thresholds to referrals made to the Service.


Children Act 1989, 2004

Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (DoH 2000) (as updated in Working Together 2013 and Working Together 2015)

Working together to Safeguard Children - A Guide to Inter-Agency Working to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children (2015)

Every Child Matters: Change for Children

The Management of Mother and Baby Units - HM Prison Service 2015

The Victoria Climbié Inquiry - Report of an inquiry by Lord Laming (2003)

The Protection of Children in England: a Progress Report by Lord Laming (2009)

The Protection of Children in England: A Progress Report - Lord Laming (2009)

The Munro Review of Child Protection May 2011

Berkshire LSCB Child Protection Procedures (2011)


In January 2017 the listing of Relevant Chapters, Legislation and Guidance at the top of this chapter was revised and a section on Monitoring and Review has been deleted.


  1. Policy
  2. Central Government Policy
  3. The Four Levels of Need
  4. Referral Pathways and Services
  5. Child in Need/Section 17
  6. Child Protection/Section 47
  7. Children's Social Care - Duties and Responsibilities
  8. How to Decide Whether to Make a Referral
  9. Referrals to the Service - Point of Contact

    Appendix 1: Level of Need

1. Policy

Relevant Legislation

The Children Act 1989 places a general duty on the Local Authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need and, in so far as is consistent with this duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families by providing a range of services appropriate to those children's needs (Section 17(1)).

Section 17 (10) states, a child is in need if:

  1. He is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining a reasonable standard of health and development without the provision for him of services by a Local Authority; or
  2. His health and development is likely to be significantly impaired or further impaired without the provision of such services; or
  3. He is disabled.

In addition, the Local Authority has a statutory duty to safeguard children. Section 47 (1) states where a Local authority -

  1. Is informed a child lives or is found in their area is;
    1. The subject of an Emergency Protection Order;
    2. Is in Police Protection; or
  2. has 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 Local Authority shall make, or cause to be made, such enquiries as considered necessary to enable them to decide they should take any action to safeguard and/or promote the child's welfare.

2. Central Government Policy

In line with Every Child Matters: Change for Children, emphasis should be placed on ensuring that we properly protect children at risk within a framework of universal services, which support every child to develop their full potential. Every Child Matters sets out 5 key outcomes for children. They are:

  • Being Healthy;
  • Staying Safe;
  • Enjoying and Achieving;
  • Making a Positive Contribution;
  • Economic Well-Being.

2.1 Purpose

Local authorities and other agencies providing services for children have a wide range of powers and duties in respect of children living in their area. The Children's Social Care Service performs a key role as part of the range of services for children, particularly those with the highest level of need. This document provides guidance for professionals and service users, to clarify the circumstances in which the Children's Social Care Service will assist and safeguard children and young people and their families in Slough and how these responsibilities will be carried out.

The purpose of this guidance is:

  • To show how the criteria for access to Children's Services are defined within a multi-agency needs/risk matrix (Appendix 1 - Levels of Need), and how that process is part of how a wider;
  • Multi-agency framework of services is delivered;
  • To set out the principles, powers and duties that apply to the delivery of services by Children's Social Care;
  • To set out what the process of assessment and intervention from the Children's Social Care Service will be.

3. The Four Levels of Need

The attached matrix of needs and risks (See Appendix 1 - Levels of Need) describes the circumstances in which children and young people are eligible for services from key partner agencies. It also seeks to support equitable access to those services, within the limited resources available.

The matrix is based on the four levels of intervention, which is highlighted in Slough's Children's Services Pyramid of services to meet children's needs:

Level 1 Level 2 - Low risk to vulnerable
No identified additional needs. Response services are universal services Child's needs are not clear, not known or not being met. This is the threshold for beginning a common assessment. Response services are universal support services and/or targeted services.
Level 3 - Complex Level 4 - Acute
Complex needs likely to require longer term intervention from statutory and/or specialist services. High level additional unmet needs - this will usually require a targeted integrated response, which will usually require a specialist or statutory service. This is also the threshold for a child in need which will require Children's Social Care intervention. Acute needs, requiring statutory intensive support. This in particular includes the threshold for child protection which will require Children's Social Care intervention.

The risk-needs matrix has been developed to inform decision making about who should provide and receive services and with what level of priority. The matrix aims to prioritise the department's response by taking into account the level of need and risk. The indicators in level 3 and 4 intervention denote the circumstances in which assessment and/or involvement by Children's Social Care is defined as appropriate in the policy. Other indicators in the matrix across levels one to four indicate the circumstances in which other key partner agencies should be expected to intervene.

The examples included within this matrix are not exhaustive. Professional judgement will be needed to determine the relative priority of matters not described/illustrated in this framework.

Needs change over time and the priority attached to any particular needs depend on the extent to which it is not adequately met and the consequences and impact of this on the child. This requires the exercise of professional judgement that takes full account of the wide range of factors that may influence outcomes.

The above model is underpinned by the following principles:

  • Child-centred;
  • Rooted in child development;
  • Focussed on outcomes for children;
  • Holistic in approach;
  • Involving children and their families;
  • The child's welfare and safety is everyone's responsibility;
  • Multi and inter-agency approach for all children with additional needs - not just those who are in need of protection;
  • The skills and knowledge of other agencies should be fully utilised;
  • The rights of parents and carers must be considered;
  • Agencies need to work together to reduce duplication and unnecessary intrusion into family life;
  • A continuing process, not an event;
  • Providing and reviewing services;
  • Informed by evidence;
  • Social inclusion and meeting the needs wherever possible within universal locally based services;
  • No one must be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, culture, sexual orientation or ability.

For any Child Protection related indicator the Child Protection Procedures should also be consulted as to whether the response should be under Section 17 or 47 of the Children Act and what timescale (See Threshold Response Table, section 4, ch.7 in the Berkshire LSCB Procedures 2011).

4. Referral Pathways and Services

4.1 Referrals to services regarding concerns about a child typically fall into three categories:
  • Early intervention and prevention - Early Help Assessment Referrals;
  • Child in Need - Section 17 Referrals;
  • Child Protection - Section 47 Referrals.
4.2 All of these categories will be considered by Slough Children's Services at point of access through the Referral & Assessment duty manager, but early intervention and prevention referrals that do not meet the threshold for either Sec.17 services or Sec.47 investigations will be passed to the Early Response Hub for signposting to appropriate tier 2/3 services under a Early Help Assessment managed by a lead professional. See First Response Referral Route document July 2011.
4.3 Safeguarding and child protection work should always be underpinned by principles of working together in partnership with families. In all cases, consent must be sought from parents/carers to share information as appropriate, although there are certain circumstances in which this consent is not required (e.g. where there is specific risk to a child and sharing the information with the parents would place the child at further risk).
4.4 Slough Children's Services has no mandate to compel parents to undertake assessments or accept services although there may be consequences for the family if recommended services or interventions are not taken up by the family.
4.5 Slough Children's Services has one point of access for all referrals into Social Care and this is through the Early Response Hub. The Customer Service Officers take referrals via post, email or phone from members of the public, however professionals are required to complete either a multi-agency referral form or Early Help Assessment. Referrals from the Police are accepted by secure email.

5. Child in Need/Section 17

5.1 Section 17 of the Children Act places a general duty on every local authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in need within their area. Slough Children's Services must, so far as is consistent with this duty, promote the upbringing of children in need by their families, through provision of a range and level of services appropriate to the child's needs.
5.2 Children with disabilities are defined as children in need under Sec. 17 of the Children Act and therefore are entitled to an assessment of their needs. If it is not clear whether a disabled child meets the threshold for services by the specialist Disabled Children's Team then the Referral & Assessment Team will undertake a Child and Family Assessment to determine eligibility (See Appendix 3 - to follow which provides the criteria for services for disabled children).
5.3 Please refer to page I of this document titled 'relevant legislation' for the legal definition of a 'child in need'.
5.4 Before referring a child to Slough Children's Services under Section 17, professionals should ensure that an Early Help Assessment has been completed (with a lead professional identified where appropriate) and that a referral has been made to the appropriate specialist services. A Section 17 referral to Slough Children's Services should be made if these initial attempts to improve the situation have been unsuccessful, accompanied by evidence of the actions taken.

6. Child Protection/Section 47


Section 47 of the Children Act '89 requires the Local Authority to make enquiries to enable it to decide what action is required to safeguard and promote the well-being of a child.

Children's Social Care will carry out s47 enquiries with a view to determining whether the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm and to assess whether action is required to safeguard and promote the child's welfare. Slough Children's Services will work with the Police in the case of a criminal investigation.

7. Children's Social Care - Duties and Responsibilities

7.1 Slough Children's Services operates under a strict legal framework, and it is this legal Framework that dictates which cases must be accepted from referral, and what services can be offered or provided to children, young people and families.
7.2 Slough Children's Services determines the level of need by a process of assessment based on the Framework for Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (2000) (as updated in Working Together 2013 and 2015). The assessment looks at the child's developmental needs, parenting capacity of their carers, and family and environmental factors. 
7.3 Slough Children's Service uses thresholds (please refer to Appendix 1 - Levels of Need) to consider whether a referral will be accepted, whether an assessment will be undertaken, and what services will be offered or provided. This way they can ensure that help is targeted at those children who are the most vulnerable, and that any decisions made about services are consistent.
7.4 Once a referral has been accepted, Slough Children's Services will carry out an Assessment to identify the child's level of need and risk, and decide on an appropriate plan of action and services dependent on this assessment.
7.5 Referring agencies will receive feedback on decisions made by Slough Children's Services so that they are able to update their referrals.
7.6 When a referral is below their threshold, Slough Children's Services will provide referrers with information on more suitable resources and pass the referral to other services where appropriate. Alternatively referring agencies may be advised to complete an Early Help Assessment with a view to identifying a lead agency to co-ordinate future services (please refer to Appendix 2, part B - to follow).

8. How to Decide Whether to Make a Referral

8.1 It is important to be clear about the purpose and intended outcome of the referral. Using the information in 'Appendix 1 - Levels of Need', it is helpful to consider the three main categories of referrals and related need, to consider where your concerns about a child or young person may fit.
8.2 It can be very useful to consult with other professionals in the child's network (such as a health visitor, youth worker, teacher) if you have concerns. When the concern is around risk of harm to a child, you may want to speak to your own agency lead for child protection and safeguarding. Alternatively you can speak with Slough's Child Protection Coordinator or the Customer Service Officers in the First Response Team about a referral.

9. Referrals to the Service - Point of Contact

The Business Support Officers based in the First Contact Hub, positioned at St Martins Place, Bath Rd, Slough will continue to act as a central point for referrals. Referral details will be entered onto the ICS and EHM systems and sent through to the Duty Consultant Social Worker for consideration and processing.

Contact Details:

Tele 01753 875362

Appendix 1: Level of Need

Appendix 1 - Levels of Need